No barriers to e-business adoption

The Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI) recently identified the lack of “”e-talent”” and the lack of tailored e-business solutions as barriers to e-business adoption by small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) nationwide. I’m skeptical about the accuracy of these findings and suspicious the interviewers

mistook general whining as a real barrier.

CeBI indicates that some 200,000 SMBs cannot find employees with the skills necessary to implement e-business solutions for their firms. I don’t think these firms are making much effort to find help.

At industry events and in the Yellow pages, I see a large number of small-time consultants, who appear capable, available and cheap. These firms are suited to address this SMB need. Much of this talent has become available to SMBs since the Internet bubble burst and spilled surplus talent onto the market. A simple Google search for “”Web design/build Calgary”” turned up many pages of hits.

CeBI indicates that SMBs face a lack of tailored e-business solutions designed to satisfy their scalability and technology needs as many solutions on the market today are too costly, time-consuming and overly complex for smaller firms to implement.

Certainly the software solutions aimed at larger firms are a poor fit for SMBs. However, I am aware of several software packages that greatly reduce the cost of e-business application development and maintenance for SMBs who want to take the in-house route. While the price claim of a Web site for under $20 at is difficult to believe, it is indicative of what is being offered to SMBs. My simple Google search for “”easy content management”” turned up many pages of hits.

For some reason, the CeBI report does not address Web hosting operating costs that I believe fits right in with the barriers the CeBI did try to cover. To address the price-sensitivity that many SMBs exhibit, I see major telcos and their non-telco competitors offering SMB-oriented Web hosting packages starting at $6.95 plus GST per month. Surf to www., or to form your own conclusion.

Having cast doubt on the CeBI findings, is there really slow e-business adoption among SMBs?

First, as much as I am a fan of the Internet, many small businesses, especially in retail, do not benefit from e-business because of the high-touch nature of their sales.

Second, some SMBs are using e-business giants such as ebay, Amazon and industry-specific equivalents to achieve attractive financial results while avoiding an investment in their own e-business infrastructure.

It appears that by missing these aspects of e-business adoption, the CeBI is over-stating the problem.

I think the CeBI has gone to great lengths to study and publicize a non-problem. Perhaps the apparent slow e-business adoption by SMBs is just whining on a slow day.

Yogi Schulz is president of Calgary-based Corvelle Consulting Inc.

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