Anyone who knows me at all is aware of my love affair with all things tech.
Since my first science kit from Radio Shack in grade 6, to my first exposure to writing programs for a Commodore PET back in 1979, I have been enamoured by LEDs, blinking lights, and today’s modern day magic.
But that really wasn’t what the Niagara Technology Summit was about.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a ton of fascinating technology on display and some of the best Niagara experts in the business.
When the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce organized their partners, speakers and sponsors it was with a more important mandate than selling the sizzle of new electronic devices. Rather, the Niagara Technology Summit was about creating solutions for business.
I have spent a large portion of my professional career providing technology-based solutions to businesses as small as a single entrepreneur and as large as the Canadian federal government and Disney. I can personally attest to the fact that the average business owner, president or CEO rarely cares about how a technology works and what algorithm differentiates your product from your competition.
The point of the Niagara Technology Summit was to focus on business solutions.
So, when Hugh Johnson, VP Small Medium Business for Telus steps on the stage to speak to the hundreds of businesses in attendance, he doesn’t start talking about their various rate plans, or the specific models of mobile technology that they offer, instead he focuses on his people. He recognized that the businesses in attendance all recognize the value of great employees and an excellent commitment to customer service.
Hugh Johnson discusses the value his staff and customers have to him, it resonates as loyalty and commitment to the people and businesses that he values. There are other companies that compete with Telus that offer a similar lineup of products and services — but customer service, loyalty, commitment — these values are the reasons we choose to do business with a company. Hugh Johnson chose to make these values his competitive advantage and regardless how tech-savvy the members of the audience are, they can relate to this universal message.
It is common when talking about technology to get caught up in the razzle-dazzle and let a passionate salesperson drone on about all the features that he or she loves, but this isn’t the conversation most business people want to have. This is the main reason many business people don’t want to discuss technology.
The theme of the breakouts and most of the conversations with vendors was about how businesses are using technology to solve common business problems. Typically, technology is used to address core issues related to saving money, increasing productivity, adding capabilities or making up for shortages in resources (time, staffing). In short, technology can reduce the common pains associated with running a business.
The event had an expo featuring a large number of great Niagara technology businesses displaying their wares and an opportunity for people to discuss some of the different technologies with the experts in attendance.
I believe the real value to those in attendance was the diversity of breakouts focused on demystifying some of today’s technology to better equip them to make the first steps in adopting these processes into their own businesses.
The nine 45 minute seminars included:
- The Social Customer: Engaging with Your Customers is No Longer an Option – presented by arnoldi:mcpherson, Hughes & Co. and Trigger Strategies
- Build a Winning Internet Strategy – presented by Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
- 3D Printing and Design – presented and by Javelin Technologies Inc.
- There’s an APP for that – presented by Joe Jones, Symetric Productions
- Customer Relationship Management – presented by Renus Bailey/BlackBerry
- IT Infrastructure for your Business – presented by Skycomp Solutions and GateProtect
- Finding the true business value in technology – presented by Piero Fusco, Kevin McCabe and Rob Auld
- Managed Services – presented by Ben Bowen, Better Business Group
- Technology Issues Facing Small Businesses Today – presented by Randy Biggs, Value Added Computer Services
As if this wasn’t enough, the day wrapped up with a Keynote Address by celebrity technology expert and evangelist, Marc Saltzman.
Similar to the standard set with last year, when the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce hosted their Economic Summit, this was another tremendous event. The Scotiabank Convention Centre is a state-of-the-art facility and the professionalism of their staff is unsurpassed.
An event like this isn’t going to turn Niagara into Silicone Valley overnight, but the opportunity to expose hundreds of Niagara businesses to these new technologies and the businesses that offer them should initiate crucial conversations.
This is a global economy and our local businesses are no longer competing with one another, they are competing with the world. Technology played a huge role in shrinking the world and can help level the playing field for the businesses here in Niagara.
As budgets are cut, staff is reduced and margins decline, our business community needs to accept that technological advances are often the most cost-effective way to survive and thrive as they move forward. Fortunately, the Niagara Technology Summit showcased a number of local technology companies that can assist in the process of adopting new technology and offer proven strategies that address business issues.