CEA: Best Small Business Solution

Small businesses can have the same technology needs as their large enterprise cousins, but they can’t be expected to have the same level of support, or even comfort, when it comes to integrating technology into their business. Understanding their unique needs is crucial, and that’s demonstrated by our winners for Best Small Business Solution.

The Gold winner, Montreal-based Fortsum Business Solutions, faced a significant change management challenge around the solution it developed for Décor Parent. As a small, family-run business providing interior design services, IT wasn’t at the core of their business and many of their employees were slow to embrace it.

Carl Mathieu, product management director with Fortsum, explained the company wanted to expand its use of Acomba, a CRM suite developed by Fortsum. Décor Parent was using Acomba in its accounting department, but the rest of the company was nearly entirely paper-based, which led to efficiency and accuracy challenges. Other Acomba packages include accounts receivable and payable, payroll, and business intelligence.“Décor Parent was using very small percentage of the software,” said Mathieu. “They were doing everything manually, from order to quote, invoice, shipping and accounts receivable.”

With Décor Parent increasing its customer pool their paper-based processes were no longer enough and they needed software to help with point of sale, order management, CRM and BI. Acombra was “customized to the limit” to meet Décor Parent’s needs, and to make it user-friendly for a user base that has barely even used a word processor, said Mathieu.

“We trained the people on the spot, from the people working on the floor, to the decorators, the people working at point of sale, the people in charge of shipping and handling purchases, and the inventory managers,” said Mathieu.

The biggest challenge of this implementation said Mathieu, was training.

“We had to sell them on the idea of using computer software, and major processes we changed from what they’d been doing as routine for many years,” said Mathieu. “We had to write out manuals and guidelines for them to use on a daily basis. It wasn’t an easy task; they were allergic to the computers.”

Once that learning-curve was overcome, Mathieu said they’ve come to embrace the benefits the software brings. Less time is spent communicating across departments, customer inquiries are handled more quickly.

Winning in Silver award in the Best Small Business Solution category was Toronto’s Atum Corp. Atum worked closely with Luxor CRM, to create a green IT growth plan and strategy. As an online CRM provider, downtime is costly for Luxor. With Atum as its network backbone, Luxor was able to decrease overhead and IT costs while providing better customer service and a strong up-time guarantee to its customers.

And the Bronze went to Insite Computer Group of Markham, Ont. Insite took a customer with a lot of technology challenges, from a Unix-based legacy accounting system that needed an upgrade to a de-centralized technology strategy and remote access through terminal services that just won’t scale, and upgraded their entire environment as well as bring their server infrastructure into the cloud.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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