Branham Group Inc. of Ottawa Friday announced the nominees for its first annual IT awards in eight different categories.
“There is kind of a plethora of award programs out there,” said Wayne Gudbranson, Branham’s president and CEO, “but there’s nothing that really focuses on achievement of Canadian information technology companies directly.
“There are regional awards such as OCRI here in Ottawa, but there’s broadly defined, nationally defined,” he added, “and even some of the association award programs have been largely focused on their memberships.”
Gudbranson said the goal is to make the annual event one of Academy Award-like calibre.
“There’s never been attempt to pull the executive suite of these companies into one location,” he said, “so ultimately what we’re trying to do is get as many presidents and CEOs out to this event for a black tie/evening gown dinner.”
The first awards gala will be held at the National Gallery in Ottawa on Sept. 26, but Gudbranson said the long term goal is to hold the awards gala at different venues across Canada. “There are two cities in Western Canada that have approached us and are vying to bid for the Branham Awards in those cities.”
The Branham Group itself did not participate in the judging — that was taken care of by a special committee from industry.
There are three nominees in each of the eight categories, which includes company of the year. Ottawa’s Cognos Inc., Waterloo’s Research in Motion and Toronto-based Platform Computing are all vying for that accolade. “Platform Computing has accelerated well” and Cognos has solid track record of delivering product and technology to the market that customers want as well as delivering shareholder value, Gudbranson said.
At the end of the day, it came down to the quality of the applications. “Every company had to fill in the baseline financial data at the front.” They also had to have quantifiable data to support their entry for the award, said Gudbranson, no matter the category.
There were a few surprises. “Of companies that I thought would apply for the various awards, some did not.” He also said that big, well known companies did not necessarily have the best applications.
Categories included alliance of the year, top service launch, company of the year, turnaround company of the year, e-business enablement of the year, up and comer of the year (categories for product and service) and top product launch. More information about the awards and their criteria can be found at on the company’s Web site.
Laval, Que.-based Tenrox was the only company to qualify for two categories, both thanks to its enterprise workflow software suite, Projeca. It was nominated for product launch of the year as well as e-business enablement of the year — the company rolled it own internally.
Ludwig Melik, vice-president of sales and marketing at Tenrox, said receiving awards is important no matter how big or successful a company becomes. “It lends a lot of credibility to a company. We can get reviews, we can get nice studies, but receiving awards is just that level of satisfaction over and above beyond just getting a mention.”
Sean Reid, spokesperson for Cognos, said that although it is a large, globally successful company, it’s important to acknowledge both its roots in Canada and the nation’s capital. “The number one priority for Cognos has been and will always be our employees, so obviously it’s important to portrayed at home as a top IT developer in order to recruit and retain the best people in the world.”
Charles Reichert, director of Infoport at Calgary Technologies, an economic development organization focusing on Alberta’s technology sector, likes the idea of a national IT awards gala, but said he was disappointed that he received such short notice for applications and that there weren’t more Alberta companies among the nominees — there are two from Calgary, Axia Netmedia and Norada Corp. “I suspect there weren’t as many nominees from the west as there should have been.”
Alberta is no stranger to award galas — 1,500 to 2,000 people attend the province’s annual science and technology awards ceremony. “It’s probably the best high-tech awards event across Canada.” This year’s event will be held in Calgary this fall.
“Awards are very important,” said Reichert. “It adds value to the company.”
Reichert said one of the problems with awards is that it’s difficult to differentiate one company from another. “It depends on the quality of the nomination that’s presented.
“It’s a difficult thing,” he said, “but it’s a necessary thing, and I’m sure as the Branham Awards progress, they will become better and better.”
The majority of nominees are based in Ontario, with only one nominee from the Maritimes, Halifax’s Pictorius Inc.
“There is a fundamental reality,” said Gudbranson. “The vast number of information technology companies are located in Ottawa, Toronto and the Kitchener-Waterloo sector.” He’s pleased, however, that nine cities across Canada are represented. “What we’re trying to do here is create an annual event where the vast majority of senior executives come to meet and greet each other and celebrate the industry, which we don’t do enough of.”