By Shane Schick

Enough with the nostalgia already.

Yes, we are celebrating 10 years of ITBusiness.ca this week, and yes, I am incredibly proud of the stories we’ve told in that time, but there’s plenty of elements in our coverage already that will have us looking back on the biggest news events, the site’s origins and the evolving nature of online journalism. I want to take a moment instead to look forward 10 years.

Shane Schick

Not so that I can make any predictions – I’m notoriously wrong when I do that – but to talk about the one big thing that didn’t happen over the last decade. Despite all the mergers, breakthrough products and unexpected innovations, the biggest problem facing SMBs has not been resolved. They’re still mired in legacy IT issues.

This should be more surprising than it is. One of the most remarkable but relatively ignored trends in the last 10 years has been the slow migration of technology product and service companies from their traditional top-tier enterprise accounts to firms with 500 employees or less. Or 100 employees or less. Or less than 10. The Internet removed many of the barriers to entry in many markets and produced an incredible impact on world economies that we now call globalization, but it also meant that even what we used to call “mom and pop” companies could compete with much larger entities.

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Helping SMBs become more competitive, however, hasn’t been a smooth journey for most vendors. Even at what they consider bargain-basement prices, SMBs have been averse to significant IT spending, and much more careful to avoid risk than larger organizations. (They have probably been wise in this respect; the last decade has also been marked by two recessions, the last one far worse than the first.) In almost every category, however, from databases and accounting packages to enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, vendors have launched SMB-friendly (often termed “express”) versions of their products.

By now, you would think there would be more SMBs up and running on these tools than the majority who continue to stick band-aid solutions on aging hardware and software. We hear this time and again in many of the stories we do. If the IT industry is all about progress, shouldn’t we have made more headway here in the time since ITBusiness.ca was founded?

There’s also little to suggest that much will change in the next 10 years, but here are a few suggestions that might help. Perhaps a group of savvy CEOs will create a grassroots level pan-Canadian association that will voice the IT concerns of SMBs. Vendors could eventually come up with a way to plug into to reasonably priced cloud services as easily as Facebook Connect allows consumers to sign into other Web sites.

Or maybe we just need somebody to provide ongoing guidance and support for SMBs with relevant examples of those who have demonstrated a way to move beyond legacy in as pain-free a way as possible. And by “somebody,” of course, I am referring to ITBusiness.ca.

Here’s to another decade.

Shane Schick is the founder of ITBusiness.ca, and now the editor-in-chief of IT World Canada

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  • CPS

    I’m not at all surprised about the low level of technology adoption/benefit within SMBs.
    The root cause is that the products have become commoditized, however IT is not as seamless and intuitive as vendors would like to have us believe.

    PC prices have collapsed in the last 10-20 years, making it more affordable for SMBs to buy the technology. However, it takes expertise to envision and integrate the use of technology in a business setting.

    Unfortunately few SMBs are willing to pay for that expertise, whether it is by training their own staff, hiring consultants, or sourcing their IT from value-added resellers. You can get cheap laptops and printers from an internet/mail-order house or an office supply retailer, but you won’t get the business+technology advice that only an experienced professional can provide.

    SMBs won’t get the full value of their IT investment until they realize that IT is a profession, not a hobby. For some reason, IT expertise is shopped around more, and valued less, than the skills of a plumber or a car mechanic. Probably because everybody has a relative that dabbles in IT.

    As a consequence, IT expertise is flowing towards markets and endeavours that value it (high end networking, app development, enterprise solutions, B2B projects, etc), leaving SMBs to fend for themselves with “Express” shelf-ware and discounted hardware.

    • I agree with you CPS. Somehow tech talent or expertise is under valued in the market. This is ironic when you consider that technology touches almost every human activity today.