According to a new report conducted by Salesforce Canada and the Gandalf Group, the adoption of technology is linked to significant business growth.
Companies that have increased their use of technology substantially over the past three years, specifically digital technology and apps, are nearly twice as likely (25% versus 13%) as other companies to say that their business has had strong growth over the last three years, and they’re more optimistic about the future.
“The purpose of the report was to better understand and ultimately help Canadian businesses advance towards a new future, one that’s ready for technology,” said Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce.
The report reveals Canada's business growth landscape, the role of technology in business, the challenges businesses of different sizes and sectors have with adopting technology, and more.
The not-so-good news is that small businesses and legacy sectors like oil and gas - which largely make up Alberta’s economy - are falling behind.
Here’s how two companies are tackling their challenges, leading the way in integrating technology and exploring artificial intelligence.
Small Business: Deepwater Farms
Deepwater Farms is a Calgary-based aquaponics company that grows fresh leafy greens and raises sea bass in a closed-loop vertical farm.
Small businesses like Deepwater Farms (which make up 30% of Alberta’s GDP) reported being significantly less reliant on technology, with 61% reporting that they somewhat or completely rely on technology, compared to 75% of medium businesses and 83% of large businesses.
Paul Shumlich, founder and CEO of Deepwater Farms, said they have been focused on developing their own systems, and figuring out what type of technology they need before integrating.
“We don’t want anything to distract us or influence our thinking as we nail down our processes,” he said.
The company, which employs 10 people full-time, currently uses cloud computing to increase collaboration and ensure access to information.
While they may still be working toward integrating more mainstream technology, Deepwater Farms is full steam ahead when it comes to using artificial intelligence to increase efficiency.
“We now have robots doing all of our seeding and harvesting, which used to be a very labor intensive process,” Shumlich said.
As for the future? As the company continues to operate at a commercial scale, they plan to use technology to manage relationships with suppliers and automate more of their supply chain processes, like optimizing their growing conditions and growing recipes.
“Integrating technology will be important for us to be competitive in the future.”
Large Business: Innovator Industrial Services
Edmonton-based Innovator Industrial Services provides specialty services on maintenance, turnarounds, inspections, fabrication and construction phases.
The company began their digital transformation in 2012, when they had just 15 full-time employees.
“We wanted a CRM to manage and grow revenue. As we saw the value, it became clear that digitization was so much more than a CRM. In fact, that is such a small part of our digital journey now that it's really step one of hundreds of parts of the business we now have connected,” said Don Cooper, CEO.
In its 10th year of business, the company now has over 775 employees and four operation centres across Canada, but it wasn’t always an easy road.
“Adoption has always been on ongoing challenge. People like sameness, so in an industry where technical and quality skills reign, change can be slow,” he added.
For companies who are in the process of exploring integrating technology, Cooper gives this advice: “Pick an application platform that starts off affordable but has a ton of scalable potential. Start in bite-sized pieces with a few tools that would have the greatest impact for you.”
The Small Business Advantage When It Comes to Tech
Even though the adoption of technology is showing big business benefits for Canadian companies, there are still many that have not increased their use at all, or reported challenges adopting technology.
Afshar believes small businesses have an advantage.
“They typically are diverse in terms of talents and aren’t bogged down by process and politics,” he said. “All businesses should think like a tech business, including those in Alberta, and including those in the legacy sector."