CATA to help build up Canada’s image as outsourcing ally

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance is preparing to launch a three-pronged offensive aimed at convincing global customers that companies here can fill their IT employment needs.

Late next month, the industry association will host an invitation-only conference at the National Club in Toronto to discuss a report, Sourcing Success and the Canadian Advantage in A Global Competitive Environment, which was published last week. CATA has also helped form a program called the Commonwealth Advantage, led by former Industry Canada minister Sinclair Stevens, which will promote the international growth of Canadian businesses.

Kevin Wennekes, CATA vice-president of research and the report’s author, said the association’s action plan includes a “branding campaign” that will highlight the country’s most attractive attributes as a provider of outsourced or offshore talent. The group also hopes to continue conducting local research to define the issues and impacts relating to the supply and demand of outsourcing around the world, and to establish an online outsourcing centre of excellence where leaders from industry, government and academia would share research and ideas.

“When people in the States are looking to Canada, they’re asking, ‘What do they really offer, apart from being next to us?’” he said. “They don’t really understand the resources we have here, the values we can bring to any outsourcing arrangement.”

While Canada has enjoyed considerable success as a “nearshore” provider of call centre services, Wennekes’ report indicates the country could lose out on opportunities in business process outsourcing, among other areas. 

“If you’re looking at a pure cost, Canada can’t compete at the level of India or China, but when you move up in the engineering class or the highly innovative manufacturing talent, Canada ranks right up there,” he said.

Robert Scott, a leader in the IT effectiveness practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Toronto, said Canada’s success in call centre services was kicked off through strong government incentives in areas like New Brunswick in the 1980s. The problem, he said, is that there hasn’t been a similar coordinated strategy to compete with Indian firms who made their reputation doing Y2K-related work and who are now actively seeking more customers in the United States and Canada.

“There are very few Canadian-based international software integrators. For most the countries out there Canada is just a jurisdiction where they sell work,” said Scott, who is preparing to publish his own study of the global outsourcing market on Nov. 14. The rise of Indian-based firms “caught a number of the domestic service providers – maybe not unaware, but a year and a half ago they were hit relatively hard,” he said.

CATA has a major stake in promoting Canada as a sourcing destination, Wennekes said, as 80 per cent of its members offer services to customers outside the country. The organization sees itself as a facilitator between industry and government but is not necessarily expecting to implement every recommendation in the report’s roadmap, he added.

The growth of outsourcing has prompted considerable interest in industry advocates. Last month saw the launch of the Centre of Outsourcing Research and Education (CORE), which is planning to hold its own series of conferences and publish reports to educate government and business owners.

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