Back in the saddle

Hello again. You might remember me from such publications as Technology in Government, or, if you’ve been around the IT scene on the channel side, Computer Dealer News. It was at industry publications (sisters of Computing Canada) where I cut my IT journalism teeth and where

my fascination with the complex universe of information technology was born.

Now, several years later, I’m eager to dig into the enterprise scene, report on the news and delve into some analysis on the issues that matter most to you.

These are interesting times, marked by a battered economy that is beginning to show tangible signs of improvement. Last week, the Bank of Canada ushered in the arrival of a robust recovery for the country when it raised interest rates for the first time in nearly two years.

Along with this optimistic outlook comes a cautious opening of the corporate Canadian purse, at least when it comes to the IT agenda. Perhaps it’s more of a trickle than a full-fledged gush, but public and private sector organizations are beginning to lift spending freezes that have been in effect for 18 months.

If you receive our daily electronic newsletter you know that while many companies continue to defer capital technology investments until their bottom lines show some signs of inflation, others are forging ahead with specific tech initiatives. In many cases, this means taking on projects that will have a positive impact on business goals or those that help boost a better return on the technology infrastructure already in place.

In other cases, it means making a huge investment to better serve your customers. Take the provincial government of Québec, for example. Four years ago it embarked on an initiative that caused many other provinces to recoil because of its magnitude: Québec decided to automate its land registry. Almost $90 million and 180 million images later, the project received an official thumbs up when it was awarded Best Project of the Year honours — handed out to DMR Consulting of Montreal, the province’s system integrator — at this year’s ProjectWorld event.

So, how did the province justify such an enormous investment? Easy. It looked at what the return on its investment would be. Instead of spending days looking up the history of a piece of land, notaries, surveyors and members of the general public can log onto the province’s department of natural resources Web site and in a matter of minutes download all relevant information on the piece of property they’re researching.

The government spent a lot of money on this project, because it recognized the investment supported its business objective of streamlining the process of accessing deeds and other information connected to land parcels in the province. Indeed, the Aberdeen Group, an industry research firm in Boston, says that one lasting effect from the roller coaster ride the technology sector has taken in the last decade will be a better alignment of IT spending with the business agenda. As it should be.

The days of spending because technology companies say so or for the cool factor are long over. Business leaders today are more savvy when it comes to IT; they have to be because technology investments are not cheap. And while they often result in productivity hikes, reduced operating costs and other efficiencies, the capital outlay has to be built around how a business will improve as the result of making a purchase.

In future issues, we’ll be exploring the spending patterns of Canadian companies in the wake of the economic tumult to determine which projects are being moved to the top of the IT agenda. We encourage you to keep us posted on which IT initiatives your organization is giving a nod to.

Finally, feel free to talk to us once in a while. If we’re not covering something you feel deserves ink, let us know. If we’re harping on any issue too often, let us know the horse is dead. If there’s another side to the story we haven’t investigated, tell us about it. Computing Canada is your magazine and the content is only meaningful if you say it is.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

pmacinnis@itbusiness.ca

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