Go tell it on the mountain…
The investment gap between Canada and the United States – in dollars invested in ICT per worker – has grown yet again.
While the US out-invested us by 37.2 percent in 2008, that figure grew to 40.5 percent in 2009, according to a new study by the Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS).
Our industry knows the value in investing in ICT – whether in telecommunications and internet services, ICT consulting services, hardware, microelectronics, software, electronic content and digital media, or a variety of other spaces. We have seen, firsthand, the results: reduced costs, increased efficiencies, energy savings, and the development of companies that are innovative enough to lead on the world stage – to name a few.
It is our duty, then, to tell these success stories.
ITAC has been propagating this message for many years. Most recently, we have told a number of ICT adoption success stories through the publication of our 2010/2011 Annual Review, "Return on Innovation: Celebrating Canada's ICT Achievements," and the accompanying web page, "Return on Innovation: Case Studies in Successful ICT Implementation" (http://itac.ca/priorities/ict_adoption/).
And we won't stop there.
In 2011, you can expect from us a strong, clear and concerted effort toward broadly and poignantly communicating the success stories of the Canadian ICT industry – your success stories. In this issue of ITAC Online, we begin by showcasing three companies who invested in ICT and reaped the benefits.Tell us your thoughts on this story
On the surface, LawnSavers Plant Health Care Inc. and the Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association may not appear to have much in common. But a closer look at their internal operations tells a different story... Both organizations rely on cold-calling thousands of people each year to develop their business, and what’s more, both organizations have implemented a sophisticated ICT solution to help make this process more efficient.
Kyle Tobin owns LawnSavers Plant Health Care. Two years ago, he decided to make some changes to the way his company carried out its cold calls. He invested in the predictive dialing system, Pursuit, by MarkeTel Systems Ltd. in Saskatchewan, which dials the numbers automatically, and based on an algorithm that learns the agents dialing and speaking habits, eliminates all time that was previously wasted listening ringing, busy signals, and so on. Ever since, Kyle’s been watching his business grow.
“The amount of people you actually contact on the phone is doubled if not tripled,” Kyle said. “It’s a no-brainer – you spend less time talking to nobody, just listening to it ringing, and more time talking to somebody.”
Kyle said this has translated into significant growth for LawnSavers.
“You watch it as it happens. You can run a campaign and see the results as they’re happening – it’s immediate,” he said. “You know when you’re getting leads, and the system is quantifying them as they are occurring. So it’s easy to quantify converting a lead into a sale, a new customer into real dollars.”
Kyle said a key factor that allowed him to adopt the Pursuit system was that it required no additional expertise from he or his staff.
“We have different types of phone systems, different types of database systems, and I needed everything to talk to each other. I’m not an IT expert, and I can’t afford one, and I can’t afford to wait either. I just wanted to open a box and start a campaign, using our data immediately – and this system allowed that.”
Kyle said his company has reached the point where it’s no longer customer recruitment that limits growth.
“What you get out of this technology is really just a factor of how much money you want to put into the labour and agents behind it. If I had the guts and the money, I’d invest in a hundred seats, and I know I would win. But you have to be ready to accommodate the growth, and keep your service levels up,” he said. “Double-digit growth is the bare minimum you can expect with this dialer.”
Ngee Cau is CEO of MarkeTel. He said it’s nice to see LawnSavers achieving such success with the Pursuit system – after all, MarkeTel started as a landscaping company too.
The company’s founder at the time was encountering the same challenges as Kyle, so he struck up a partnership with the University of Regina to work on a predictive dialer algorithm. As Ngee explains, the main reason why the company’s founder decided to develop his own system was that there were no commercial systems geared toward the SME community – everything on the market at that time was very expensive and difficult for small- to mid-sized businesses to afford.
When Ngee joined the company in 2005, MarkeTel was primarily a hardware manufacturer – and they were on the verge of investing $1.2 million into their latest next generation products. But because of the economic strain this type of overhead was having on the company, Ngee decided to take a “180” and stop manufacturing. Instead, they would focus on software development which would then be loaded onto hardware on a “just in time” basis, before sending the compete package to clients.
He said this has improved the company’s operations and profitability significantly, and has allowed them to expand their offering of ICT products and solutions.
“We have a suite of products – predictive dialer, auto dialer, progressive dialing, preview dialing, inbound IBR, IP-PBX soft phones, and we can work with basically any existing telecom company,” Ngee said.
Ngee said the ability to establish their niche SME market has been key to the company’s success.
“We’re an SME, so we recognize the challenges this size of company encounters,” he said. “These challenges have to do with cash flow management, limited resources and capital investments, so a lot of the things we do maximize the resources our clients have and increase their productivity and efficiency to get the greatest value possible out of each dollar spent.”
MarkeTel has proven that their predictive dialer systems increase the time spent on the phone talking with a prospective customer from 15 minutes per hour to up to 50 minutes per hour – an increase in productivity in the range of 150 to 400 percent. And the company is committed to developing products that will constantly push the envelope.
“More than a third of our employees are in R&D,” Ngee said. “It’s a high expense for a small company, but we need to stay focused on providing the right quality and the right technology.”
Joan Kilbride is the Director of Resource Development and Public Education for the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Saskatchewan Division. Her office has been using a MarkeTel system for nearly a decade.
“It is really cost-effective for us. We used to have a call centre staffed by two shifts of 12 people each – about 25 employees – where someone would have to photocopy our lists from a phonebook, then everyone would dial manually,” Joan explained. “Now we’re down to five people, and we can put the entire phone book on the dialer electronically.”
Joan said before her office adopted the predictive dialer solution, their cold-calling campaigns were consistently on the brink of losing money. But all that is in the past.
“The sales we make per month are more than double what it costs to run the dialer,” she said.
And for a small not-for-profit organization like the CMHA, it helps that they are able to make the calls from within their own office, without having to hire a large marketing company. This allows them to maintain their soft-selling approach over the phone, while also avoiding paying out the large percentages of their revenues to a third-party company.
“There’s no doubt about it – we were really spinning our wheels before, and this system has helped us become much more efficient. And in the end, that just means better service for the people we serve – those who need our help.”
For information on any of these three organizations, please visit www.cmhask.com for the CMHA’s Saskatchewan Division, lawnsavers.com for LawnSavers Plant Health Care Inc. and www.marketelsystems.com for MarkeTel Systems Ltd.Tell us your thoughts on this story
The Mill to Succeed
“If you have the right training, the right equipment and the right knowledge, IT will do whatever you want it to do, easily.”
- Mario Arseneault, Human Resources, Chaleur Sawmills
Chaleur Sawmills in Belledune, New Brunswick, is one of Canada’s largest sawmills, employing 175 workers and producing over 150-million board feet of lumber annually.
The key to the company’s success is efficiency. And in the world of cutting and refining wood, efficiency is all about reducing your downtime to a minimum. The mill runs seven days per week, on two twelve-hour shifts from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. Only one week per month does the mill not run a night shift, from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. – they reserve that time for regular maintenance work.
“Preventative maintenance is a huge reason why we’re so productive,” said Mario Arseneault, Director of Human Resources for Chaleur Sawmills. “I’m not going to say we never have breakages, but it’s very rare that we need to stop production because of something mechanical or electrical. Usually we find it before it breaks.”
In order to keep this rigourous schedule sustainable, Chaleur Sawmills has developed an extremely comprehensive preventative maintenance system. And until August of this year, this system involved a worker spending well over 10 to 12 hours per week manually scheduling and assigning maintenance tasks among the mill’s employees.
“It includes everything from checking bearings, tightening chains, aligning pulleys and belts, anything,” Arseneault said. “If a chain is being tightened three times a week, something is wrong. So preventative maintenance is all about asking what we do with that chain – is it a problem with the chain, the bearing, the belt in behind, the conveyor?”
The maintenance worker used to begin assigning all these various tasks to the mill’s employees Friday after work, and spend his entire weekend until Sunday night completing the task. Then the sawmill considered bringing in an ICT solution to help reduce the strain, and essentially automate what had become an extremely labour-intensive managerial process.
“We realized that our maintenance coordinator was taking at least 10 to 12 hours to run his regular schedule of tasks for all of his 14 millwrights,” Arseneault said. “We realized that he was starting on the Friday afternoon, continuing on Saturday, and finishing on the Sunday from home, to make sure all the tasks would be in for Monday.”
In February of this year, Chaleur Sawmills started looking into potential ICT solutions for how to make this process more efficient. They turned to local New Brunswick business IT solutions company, PLC Info, and by June, they had agreed to purchase and implement a software program designed to automate the mill’s preventative maintenance system.
“They came up with a program that could do all the tasks automatically, week after week after week,” Arseneault said. “All we need to do now is have the names and numbers of all our guys in a file, and it automatically distributes all the tasks to everybody. And now it takes about an hour and a half instead of 10 to 12 hours. So it’s more than a success story, it’s absolutely amazing what it’s done for us and our maintenance guy.”
The mill invested $25,000 into the software program, which was implemented in August, 2010. But what seems like a substantial investment upfront is already paying dividends. The mill estimates that it saves about $500 per week with the new system in place. At that rate, the investment will be completely paid off in only 50 weeks – less than one year.
Arseneault said it wasn’t an easy decision to invest in the program – it took months of development, then another 10 days or so to decide whether to buy once PLC Info had submitted their final proposal. He said in the end, it came down to thoroughly researching the opportunity, and being sure they had all the elements in place to best utilize the system.
“[Investing in ICT] certainly works, but you need to have the right stuff for it to work,” he said. “The biggest problem for anybody who wants to invest in IT is that they probably don’t understand what it can do for them. If you have the right training, the right equipment and the right knowledge, IT will do whatever you want it to do, easily.”
As for the mill’s maintenance coordinator, he’s just happy to have his weekends back.Tell us your thoughts on this story
January 25, 2011
For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal
Bill C-28 Receives Royal Assent
ITAC is pleased to announce that Bill C-28 (otherwise known as the “spam” bill) was passed into law on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.
Controlling spam and malware is a very important aspect of Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy (DES), and ITAC was an active supporter throughout the development of this Bill. ITAC President and CEO, Bernard Courtois, was involved in the working group Industry Canada put together to help amend the bill – and ITAC is happy to have cooperated with the federal government in this manner.
This Bill will affect the way many companies do business on the internet. ITAC will be monitoring any new regulations therein, and will be happy to participate in all industry consultations moving forward.
Access Industry Canada’s Bill C-28 synopsis here: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/ecic-ceac.nsf/eng/h_gv00567.html
CANARIE Launches Pilot Program to Help Canadian High-Tech Firms Innovate and Accelerate Commercialization
Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE) announced it is launching DAIR – Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research, a research and development environment where Canadian firms can develop, test and demonstrate innovative information and communications technology (ICT) products, services and protocols.
CANARIE’s DAIR Program will help small- and medium-sized ICT companies create new, complex, large-scale products, and demonstrate them to customers, without building a costly R & D infrastructure themselves. ICT researchers investigating next-generation Internet technologies will also benefit.
DAIR is slated to be operational in March 2011, initially as a pilot program that leverages CANARIE’s advanced research and education fibre-optic network, while continuing to support the research and education communities.
Click here for more details: http://itac.ca/media_details/1885/
Karen Wensley Addresses Federal R&D Panel
Karen Wensley, the former chair of ITAC’s Tax and Finance Committee and one of the country’s leading experts on SR&ED tax credits, was recently invited to appear before the independent expert panel on how to cultivate support of business research and development.
Karen’s presentation focuses upon an optional payroll-based approach to accessing SR&ED credits. Access it here.
Other News and Events
Social Media for Government Conference – Toronto – January 31, 2011 to February 3, 2011
Social Media for Government Training:
“How To Engage Your Employees And Citizens By Using The Latest Web 2.0 Technologies To Drive Communication Results”
Access the conference agenda here: http://www.aliconferences.com/conf/social_media_govt_canada0211/index.htm
Mention “ITAC” to receive a special $200 discount!
Backbone Magazine Turning 10 Years Old
Backbone Magazine, a publication which ITAC has collaborated with extensively, is nearly 10 years old. This March, Backbone will release a 10th Anniversary issue, set to be their biggest issue ever. It will focus on “Cloud Computing”, “Tech Predictions for 2011” and many enhanced offerings for advertisers. Distribution continues to be through The Globe and Mail: total 100,000, plus corporate alliances, Air Canada Lounges and many industry trade shows.
Backbone examines how technology is used to accelerate Canadian business. Its readers are early adopters, influential, affluent business decision makers who strive to keep up to date with important technology trends for both business and personal use. A lot has happened over the past 10 years, and a lot more will happen over the next 10! More info on this special issue of Backbone can be found here: http://www.backbonemag.com/files/PDF/Backbone-10-year-anniversary-issue.pdf
Canadian ICT Partnering Mission to Hong Kong – April 12-17, 2011
The Consulate General of Canada in Hong Kong, in partnership with The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in Canada, invites Canadian companies to participate in the International ICT Expo scheduled for April 13-16, 2011, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in one of a variety of capacities:
As a panel exhibitor sharing the space and facilities with other exhibitors of the Canadian Pavilion at the International ICT Expo; or
As an individual exhibitor renting an individual booth; or
As a trade visitor.
All of the Canadian delegates will also be invited to join a business program specially designed to increase their access to partnership and business opportunities in Hong Kong, Mainland China and the region.
Click here for more information: http://ictexpo.com
Catalyst Canada Honours 2011 – October 18, 2011
Catalyst Canada is thrilled to announce that nominations are now open for The Catalyst Canada Honours 2011 – Celebrating Champions of Women in Business.
Catalyst is seeking champions in three categories, Company/Firm Leader, Business Leader, and Human Resources/Diversity Leader, who have shown exceptional personal commitment to the advancement of women. If you know anyone who is a role model for diversity and inclusion in your company or firm, please nominate them by December 20, 2010. For nomination forms or to find more information, including last year’s champions, please visit our website at: www.catalyst.org/page/77/canada.
The Catalyst Canada Honours 2011 is set to be held on October 18, 2011, at The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.