Observations on the industry’s health

During the holiday season we attended many U.S. and Canadian industry and customer events. The question about the technology industry and its health was the most commonly asked, whether by enterprise customers or the industry side.

Our answer was . . . it depends! Let me explain why I give this answer . . . and no, it is not another consultant being evasive.

We see many organizations across various industry sectors planning to spend or even aggressively planning to spend money on technology during the next few years. Most of the spending is on upgrading network equipment or circuits to support increased capacity.

Another category of increased spending seems to be in the areas of network applications that support mobile and distributed work forces.

When we ask the customers who they plan to purchase from, the answers are broad and varied, and (surprising to us) involved numerous “new” or emerging players, in many cases outside of Canada. Let’s provide you with an example.

One of our mid-sized Canadian clients was acquired by a competitor and is now looking at consolidating their various locations throughout Canada. They are interested in hosted e-mail messaging services, combined with cell/PDA capabilities. While reviewing various Canadian cellular and hosted e-mail providers, they inquired about two American firms that they had researched, and challenged us to defend why we did not consider or recommend them.

Through further analysis by our technology team, we discovered that the U.S. firm was in fact a viable technology and solution alternative for our client.

You may ask how and why can an American company compete and provide more features for less money that a Canadian provider. Simple: The cellular packages were at “flat rate” continental plans that also included data/email useage. In addition their per-unit pricing for the e-mail-hosting package was in fact 300 per cent less than comparable Canadian pricing. We are confident that the currency exchange will not rise to that delta in the near future, even with the upcoming election.

This is just one of the instances where Canadian companies will be increasing their investment in technology, but with different players offering alternative, creative solutions priced competitively against a growing global market.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, we challenge our long-standing Canadian telecom and IT suppliers to roll up their sleeves using our known reputation for creativity, innovation and “Out-of-the- box thinking” to offer solutions that not only win against external competitors, but in fact lead against the rest of the world!

Roberta Fox is a senior partner at Fox Group. She can be reached at 905.473.3FOX (3369) x 1001 or Roberta.Fox@FOXGROUP.ca

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