This survey was undertaken by the Ontario Society for Training & Development
(OSTD) to obtain a better understanding of what the advent of the Internet, e-business and e-learning have meant for small- and medium-sized (SMEs) private sector firms engaged in the delivery of education and training
services in Canada.
The Firms Responding
Eighty-eight percent of respondents were decision-makers: owners or senior managers.
The organizations represented in this survey are mainly very small (86 per cent have fewer than 10 employees), Ontario-based (77 per cent), and serving the Canadian and Ontario markets (65 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively). The primary market segments served are the corporate (90 per cent) and government (76 per cent). Some 50 per cent of the firms export products and services to the United States and about one in four export to the European Union.
A majority of the organizations offer a core group of some seven common training products and services. However, there is a wide range of products and services provided beyond the common ones.
Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) used The use of personal computers (100 per cent), e-mail (98 per cent) and the Internet (96 per cent) is very high by the firms included in this survey. Workplace access to ICTs is correspondingly high, with access in the 76 — 100 per cent range, reported by 98 per cent of the respondents for personal computers and e-mail, and 96 per cent for the Internet.
Forty-one percent report workplace access to laptops in the 76 — 100 per cent range. A comparison of results to Statistics Canada’s Survey of Electronic Commerce and Technology 2002 indicates that this group of training and development firms’ utilization of ICT is slightly higher than that reported for the general private sector educational services (PSES).
Seventy-seven percent of firms reported having their own Web site, a higher proportion than reported by the Net Impact Study Canada for the PSES sector.
Eighty-four percent of the respondents report that their firms have broadband / high speed Internet access. Compared to Statistics Canada’s survey data for
2002, this group of training and development firms’ utilization of broadband / high speed Internet connections is considerably above that reported for the general
PSES sector and the private sector. The use of regular dial-up modems is, by comparison, considerably lower.
E-Business / E-Commerce
Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that their firms engaged in e-business compared to 50 per cent of the Net Impact Canada Study sample who indicated that they were currently using or implementing Internet business solutions (IBS). Customer development and e-marketing (72 per cent) was the main IBS implemented followed by customer service and support (56 per cent). Forty-seven per cent reported implementing employee training via e-learning.
Seventy percent of the respondents who reported that their organizations were
engaged in e-business also indicated that their organization had an e-commerce capability. The main reasons given by a majority of respondents for conducting business on the Internet were to: reach / attract new customers; remain competitive with other organizations; provide better coordination with customers / suppliers; and, improved revenue / more sales.
The top three barriers to using e-business reported were a cluster consisting of time required to implement, cost of new infrastructure, and uncertain return on investment. These are the same barriers reported in the Net Impact study for
SME firms having from 50 — 99 employees. Only 35 per cent of respondents overall identified products / services not appropriate as a barrier to the adoption of IBS in this study compared to 60 per cent who indicated this as a barrier in the Industry Canada PSES Survey . However, for non-adopters this is the main barrier identified by 57 per cent of respondents.
In common with the Net Impact study, this study found that only a few firms used tangible metrics to measure the performance of IBS.
Three out of four firms responding have no immediate plans to increase or develop e-business capabilities.