Thursday, December 2, 2021

How SMBs are using technology to turn crisis into opportunity

When raw material costs skyrocketed, Kendra Cruson seized the moment to transform her steel manufacturing company in Saskatchewan. She felt it was time to adopt to the cloud and new digital business solutions to reduce manual processes at Vale Industries. That decision has given her company an edge in the marketplace.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Canada are optimistic about the future thanks in large part to their use of technology, according to a recent KPMG survey. This is despite the economic roller coaster of the past two years.

How are SMBs innovating to set themselves up for future success? That’s the subject of a new report by IT World Canada and AWS called, “Innovation Forward: How 7 organizations are finding ways to thrive.”

In the report, seven business owners describe how important technology, especially cloud, has been in their ongoing survival and success. Whether their product is huge pontoons or fine wine, they have all found similar benefits from technology transformation.

Download the report: “Innovation Forward: How 7 organizations are finding ways to thrive”

Boosting innovation

When Carl Sparkes purchased Devonian Coast Wineries in Nova Scotia, he quickly discovered that “innovation is everything.” Sparkes recognized early on that a cloud-based solution was vital to growing the company. “It allows us to do more with less,” he said. This enabled staff to focus their expertise on developing new products. “Three-quarters of the growth in the industry every year is from innovation,” he added.

Acadian Seaplants relies on data accessibility in the cloud to continuously innovate and improve the sustainability of its product. The company is a world leader in turning seaweed into nutrients for crops, animals and people. “Acadian’s ability to use data effectively and to share its message with employees, suppliers and customers is what sets it apart,” said company president Jean Paul Deveau.

Improving customer experience and competitiveness

The entrepreneurs talked about how technology has helped them to build a level of customer service that differentiates them from the competition. Ashton Lubman, franchisee at 1-800-Got-Junk? said his goal is to maintain that “Amazon level of customer readiness,” ensuring that his teams can get to the customers within 90 minutes. He uses custom software and cloud services to manage customer communications, the routing of trucks and on-board algorithms to monitor driver safety. “These types of services are responsible for making the high-touch parts of the business feasible,” says Lubman. “Our hope is that our competition can’t get there, and that’s how we’re going to stay ahead.”

Addressing the skills gap

Increased security and data access were key benefits from cloud-based solutions for United Engineering on Vancouver Island. Its General Manager, Dave Bukovic, said another big advantage was the ability to free up skilled tradespeople from mundane tasks. “Moving design and processing data to the cloud has helped to balance out the skilled labour shortage,” he said.

After increasing its use of the cloud after the pandemic began, Acadian Seaplants has found that it can hire talented people that can work from anywhere in the world. “We hired a number of people that normally would be asked to work at the head office,” said Deveau. “They’re going to stay where they are, and that’s not something we would ever have considered before.”

While each of the entrepreneurs in the report runs a different kind of business, their insights and lessons learned will be helpful for all Canadian SMB owners looking for a competitive advantage.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT: “INNOVATION FORWARD: HOW 7 ORGANIZATIONS ARE FINDING WAYS TO THRIVE”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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