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Little cash for technology?
SMBs should reconsider   

Plus, buy a content management system, but do so carefully

Canada is, according to many studies, falling behind our southern neighbour in the area of business productivity. The Conference Board of Canada placed us 12th in its 2005 ranking of economic performance, and found that American productivity grew by 3.6 per cent in 2004, tripling the Canadian number. One reason often cited for this gap is the weak relative investment by Canadian businesses in information and communications technology (ICT).
    A recent Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) study made those frightening numbers even scarier.
    ITAC asked small and medium business owners how they plan to drive operational efficiency and productivity. Eighty-two per cent said they believe ICT investment is critical to business success, 77 per cent agreed ICT investments drive productivity, and 79 per cent report that improving productivity and efficiency is a top business priority.
    Good so far. Here’s the kicker: the respondents then went on to state non-ICT investments, primarily in general labour acquisition and retention, are their first priorities. 
    That’s paradox one. Here’s number two: asked what will get them to invest in ICT, the answer was business growth. But if growth is driven by ICT, how can ICT wait on growth?
    Of course, it’s easy to preach, harder to do. The challenges SMBs face are legion and there are always more priorities than money. But if you talk to successful SMB owners, as we at Backbone make a point of doing, strategic ICT investments are often credited with driving profit. And if you are not pursuing ICT implementations, your competitors may be.

The content-management chokehold. In this issue we offer some advice on managing a corporate Web content management system (page 64), and in many ways it is the most important article in this issue. Why? Because your Web site is your business, or at least the public face of it. That article also contains one of the best pieces of advice in this issue: Rick Patri, co-founder of Marqui, said "The days of putting up static sites are gone." 
    Web content needs to be relevant, factual and fresh, but the greatest of these is fresh. The best content in the world won’t get another glance once readers have seen it three or four times. 
    So now we have Web content management tools designed to take yesterday’s static, inflexible Web sites and transform them into malleable vessels into which new content can regularly be poured.
    But it doesn’t always work. A colleague of mine is the Web content manager at a large Ontario organization. This is a surprise to her, as she was hired as a journalist to work on the online portal. Her new role is by default: she is the only one who can finesse the group’s new content management software. Many were trained, she alone can get the thing to actually work. Even the Web developer contracted by the organization has quit a number of times because he cannot stand the management software. When he quits, my friend literally begs him to come back.
    The content management package is a custom job, created by a hosting and design company. The theory among those who have used it is that its dysfunction is intentional, designed to guarantee a revenue stream. 
    Our article and this anecdote draw two core conclusions: first, content management is a modern requirement; and two, caveat emptor. If the system isn’t flexible and easy to use, you’re better off sticking with your current site.

Peter Wolchak


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