New IT guide designed to help small companies

A desire among Canada’s small business owners to see an immediate payoff in their technology investments has led one industry group to team with Microsoft Canada Co. to produce a how-to guide.

“We all heard the horror stories of the person putting in the costly system and it turned out to be a fiasco,” said Catherine Swift, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a industry association representing Canada’s small businesses, which make up the vast majority of the nation’s employers.

Swift was intrigued when she received a phone call a few months back from Microsoft asking if the CFIB would like to join forces to produce a guide to help small business owners better utilize technology. In a 2002 CFIB-sponsored survey, two-thirds of its members said they saw at least some value in incorporating the Internet into their businesses.

“This guide is another example in helping the small business owner home in on the right information they need quickly. We thought it was a good thing to pursue jointly,” she said.

David Willis, vice-president of small and mid-market solutions and partners with Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., agreed. “[The CFIB] has over 100,000 members so we think this is a great opportunity to reach out to a broader base of small businesses.”

The result of their efforts is The CFIB Guide to Simplifying Technology For Canadian Business. Both organizations collaborated on the content with Microsoft writing the technological aspect while the CFIB tailored it to suit its members. The guide will also be available on-line at both Microsoft’s small business site and the CFIB’s homepage.

Swift said of the guide, “ It is intended to be a straightforward informational guide in comprehensive language. It’s not techie talk that can be confusing. It is directed at a small business application.”

Willis said the guide is an offline way to promote the technology available for small businesses that don’t have knowledge of the Internet or even own a computer.

The guide covers topics for business owners new to technology to those who are veterans at using IT. Specific areas covered include e-commerce, networking, and managing customer data.

But why assemble such a guide now years after e-commerce hit the business mainstream?

“A lot of IT companies [are] recognizing the small business market as an opportunity from a technology adoption standpoint. We have a long track record with small business. Now we have more resources where we are reaching out to organizations like the CFIB that connect with small businesses and trying not to do it ourselves,” said Willis.

He also added that Microsoft, over the past few years, has modified existing products to help the small business owner. He cited Microsoft Small Business Server and Microsoft Office, Small Business Edition as examples.

Both Swift and Willis hope the guide will be available to small business owners by mid-November. It will not only be distributed to members of CFIB but also through a number of companies that were involved with the guide such as Hewlett-Packard, Allstream Inc., and Scotiabank who will pass these guides to their small business clients.

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