Driving a new purchasing vehicle forward
As the national industry association for information and communications technology, ITAC represents an extremely broad and diverse range of sectors, from telecommunications and internet services, to ICT consulting services, hardware, microelectronics, digital media/content, and of course, software.
This issue of ITAC Online is focused on the software supply chain in Canada for a number of reasons – not the least of which is the fact that over the past several months, ITAC has been working very closely with the Canadian federal government (Public Works and Government Services Canada) on its new purchasing vehicle for software. This Software Licensing Supply Arrangement (SLSA, or “Salsa” for those of us who spend too many hours leafing through its terms and conditions) was put out for public consultation on February 1, 2011, and has since gone through many updates and changes. The end goal of our work on this SLSA has been to create a buying vehicle that would (a) serve government in its efforts to become an increasingly open, fair, transparent, and of course, efficient buyer, and (b) help government adopt commercial terms and conditions, so that all members of the software supply chain could sell to the government with ease.
Over the course of these past several months, ITAC has developed an Industry Software Council, through which we have taken industry questions, concerns and messages to PWGSC in a united, concerted fashion. We have tackled some of the more minor problematic terms and conditions that exist in certain sections of the supply arrangement, and we continue to work on a smaller number of industry “show-stoppers” such as Price Certification, Acceptance, and so on.
We feel our work in government procurement – which we carry through at the request of, and on behalf of, our members – is very important to both government and our member community, for it helps achieve one extremely important goal: helping the Canadian government become the smartest, and therefore most economical, purchaser of goods and services it can be. In the end, this benefits everyone: from our industry’s vendors, to public service procurement officials, to – most importantly – the Canadian taxpayer. And when it comes to purchasing ICT products and services (in this case software) this means helping the Canadian government become a model buyer and user of technology – ultimately enabling entire nation’s prosperity in the digital economy.
On the following pages you will read about three members of the ITAC Industry Software Council. To these three companies, and to other dozens of council members, thank you for your ongoing support of our efforts in this area – we look forward to representing you further.Tell us your thoughts on this story
Putting the tools in the right hands
From governmental sites to corporate contests, online banking and beyond, online forms have become nearly as ubiquitous as the internet itself. And for one Montreal-based software publisher, it is precisely this type of online and mobile user experience, and interaction between an organization and its stakeholders, which they are attempting to revolutionize.
Alphinat Inc. specializes in the rapid development of web and mobile software applications – notably, self-service applications including online forms. The company does so through its flagship product, SmartGuide. The product permits the rapid creation of electronic forms, and helps manage the interaction between them and the user.
SmartGuide is said to cut down on custom coding by up to 90 percent when developing mobile and web applications. This is achieved by allowing for complete separation of all three basic layers of application implementation: graphic design; user/business logic from the user interaction perspective; and connectivity (to back up systems, legacy systems, or an extending system with custom functionality relevant to a particular client).
Essentially, it offers the business stakeholder within a client company more control than they’ve ever had before over the developmental process. The stakeholder no longer needs to write a statement of work and pass it on to an IT department for follow through – they can create much of the application themselves in a very user-friendly, graphical, “drag and drop” environment.
Jean Pierre (JP) Filion is Alphinat’s Vice-President of Sales. He said the company’s product line contributes to productivity because the development now happens in parallel, as opposed to in serial mode.
“The business expert is actively involved in the development process, as opposed to writing about it and passing it along to someone else,” JP said.
Reuse is also a key element of SmartGuide’s ability to enhance productivity.
“SmartGuide not only leverages existing IT assets, but all components built using SmartGuide can also be reused in other applications. So the more an organization uses SmartGuide, the greater the savings on each new project,” JP said. “Reusing elements of the business forms in other applications also saves time and money.”
Alphinat CEO, Philippe Lecoq, said the developmental model SmartGuide offers represents a new paradigm in web development, and that one positive consequence stemming from it will be increased user adoption of the final solution.
“This toolset is perfectly designed to fit the new wave of agile development. The way it’s done is by fully engaging the users – i.e., the business stakeholders in the development cycle – and that helps to ensure successful solution deployment with very high user adoption. After all, when the users are actually tweaking the application to suit their liking, fully meeting their own needs, they’re obviously going to use the solution,” Philippe said.
“That’s one of the big downfalls in traditional development,” he said. “When everything is done according to traditional IT methodologies, the client is asked to fit the mold. You go from gathering the requirements from the business stakeholders, to translating that to a specifications document, to coding and developing the solution, before going back to validation with the business stakeholders. In this mold, everyone may be doing their jobs perfectly, but the very nature of this process leads to a gap between the business stakeholders’ actual needs and the solution that is delivered. By having users fully engaged, it really removes all these intangibles and ensures the highest potential ROI on the software purchase.”
Alphinat also prides itself on the versatility of SmartGuide. The product is both SaaS and cloud enabled, and is completely platform agnostic.
Founded in 2004, Alphinat is now a publicly traded company on the TSX. The company does business all over the world, in both the private and public sectors, with exceptional take up in the Québec and French governments.
“As odd as it may seem, the public sector for us was a low hanging fruit,” Philippe explained. “We are going after the private sector as well – in areas such as banking, insurance, healthcare and transportation – to fully exploit the flexibility that this application gives us for certain vertical market deployments, but that will be with partners.”
The company’s leaders see some shifts happening in the software industry that will accommodate their plans to roll this model of web development out in Canada and abroad.
“The Canadian industry is very influenced by the American sales/supply model, which includes a lot of very large organizations who dramatically impact how software is used and supplied across the industry. This can result in limited choice on the part of the customer, as well as a need to rely on system integrators, suppliers, etc. for their expertise,” JP explained. “In short, government and enterprise are relying more and more on outside players to support their IT needs, and that includes software.”
JP said another shift they’re seeing is the proliferation of open-source software, which pushes the cost of software down, and the demand on software-related professional services, like maintenance and support, up.
“Relating that to our offering, it’s a great place and time to be for us, because we can live in the cloud,” JP said. “More so, the additional benefit is that you don’t necessarily have to rely on professional services to get full benefit from this application.”
In the end, it’s all about giving companies the opportunity to focus on their core competencies, and let their experts work in their own areas of expertise. And that can’t hurt an organization’s bottom line.
For more information on Alphinat, or the SmartGuide product, visit their website: www.alphinat.comTell us your thoughts on this story
The rewards of a reseller
While people may tend to think “cutting out the middle-person” is a step toward a more efficient way of doing things, it’s companies like SHI that make us think twice.
Founded in 1989 as a simple software reseller, “delivering boxes,” SHI has evolved into one of the world’s top value-added software resellers. The company boasts more than 1,500 employees worldwide, annual revenues of about $4 billion, and an industry-leading annual customer retention rate of 99 percent. With numbers like these, it’s clear the company does more than “deliver boxes.”
SHI Canada has feet on the street all across the country, with a sales support headquarters in Toronto. Patricia Bengualid is the company’s National Sales Manager, Enterprise, for Canada. She said the software industry has developed in such a way that resellers are now asked to provide their customers with an extremely complex level of expertise.
“Simply put, to call our Canadian employees sales reps is a large understatement. They’re really premium consultants,” Patricia said. “A lot of them have been in the industry for quite a long time, and we have extremely low turnover within our team. Our reps are never looking for the short, quick sale. We rarely do anything that’s just transactional. We really try to look at the bigger picture of what a customer is doing from a high level asset management point of view. The customers needs often reach further than just a price and a product, so that’s where we come in.”
But Patricia said that not everyone immediately sees the added value a reseller brings to a customer – and to the software supply chain in general.
“Certain customers have an old-style mentality of procurement, where the belief – or myth – is that if you deal directly with the publisher you’re going to get the best possible deal, the best possible price. But that’s not always the case. Software vendors typically have expertise in the technology and deployment of their software. Meanwhile, how to purchase a license, how to deploy it within an organization, how to optimize it to reduce your spend and mitigate your risk – these are the things we specialize in,” Patricia said. “So when you’re dealing with a reseller, we’re looking at the entire picture. We’re here from beginning to end. For instance, many large customers overbuy because they don’t have a complete enough understanding of what they need. We help our customers be proactive in their asset management, so that they can gain a solid, strategic understanding of what they’re buying, why, and where it fits in. This is what really cuts costs.”
Patricia said that her customers are looking to a reseller to have an expertise in each of the licensing programs its publishers deliver. They’re looking for expertise on how to purchase the software, and they need a partner who will help them manage these programs and the software they purchase through them.
“Then there’s the other bonus in the fact that because of the volume of licenses we deliver, we have tremendous relationships with the publishers, so we’re able to build on that,” she said. “We get really good at protecting our customers’ investments because we see when changes are coming from our publishers, and we immediately identify what the implications will be for our customers.”
Founded by President and CEO, Thai Lee, SHI remains a privately held company. Patricia said that helps to maintain strong messaging from the top-down, much of which is focused on the importance of building strong, valuable, long-term relationships with customers, and above all else, treating customers well. And judging by both its customer retention rate and the list of vendors it calls partners, this approach to business is serving SHI Canada just fine.
To learn more about how SHI Canada makes purchasing software a better experience, check out their website: www.shi.com.Tell us your thoughts on this story
Customer care, from start to finish
It’s often the case that a sale is over as soon as the financial transaction between buyer and seller is complete. But in the case of software resellers and systems integrators like Compugen Inc., that’s actually when the sale begins.
Founded in 1981 by current President and CEO Harry Zarek, Compugen Inc. is Canada's largest privately-owned and operated IT solutions provider. With nearly 1,000 employees, the company is known both for its long-term alliances with major industry players as well as its partnerships with innovative specialists. This means the solutions Compugen creates for its customers take advantage of both reliable platforms and state-of-the-art technologies.
Michael Charter is Vice-President of Software for Compugen. An industry veteran of over 30 years, it’s Michael’s job to take full responsibility for sourcing the company’s partner publishers, and to ensure that these publishers’ software licenses are properly distributed and brokered to all customers. Michael said the key duty Compugen fulfills for its publisher partners is the developing of strategic relationship with customers to help them leverage the investments they’ve made in technological infrastructure.
“It’s in the increasing applicability of software and software licensing where I fit in,” he said. “We realize our customers invest lots of money into these types of solutions, so we help them manage, deploy and utilize those investments to their fullest, right the way through to end of life and recycling.”
Michael said publishers are often focused on promoting products, and not how these products could fit into (a) larger solution(s). So he spends much of his time making sure he understands the roles and applicability of certain products in user environments, then passing this knowledge along to the customer.
“All software publishers want us to uncover net new opportunities and grow their market share, behaving like their own sales people behave, irrespective of the products’ applicability to any particular solution,” Michael said. “This is an interesting role considering we represent a large variety of vendors.”
Michael has been a part of the Compugen team for three and a half years, and he said that in this time, he has seen great changes within the Canadian software industry.
“The advent of social media has changed the way people research and purchase software,” Michael said, “because any particular purchaser can find out practically anything they want about a product, company, or even individual. This can happen through Tweets, blogs, Facebook, whatever, but the reality is that the whole procurement process is changing dramatically.”
He explained that traditional approaches to promoting software products are undergoing huge change, and that people are now often as well educated when buying software as they are when shopping for a vehicle.
“It’s extremely important that software resellers inform their buyers of aspects of the software they don’t already know, and these days, this can be very challenging,” Michael said. “Sure, there’s still a place for what I call a ‘fulfillment reseller’ – who helps you buy from a catalogue, online, over the phone, etc. – but increasingly, customers are so busy that they don’t have time to look at all aspects of a software solution.”
The key to overcoming these challenges and maintaining one’s competitive edge, Michael said, is to be able to offer a varied and comprehensive suite of solutions for the customer.
“You must look at the data centre holistically, so that when a customer needs a solution, depending on their problem, you may suggest something on the hardware side, the storage side, the networking side, and so on. We’ve also got excellent asset management capabilities on the software side – to be sure our customers are compliant, while at the same time not over-licensed – so we really work hard with them to ensure there is a roadmap for their software deployment.”
Michael said the remainder of 2011, and perhaps even more so 2012, will be a transformational time as more of these Web 3.0 implications become apparent in the world of software licensing.
To learn more about Compugen’s solutions, check out the company’s website: www.compugen.com.Tell us your thoughts on this story
June 14, 2011
June 14, 2011
June 16, 2011
June 16, 2011
June 17, 2011
June 23, 2011
For a full event listing, and to register for ITAC events, go to: itac.ca/event_cal
Tickets on Sale for Ingenious Awards Gala – June 14 in Toronto
Tickets are now available for the June 14, 2011, Ingenious Awards Gala in Toronto.
A rigourous judging process is currently underway to determine the winners of this year's Ingenious Awards. Winners in the five categories will be honoured at a gala awards ceremony in Toronto on June 14. The stories of their achievements will then be told across Canada.
Be sure to attend this celebration of Canada's most innovative companies, non-profit and public sector organizations!
ITAC Annual General Meeting of Members – June 14 in Toronto
All individuals working for an ITAC member company are invited to attend the ITAC Annual General Meeting in Toronto on June 14, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. At this meeting we will receive the financial statements of the Corporation, and elect the Board of Directors for June 2011 to June 2012. It's a great opportunity to network with your colleagues in the industry.
Immediately following the ITAC Annual General Meeting is our Ingenious Awards Gala, being held at the Four Seasons Hotel, 21 Avenue Road, Toronto. For more information on the Awards, please visit the website, ingeniousawards.ca, or see the news posting directly above.
The View… from Softchoice Corporation – June 17 in Toronto
Softchoice is a remarkable Canadian success story – an international provider of ICT solutions with $1 billion in annual revenue. Key to the company's success is its unique workplace culture and demographics. It consistently ranks on the Globe and Mail newspaper’s Best Workplaces in Canada and it boasts an enviably youthful and diverse workforce (the mean age of the team is 33).
Three women from the Softchoice team will be our featured speakers at the next ITAC/CWC speakers' series event. At the early to mid-stages of their careers in technology, they bring a fresh perspective to life in ICT. Melissa Alvarez is corporate marketing lead and sustainability programs lead – she advises Softchoice customers on strategies for deploying IT to meet environmental objectives. Tina Rocha is Softchoice’s Pre-sales Operations Manager and is responsible for coordinating internal resources in the design and delivery of advanced IT solutions for Softchoice customers. Heidi Nisker is the Telesales Manager for Softchoice Canada East and West region, and an integral part of the company’s focus on expanding coverage and support of the fast-growing mid-size business segment. They promise a lively conversation about the surprising twists and turns their careers have taken so far and their view of what the future holds. So join us for inspiring discussion and great networking in Liberty Village.
When: Friday, June 17, 2011 – 8:00 to 10:00 am
Where: Softchoice Corporation, 173 Dufferin Street, Suite 200, Toronto
Special offer: Join us for breakfast and bring a student who might be thinking of a career in IT and get two registrations for the price of one.
ITAC Continues to Collaborate with PWGSC on Software Licensing Supply Arrangement
After several months of close collaboration with the federal government on a new vehicle for purchasing software, PWGSC released a Software Licensing Supply Arrangement on February 1, 2011.
While the initial “pilot” phase for this SLSA is well underway, ITAC continues to work with PWGSC to make the SLSA as mutually beneficial to both industry and government as possible.
Subscribe to the WCIT 2012 in Montreal Newsletter
In October of 2012, the 18th World Congress on Information Technology will take place in Montreal, Canada. The theme of the congress is “The New Digital Society,” an event that will explore fulfilling the promise of the Digital Age.
The industry’s foremost thought leaders, senior government officials, academic and international institutions and global media will converge in Montreal to discuss how the world can continue to benefit from the information technology and communications technologies.
The WCIT 2012 Organizing Committee invites WITSA members' to subscribe to the WCIT 2012 Monthly Newsletter.
ESABC Releases Draft of Stewardship Plan, Launches 45-Day Consultation Period
The Electronics Stewardship Association of British Columbia (ESABC) has released their draft Stewardship Plan for 2012-2016. ESABC is an industry-led, regulated electronics stewardship association which was established in 2006 by Electronics Product Stewardship Canada and the Retail Council of Canada.
The draft plan covers the second five years (2012-2016) of the operation ESABC, in accordance with the requirements of Section 6 of the BC Recycling Regulation. It also addresses the expansion of the Program to include additional selected Phase IV products set out in Schedule 3, Section 2.2 of the Recycling Regulation commencing July 2012.
Other News and Events
2011 Canadian Telecom Summit – May 31 to June 2
For three full days (May 31 - June 2), The 2011 Canadian Telecom Summit will again deliver thought-provoking insights from the prime movers of the industry. The Canadian Telecom Summit gives you the chance to hear from and talk with them in both a structured atmosphere of frank discussion and high-octane idea exchange and schmooze in a more relaxed social setting of genial conversation over espresso or cocktails.
The Canadian Telecom Summit reviews where we have been as an industry, provides an understanding of the dynamics that propel it and forecasts future trends & expected developments.
The Catalyst Canada Honours - October 18, 2011, in Toronto
The Catalyst Canada Honours celebrates individual champions of women in business. Recognizing that what’s good for women is good for business, these exceptional leaders are personally and visibly committed to the advancement of women and serve as powerful role models for Canadian corporate leaders.
Dinner Chair: Bill Downe, President and CEO, BMO Financial Group
When: 6:00 p.m. Reception, 7:00 p.m. Dinner and Ceremony, 9:00 p.m. Evening Concludes
Where: The Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario