In these and other Canadian business success stories, technology played an important role in their growth. Today, the Internet and digitization are transforming the way Canadian businesses deal with their customers, just as innovations such as the railroad, radio and wireless revolutionized business processes in the past. More than 90 percent of Canadian companies use the Internet to grow their business, according to a recent study from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, a national business association. But the study also uncovered a number of challenges for many companies, including the rapid pace of hardware and software change, a lack of technical knowledge and IT security.
150 years later, innovation continues to drive Canada’s growth
In 1922, John William Billes and Alfred Jackson Billes combined their $1,800 in savings to found the Hamilton Tire & Garage Ltd. – which became national retailing giant Canadian Tire. Ted Rogers grew a single FM radio station into a Canadian communications empire. And engineering students Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin founded Research in Motion in 1984 before growing it into a wireless technology pioneer. Canada has a rich history of risk-takers who started small businesses that grew into national icons.
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Fortunately, Canadian businesses can invest in technology solutions that boost efficiency and improve processes, but don’t require significant up-front spending on hardware, software or IT skills.
One of these solutions is the Internet of Things (IoT), which consists of Internet-connected sensors and other devices that generate information and transmit it back to a database or application. Companies can collect and analyze this data, or act on it immediately. Either way, they can increase their efficiency and transform their business processes.
For example, a restaurant chain could use sensors to track inventory levels to lower food wastage and ensure its stores maintain ideal temperature levels for stored items.
“Even if just one restaurant in a large chain gets shut down because it violates food safety guidelines, that’s bad for the brand,” said Ignacio Paz, General Manager, Internet of Things at Rogers Communications. “Restaurant managers could get immediate alerts that there’s a refrigeration issue and deal with it before it becomes a problem.”
IoT has applications across all industries, from monitoring livestock to capturing data from oil wells to tracking the output of machinery on a production line. Companies that deploy IoT sensors can reduce downtime, improve output and make better use of their resources.
Another digital solution that enables Canadian companies to boost efficiency and flexibility without a big initial investment is cloud-based services.
Businesses can quickly expand their IT resources by purchasing cloud solutions, like on-demand storage, without having to buy expensive hardware or software. And if an enterprise’s need for storage decreases in the future, it can also quickly lower its usage.
Jirka Danek, an enterprise architecture expert and former CTO with Shared Services Canada, the federal department that provides IT services to the Government of Canada said:
“Cloud is very efficient. You can buy what you need when you need it. And if in future you don’t need as much, you don’t have to worry that you paid for hardware and software that’s now sitting idle.”
Security is a top consideration for any enterprise deploying digital technologies. Security firm Trustwave’s 2017 Security Pressures Report found 53 percent of Canadian IT security professionals said they felt more pressure to secure their organizations against cyberthreats in 2016 than the year before. One of the reasons for this increasing pressure is a shortage of skilled security staff. Another recent Trustwave study found 57 percent of organizations reported significant or major challenges finding skilled IT security personnel.
One solution for enterprises seeking to cope with security staffing issues is to outsource some of their workload. A business could contract a services provider to handle off-hours monitoring, or manage portions of their overall security by setting specific service levels. Outsourcing also lessens the burden of making costly hardware and software purchases.
The companies that will lead Canada for the next 150 years will need to combine the qualities of the country’s earlier business titans – risk-taking, foresight and ambition – with new technologies and business processes. Solutions such as IoT, cloud and outsourced security can deliver cost savings and efficiency, helping firms compete in an increasingly digital world.