IBM opens e-business centres

When it comes to technology, Kimberley Seldon pleads ignorance. The host and executive producer of HGTV’s Design for Living with Kimberley Seldon may know her way around swatches and paints, but technology is not her strong point.

That has not kept her from joining the digital world.

“I still don’t know an ISP from a USB, but apparently that doesn’t matter,” she said.

It’s not an issue because Seldon turned to one of Markham, Ont.-based IBM Canada Ltd.’s two new e-business strategy centres for help. At the Centres for IBM e-business Innovation::Toronto, which opened on Feb. 20 along with another in Vancouver, Seldon said she found the expertise she needed.

The centres are designed to assist businesses to digitally automating their processes and take advantage of the possibilities that e-business offers. The Toronto and Vancouver centres are staffed by marketing and branding strategists, business and integration consultants, designers, developers, architects and ethical hackers.

And for information that the centres don’t have readily available at their fingertips, Jim Ingratta, the vice-president of e-business services at IBM, said the company has hundreds of specialists around Canada that IBM can contact via phone or the ‘net.

“We’re here to make it easy for our clients,” said Margo Lennon, the manager at the Toronto Centre. “We have inspired, inspirational people that all work as one team.”

For Seldon, one of the most important features of her interior design site,, was its appearance.

“It’s a shallow business, and it has got to look good,” she said.

This raised some concerns for her when she chose IBM for the job. Although she said she never doubted IBM’s ability to deliver a well-built, timely product, she was afraid the large corporate with a once-stodgy reputation might not be innovative enough in its design.

“I have to admit I had some reservations. I was afraid they might be too conservative. I was afraid they wouldn’t be creative enough, but I was never afraid of their ability to deliver.”

But her doubts about the look of the Web site were unfounded, she said.

“It has easy flow. It’s a living, breathing portfolio.”

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. in Cornwall, Ont. was also looking for flow. It wanted to build a site that facilitates the movement of information to and from its customers and, like Seldon, it turned to IBM for help.

The St. Lawrence Seaway worked with IBM to identify the top 10 opportunities that the Web has to offer the company, said Sylvie Moncion, the director of communications.

It’s building its e-business solution in three phases. In the first phase, the site will provide users with information about the company. In release two, the St. Lawrence Seaway wants to add real-time information which will allow shippers to see exactly where their freight is. The third phase will be interactive, and should allow users to calculate shipping costs.

The St. Lawrence Seaway turned to IBM because it had experience and a global approach, Moncion said.