For years experts have complained that Canadian small and medium businesses aren’t on the leading edge of adopting technology. As a result, they say, our enterprises aren’t as productive or as profitable as they could be.

Several industry groups today said they’re going to try to do something about it.

The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), a body that advices businesses and governments on labour issues, said it will host a Web site with information to help persuade SMEs to improve their use of mobile, cloud, analytics and other technologies.

Called the Digital Adoption Compass, when it launches in November it’s persuasive weapons will be case studies, video interviews, and webinars provided by high tech companies.

The majority of small businesses “don’t have the know-how” to buy these technologies, ICTC chief executive Namir Anani said in an interview, and “they don’t want to make the investment if they don’t know the success rate”

Also behind the initiative are the CIO Association of Canada, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA), which represents small and mid-size IT companies, the Business Development Bank of Canada and IT World Canada.

Although IT companies like Microsoft Corp. have marketing programs and target SMEs, he said the goal of the Digital Adoption Compass is to create “an environment of trust rather than an environment of marketing.”

“The large majority of (Canadian) industry, specifically small and medium enterprises, are not adopting the advanced capabilities of the mobile and e-commerce and e-banking,” he said, “If they were to do that  obviously the productivity factor would increase. And there’s enough body of research out there to show our productivity factor is somewhat lagging behind other peer countries.”

Three-quarters of Canadian businesses have fewer than 10 employees, he said. “These companies don’t have the resources and the margins to acquire knowledge fast enough (to buy technology). In a way they don’t want to be first leaders. They want to be fast adopters. Hence, if somebody can showcase to them how do adopt technology — and, obviously, couple that with the talent needs — they’d be very happy to do it.”

But while Anani believes successful case studies would be persuasive to small companies, he didn’t have many to list in the interview. One company he cited is a Vancouver mobile app development house, which sells as well as uses technology. Another was a farming company he couldn’t name.

Digital Adoption Compass ( will have three components:

    • A Digital Market Place that features technology solution providers through case studies, webinars, video interviews, and other interactive learning resources;
    • Learning resources and tools from ICTC, CATAAlliance, and the CIO Assocaition of Canada;
    • Digital Pulse, a social media news aggregator of blogs and social media feeds.  

“At the end of the day its not about technology adoption,” Anani said, “but how technology relates to business growth”