Greg Enright: Uncle Sam has nothing on us

A common conception surrounding the IT buying habits of Canadian companies is that we northerners are slower on the uptake than our U.S. counterparts. For many types of software, hardware and services, this is undeniably the case.

One need look no further than the front page if this issue of Network World Canada for proof. Our story about Canadian firms moving somewhat timidly towards the acceptance of Web hosting centres as a viable alternative is a strong piece of evidence to support the theory that Canadians just aren’t the implementation speed demons that our neighbours to the south are.

But before we start getting down on ourselves and believing that we’re nothing more than a bunch of slothful and uninterested Bob and Dougs, overshadowed and awed by that savvy go-getter Uncle Sam next door, it might be wise to take a look at the broader picture.

During a recent chat I had with a few networking analysts from Gartner Group Canada, I was presented with quite a different picture. In general, they said, IT equipment buyers fall into one of three categories. The first is a top group of early adopters who charge ahead with implementations as soon as an offering hits the shelves, willing to take the risks associated with such potentially faulty and/or products and services. About 10 per cent fall into this category.

The largest group, at about 80 per cent, are middle-of-the-road adopters; eager to get better equipment into their shops, but not eager enough to put up with the headaches associated with the typical “v. 1.0”.

And then there are the bottom-dwellers who are way behind the technology times. Maybe they’re a tad thrifty, maybe they’re overly skeptical, or maybe they’re just plain happy with what they’ve got, this group of about 10 per cent just doesn’t see the need to keep up with Mr. Gates and his buddies.

According to the Gartner guys, Canadians are only behind the Americans when it comes to the first group. While there probably is a bit more of a gung-ho adoption mentality down south, other factors aside from mentality account for a slower pace in this top tier; factors such as geography and a considerably smaller population often play a part, as our Web hosting article reveals.

In the second group, moreover, IT buying tends to move at a quicker pace in Canada, according to Gartner – quite a startling revelation. Much like the point Dan McLean makes on the page opposite this one, that Canadians are eager to spend money on convergence-enabling infrastructure, despite a presently unforgiving economic climate.

What should we make of all this? Perhaps that, although Canadians are a little more reserved than Americans in many areas, technology adoption isn’t one of them. Espousing that notion is akin to believing that Bob and Doug held PhDs.