ITAC Online - The ICT Adoption Issue - January 2012
In ITAliCs

Rewarding Innovation

We love to tell stories about how smart organizations use information and communications technology in ways that lead to business transformation and breakthroughs in their operations.  We love this so much in fact that we created a program—the Ingenious Awards Program—to provide us with steady stream of stories to tell. Last summer, we told you about our initial round of Ingenious Award winners.

In this “ICT Adoption” issue of ITAC Online, we are pleased to present the story of two organizations that were finalists last year. Both the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the federal government’s BuyandSell.gc.ca demonstrate effective ways of using the power of web-based communications to achieve amazing results. They also demonstrate how competitive the field for an Ingenious Award is. Buyand Sell.gc.ca is changing the way Canadian companies do business with the government, and the COC has brought opera fully into the 21st century with its online presence—and significantly boosted ticket sales as well.

We will be looking for this year’s finalists and award winners starting with the 2012 Ingenious Awards program call for entries in April. In the meantime, it’s not too soon to be thinking about worthy contenders to nominate from among your clients and contacts. (ingeniousawards.ca)

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Operatic Intelligence

Jeremy Elbourne, Director of Marketing, Canadian Opera Company Jeremy Elbourne, Director of Marketing, Canadian Opera Company

After the bows, the applause and the curtain calls, what do you do for an encore?

That was the situation facing the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 2007, shortly after the 57-year-old company moved into its spectacular new home in Toronto: the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

“We were enjoying a lot of success, based on the effect of the new facility,” says Jeremy Elbourne, the COC’s Director of Marketing. “We were selling 99 percent capacity in the new house without trying very hard.”

But the COC did not get to be Canada’s pre-eminent opera company by resting on its laurels, so the organization decided to overhaul its website and improve its ability to provide online services to customers. But what did potential opera-goers want to experience when they visited the company’s virtual stage?

Although the COC knew little about its client base, it was aware that its site did not support the organization’s overall business goals to drive subscriptions and donations, and it wanted to extend the opera experience into an online environment.

To accomplish its goals the COC turned to Delvinia, whose value proposition is the tools it uses to understand the digital literacy and habits of Canadians in specific regions.

An analysis of four years of the opera company’s transactional data showed that opera-goers were more digitally inclined than most Canadians, and that the COC’s audience were either time-starved professionals interested in a more efficient online experience or socially inclined urbanites looking for an engaging, interactive online experience.

The new site made it easier for customers to buy tickets and subscriptions, and to find information about performances. Flash-based components were used to tell stories, encourage conversation and deepen the relationship with audiences.

Between 20 and 40 percent of the company’s transactions are now online, including donations, single-ticket purchases and subscription sales.

The results are tangible. Since the site re-launch in January 2009, online sales have increased 30 percent, and COC.ca has become the company’s primary channel for single ticket sales. The bounce rate associated with the site has decreased from 56 percent to 26 percent, indicating that users are more engaged with content and can navigate to their goals. Email subscribers have increased by 30 percent, and the click-through rates have grown by 10 percent.

From Elbourne’s perspective, the COC’s new online presence is the ideal equivalent of the company’s new physical home.

“It’s amazing how much conversation is going on out there,” he says. “Not all of it is related to the website, but we’re seeing some major positives in terms of maintaining—and retaining—our audience. They’re buying everything we have to offer, and there are a lot more of them. Now, we have a beautiful venue, and I like to think the way we targeted these audiences has had an impact, too.”

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Re-imagining Procurement

It used to be a truism that government procurement was complex and confusing. The process not only requires vendors to meet precise, multi-faceted requirements—it can also have different rules depending on the good or service being purchased, and the value of the transaction.

While large organizations may be able to afford to devote resources to navigating the various procurement rules, it was sometimes a different story for small business. The federal government created the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) within Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) to address this fundamental issue.

“Small businesses didn’t see themselves reflected in government procurement policies and practices,” said Shereen Benzvy Miller, Direct0r General of OSME. “To remedy this, we set up six regional offices to create local connections with small- and medium-sized enterprises.” The result is an organization that goes wherever people need them, and offers seminars tailored to the small and medium enterprise (SME) community. The seminars also reflect Canada’s increasing diversity, providing information in both official languages, as well as Punjabi and Mandarin.

It was soon determined that these outreach activities, combined with extended telephone service hours, were still not meeting every need. When OSME asked potential clients what more it could do, the response was overwhelming. They told OSME that they needed more access via the Internet: it was still too difficult to find the business information, intelligence, and data they needed to use the government procurement system. The $20 billion spent each year by the federal government could be a significant market for SMEs, but they needed more help.

OSME listened, and responded by creating a space on the Internet designed to ensure a positive user experience for both the supplier and buyer communities. That space is Buyandsell.gc.ca, which helps meet the government’s pledge to simplify and streamline the way it does business.

Explaining the decision to include both vendors and customers, Miller said, “We would hear industry say, ‘You seem to know lots about what you’re buying, but we don’t have the same information.’ They wanted information on what we buy, how we are buying, which departments might be potential customers, etc., so they could know who to target in their marketing and what to include in business plans.”

One example concerns firms that fail to qualify for standing offers. While some were informed that they could act as a sub-contractor to qualified companies, there was nowhere they could go to determine who was qualified. To address this, Buyandsell.gc.ca now publishes a weekly updated pre-qualified supplier data set that can be sorted by a number of criteria, in an effort to build and support a healthy supply chain.

Information on Buyandsell.gc.ca is flexible and user-centred by design, organized by audience, by industry sector and by elements that are common to each page. Users can find relevant information in a number of ways, including keyword searches, menu or index navigation, or through a site map.

A major goal of the site is to reduce the cost of doing business with government, by making information accessible and making it clear who suppliers can go to if they require more details. In addition, the site aims to reflect the government’s overall transparency goals.

Another objective met was easing the burden on procurement officers who field calls from vendors: after Buyandsell.gc.ca went live, calls to Acquisitions Branch’s information line declined by over 30 percent.

Client reaction has been positive, and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services is very pleased. “We’ve received great feedback, both on the program and on the ease of access,” Minister Rona Ambrose reported.

Bringing Buyandsell.gc.ca to life over the past nine months has effectively leveraged open technology and open standards, with expertise from quite a few small businesses. One senior manager expressed the outcome this way: “We can work with a variety of experts to increase our internal core competency, which is managing procurement, and the output of what we do—the technological artifacts—are sharable with anybody. We think that’s a real economic benefit.”

A highly visible component of the site is its feedback mechanism, and it is clear that Buyandsell.gc.ca is a work in progress. As the department expands its efforts toward helping companies do business with the Government of Canada and having the site serve the entrepreneur community better, it will continue to be enriched.

Over the next year, Buyandsell.gc.ca will release its new layout, which will follow the government’s new design standards and improve the procurement data available to businesses to help them do business.

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Board Member Profile: Meet Lally Rementilla

Lally Rementilla, Vice-President, Finance and Administration, Nulogy Corporation Lally Rementilla, Vice-President, Finance and Administration, Nulogy Corporation

While many technology workers begin their careers at startups and then move to larger organizations, Lally Rementilla has followed the opposite course: beginning at AT&T Canada Network Systems Group (later Lucent Technologies Canada), before joining Lavalife and most recently Nulogy Corporation. A native of the Philippines who immigrated to Canada in 1991, she obtained an MBA from the Schulich School of Business and became a Certified Management Accountant. At Nulogy, which specializes in customized supply-chain solutions for packaged goods companies, Rementilla serves as Vice-President, Finance and Administration.

A leading advocate for women in technology, she has also served as a mentor and business advisor for female entrepreneurs, a category she sees growing across the industry.

“More and more, the women I’ve mentored or advised are going down the entrepreneurship path, and they’re launching their own new companies. I think this is very welcome, and there is a catalyst for change in advancing women, because the more female-led or founded small/medium-sized companies we have will spur the growth of the number of women in technology overall.”

For her own career development, Rementilla adopted a process she calls “formulating a vision” of herself. It’s something she applied to herself after a dozen years at AT&T/Lucent.

“You get into a grind, and if you want to make a change—both career wise and from a personal perspective—I really feel it’s important to have an overarching vision of yourself and the kind of person you want to be. That sort of visualizing exercise takes into account not just what it is you want to do from a professional perspective, but also how you want to interact with people and how you spend your time. I go about that once every five years, especially if there are major life changes, whether it be getting married or having kids. I find that practice helps to really identify my personal priorities.”

In the early 2000s, she re-defined herself as what she has called “the hip accountant” and joined the burgeoning online dating service Lavalife. As Vice-President, Finance, she played an important role in selling the company twice—first to Vertrue in 2004, and six years later to First Media Group—and launching new ventures in mobile communications, social networking and online publishing.

“Coming out of Lavalife I told myself that I wanted to go to a smaller company because I knew that I was going to add value.”

Founded a decade ago by former Kellogg’s employee Jason Tham and several partners, Nulogy quickly found a niche for PackManager, a Web-based application that allows contract packagers to efficiently track and manage their inventory, production and labour.

“There are a lot of early-stage companies that come up with products and have to find a market or a problem that can be solved, but the founders of Nulogy decided to find a problem and come up with an innovative solution. This has created a very strong position for the company going into a market that is really growing.”

As Rementilla notes, PackManager provides a lower cost of entry to companies like GH Günther Huettlin Manufacturing by using cloud-based infrastructure. “All they really need is an Internet connection; they can use the software through a PC, a laptop, an iPad or through a mobile solution. Once you’re using the software, it becomes so much a part of your operation it becomes integral to the way you manage your business.”

As much as she was attracted by Nulogy’s growing success at attracting companies that are adopting its solutions, Rementilla says that, “its values resonate with my personal values. I’ve really found that the company is almost a family. And if you’re going to be putting yourself in a situation of an early-stage startup environment, at a minimum you should be working with people who share the same values and view the world as you do, because it will make life much better knowing that it’s going to be a 24/7 type of job.”

In addition, she says her current role satisfies her need to constantly be learning. “I’ve benefitted from the experiential nature of what I’ve done in all my jobs. I thrive in challenging environments where a high degree of problem solving in a fairly ambiguous setting is what needs to be done.”

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ITAC Events

January 31, 2012

Public Sector Business Committee

February 1, 2012

ITAC Board of Governors Dinner

February 21, 2012

Canadian Reception @ HIMSS 2012

February 28, 2012

Public Sector Business Committee


For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal

ITAC News

Federal Red Tape Reduction Commission files recommendations

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has released a number of documents on the Red Tape Reduction Commission's Recommendations Report.

View the documents here.

OSME Director-General Reviews 2011

In a year-end message to organizations that sell to the federal government, Shereen Miller, Director-General, Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, summarizes the work her group completed in 2011 and reaches out to ITAC for continued support in 2012.

Download the PDF.

Canada Excellence Research Chair Competition Opens

On November 28, 2011, Science and Technology Minister Gary Goodyear announced the launch of the competition of 10 new Canada Excellence Research Chairs. Chairs are awarded through a highly competitive, two-stage process. In Phase 1, Canadian universities compete for the opportunity to establish Canada Excellence Research Chairs at their institution, and in Phase 2 short-listed universities nominate leading researchers to these positions.

For details, visit: www.cerc.gc.ca/releases-communiques/nr-co-20111128-b-eng.shtml or http://www.cerc.gc.ca/releases-communiques/nr-co-20111128-b-fra.shtml.

 

NanoIsrael Seeks Canadian Participants

Industry Canada has been approached by Nava Swersky Sofer, Co-Chairperson, NanoIsrael, seeking assistance to identify Canadian firms having an interest in nanotechnology/materials that might be interested in participating in NanoIsrael 2012, an international conference and exhibition to be held in Tel Aviv, March 26-27, 2012.

Interested firms should contact Swersky Sofer directly, at: +972-54-489-8551, nava@swersky.com.

Further information on NanoIsrael can be found at:  www.kenes.com/nano.

Other News and Events

Industrial Strength eHealth Privacy & Security Workshop

February 1-2, 2012

Join Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Privacy Expert, Brendan Seaton, and Canada Health Infoway Certification Lead, Shelley Lipon at the Industrial Strength eHealth Privacy and Security Workshop.

View event details

Canadian Financing Forum 2012

February 2-3, 2012

The 2012 Canadian Financing Forum takes place on February 2-3, 2012 at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, British Columbia, with this year marking the 15th anniversary of the Forum - Western Canada's premier access to capital event. 2012 also represents a significant growth year as the Forum will convene at the stunning Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel and the event program has been expanded to include 1.5 days of company presentations, premium networking and panel sessions.

View event details

IBM Smarter Government Summit 2012

February 16, 2012

All levels of government face substantial deficits, changing legislative mandates and increasing demands for services and support. As a result, and to continue to deliver effective programs and services, Canada's federal government departments and agencies are transforming the way they operate. On February 16, 2012, IBM invites government executives and IT professionals to hear how government department and agencies can reduce costs while improving overall performance and program outcomes.

View event details