A non-profit Canadian business advisory group has brought together three Toronto area-based IT associations to benefit their members and make industry events more accessible.

Innovation Synergy Centre (ISCM) in Markham, Ont. announced last month that the Information Technology Association of

Canada (ITAC) Ontario, the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) Toronto Chapter, and the York Technology Association (YTA) have agreed to: Co-ordinate the timing and topics of their events to avoid overlap; offer members reciprocal membership rates at events; cross-publicize events via the Web; and, hold joint programs and seminars.

Sponsored by the Royal Bank and Industry Canada, ISCM, which provides business services and expertise to small and medium businesses across Ontario, will provide guidance, resources and administrative support to the initiative.

ISCM founder, president and CEO Bob Glandfield, who has also served as YTA director for 16 years, stressed the initiative is a “”loose agreement”” and not a partnership.

“”We came together to jointly co-operate. This is not a merger,”” said Glandfield, who is organizing the initiative along with Allan Wilson, a volunteer YTA board member and certified management consultant at ISCM. “”This is so that we’re all co-operating and supporting each other on our various events. This is not a partnership. There is no umbrella group speaking for each other.””

The agreement comes as a more national association, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, has been merging with a number of other groups, including Smart Toronto, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers and, last week, the Innovation Management Association of Canada.

Glandfield said he’s witnessed past cases where having one person represent everybody has failed. “”All of these organizations working together loosely can make something happen,”” said Glandfield. “”If they’re threatened, they’ve got to pull back.””

Glandfield added that individuals within the associations involved have known each other for a long time and are not competitive.

“”Everybody at this stage has their objective, internal politics and ownership to their own membership and you have to become familiar with one another,”” said Glandfield. “”It’s just like having multiple different companies in the market space because we’re targeting our own niches.””

Where YTA, for example, targets education and networking, ITAC Ontario goes after the medical device area, explained Glandfield. CIPS, meanwhile, is aimed more at individuals than corporations.

“”There’s very little overlap between all of their objectives. By working together we’re able to support each other,”” said Glandfield. “”We’re able to build the technology community better because we’re working together and building more territory.

Not a merger

We’re not competing with each other for the same client. We’re supplementing each other’s efforts.””

Robert Horwood, president of ITAC Ontario, agreed that the initiative indicates there’s a need for improved co-operation among associations in the industry.

“”The more we co-operate, the better off we’ll all be,”” said Horwood. “”In the past the attempts that have tried to do this thing have not met with success, so this time we’re going at it slowly and in a co-operative sense.””

Horwood added that “”competitive egos”” was one of the main inhibitors in the past. “”That’s what we’re trying to overcome here.””

Raj Phalpher, vice-president of CIPS Toronto chapter, said he mentioned the idea for this type of agreement to the president of CIPS Toronto chapter, Dan Eng, last fall.

“”We wanted to give people the flexibility to attend one or the other event,”” said Phalpher. “”If you happen to be in Markham but you work downtown and the downtown events are more beneficial and convenient, it gives you the option of attending one downtown. Or if you live in downtown and work up in Markham, you can attend the YTA event.””

Phalpher added another problem was that some people were using the meetings as an opportunity to job hunt.

“”That turned off people who should be there,”” said Phalpher. “”One of the things we wanted to do was go back and make sure we reach those people, the higher ups in the organization who this solution was originally designed for.””

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