“The cloud is going to challenge every business,” Gary Smith told 100 industry leaders during ITAC’s annual Board of Governors meeting. “It will turn traditional business models upside down. It will touch every business, and those that don’t pay attention will be disappointed.”
The information communications technology industry is going through a time of great opportunity and great challenge, he says, “and now is not the time for companies to be resting on their laurels.”
Globalization, combined with connectivity and new technology options, means more information is stored closer to customers than ever before. The secret, says Smith, is to find ways to comb through the data to unlock the value.
That’s requires specialized expertise that is killing the “end-to-end”generalist model.
Technology is so strategic that customers absolutely demand the very best piece of technology, no matter where they apply it, he says. Since end-to-end technology suppliers rarely offer the very best – they do so much – the market is shifting to favor specialized expertise.
“Nortel taught us that lesson. You can’t be good at everything and be sustainable. That’s not what the world needs.”
To succeed, companies need to find markets where they can become the best in the world, “because with competition, if you want to be a sustainable, you need to be a global player.”
Ciena embraced that mantra in 2009- 10 when it made several acquisitions, including the purchase of the assets of Nortel Metro Ethernet which doubled its size and made them the number one network specialist on a global scale.
Today the company employs 5000 people around the globe, serves 1,000 customers in 60 countries, and enjoys revenues of $2.3 billion. It’s global R&D reach is headquartered out of Ottawa with many of the principal technologies behind recent success in developed in Canada
Provincial programs and federal cooperation that encouraged successful investment in Canada have been key drivers that have allowed innovation to thrive.
In Canada Smith sees interesting ideas and great talent coming from universities, but he believes a more robust venture capital activity is required to get companies to the size they can be globally competitive.
“Risk capital seems to be lacking. It might be cultural, but if I was a VC from the Silicon Valley, I’d be spending time up here,” he says.
The technology driving modern business requires cooperation, support and partnership of an ecosystem “ and I’d encourage Canada to continue to invest and support that ecosystem, because it is working.”