Canadians are getting a conservative buying reputation

Canadian software buyers are defined in many ways – they’re either conservative and laid back or innovators, depending on who you talk to.

Even the buyers and IT decision-makers themselves have differing opinions.

Edward Hung, manager of advanced research and technologies for the City of Richmond, B.C., said talking with colleagues has led him to believe that Canadians are conservative in their software buying.

“One example is e-commerce. In the States, everyone was building sites and trying to get initiatives off the ground. In Canada, everyone was doing e-procurement,” Hung said. E-procurement is an important base for e-commerce, but Canada really took its time getting to the actual commerce, he added.

Warren Shiau, a research analyst at Toronto-based IDC Canada, calls this the slowpoke conception. He said Canada’s economic makeup is not always conducive to rapid adoption.

“Industries that typically adopt quickly are consumer-driven and we have more companies that are suppliers,” Shiau said.

One industry that shines in terms of rapid software buying and deployment – to the point of global leadership – is the financial industry. But Hung said that even there we can sometimes fall behind.

“Take paying bills online. My brother in California was paying utility bills two years ago,” Hung said. However, two years ago, a news story detailing the rollout of online bill payment software appeared in Network World Canada.

Hung noted that government is even slower when it comes to software buying, as almost any purchase of note has to be signed off by different levels, if not passed in council.

He also used wireless applications as an example, noting that many American vendors are jumping all over these applications while Canadians seem to be taking their time.

However Chuck Tatham, vice-president of marketing and business development for Changepoint Corp. in Richmond Hill, Ont., said no company can afford to be too conservative when it comes to implementing the technologies that will help them attract or retain customers.

“The world is shrinking. On a competitive level, whether you’re Canadian or Turkish, you are competing on a global stage. If you do not offer a service, your customer can use the Internet to find someone who does.”

Tatham said Canada is very much a fifty-first state in terms of software buying. Many of the companies that would do a large-scale implementation are American subsidiaries.

One Compaq Canada IT head said his buying decisions are made for him. Robin Palfreyman, database administrator and developer for Compaq, said the budget is done globally and most IT decisions are made in the U.S. and then tweaked to allow for cultural and economic differences.

Tatham added that the slowpoke conception may also come from this subsidiary effect, given that so many Canadian companies having bigger corporate headquarters in the U.S. or elsewhere around the globe. More selling is done to the organization’s U.S. or base country, so it looks like Canadians are buying less – or less quickly.

“I don’t think we are slower,” Tatham said.

Another factor is that the percentage of selling to Canada looks small when compared to the U.S., he added. “It’s purely a relative size of market concept, not that we’re slower or more conservative.”

Canada can be a bit frustrating in terms of geographic layout, Tatham said. “There are some huge inefficiencies in selling in Canada.”

Shiau added this is a reflection on the type of industry in Canada, which is often more regional than national.