2 min read

The problem with productivity

Productivity is so last year. Now Canadian executives are focusing on growth

That’s the word from International Data Corp. (Canada) Ltd. At the Toronto-based research firm’s annual Directions conference, Jamie Sharp, IDC Canada’s vice-president of customer segments and channels research, said his firm’s annual survey of Canadian – not IT bosses but general management people – this year showed that improving productivity has fallen out of top spot among their priorities.

That’s not to say that they want to reduce productivity, of course. It’s more that they’ve focused on that enough (and having listened to all the hand-wringing about Canadian productivity over the last few years, I know how they feel), and now they’re more concerned about growth.

To achieve that growth, the IDC survey found, they want to better penetrate existing markets, speed up the introduction of new products and services and improve customer service.

And they think IT can help. Apparently fewer than a quarter of Canadian business leaders believe Nicholas Carr when he says IT doesn’t matter. Thirty-five per cent think it has a significant impact on business goals.

At Directions, Sharp moderated a panel of senior IDC analysts to talk about what technologies can do the most to help those business people achieve their goals, and how vendors can make the case for those technologies.

The discussion covered telecommunications and services too, but we’ll focus here on computer hardware and software.

Marc Perrella, IDC’s vice-president of technology research, singled out mobile customer relationship management tools, service-oriented architectures and business intelligence as the software areas with the most impact. He picked virtualization, information data management and unified contact centres as the hot buttons in hardware.

IDC was obviously thinking about how best to deliver some value to an audience made up mostly of technology vendors, because not only did Perrella pick hot technologies, but he – along with colleagues Sebastian Ruest and Tony Olvet, who addressed services and telecom – made some suggestions about how vendors can interest their customers in those technologies.

For instance, he suggested approaching mobile CRM by asking the prospect if field service people are falling behind in customer service calls, and how much revenue they’re getting from their service fleets. To pitch business intelligence, he proposed asking whether the customer is delivering best-in-class customer service.

And Sharp chimed in to point out that you don’t sell service-oriented architecture to business people by talking about service-oriented architecture. You talk instead about the problems it can solve by speeding up development and reducing duplication.

“You’ve got to make sure you lead with the business pain,” Sharp said.

Though the IDC people were talking mainly to vendors at Directions, they could equally well have made those points to resellers. The latest gadget doesn’t matter. What matters is the problem the business needs to solve.

IDC’s survey covered executives of Financial Post 800 companies, and their concerns may not be exactly the same things keeping small and medium-sized business bosses awake at night. Many of the concerns are probably the same, some different – the main thing is to understand what your customers are concerned about, and how technology might help.

One final observation. IDC is now talking about “ICT” – meaning information and communications technology – as opposed to just “IT.” Until recently I’ve mainly heard this acronym in the public sector. Is it moving into more general use?

Comment: cdnedit@itbusiness.ca