by Marc Lijour
The first cohort of the Small Business Digitization Initiative kicked off in Ottawa. Young Digitization Leaders with diverse backgrounds are honing their skills in class and in their work placement.
A terrific first cohort
Our first cohort is committed to make a difference in the Ottawa region. Some students come with previous business experience, while others have followed a more classical Bachelor of Commerce program. Another group of students is bringing to the table strong technical foundations earned at the local college or university, or from abroad. Finally, some students are young entrepreneurs in their own right (and may already be serial entrepreneurs). All of them will be joining forces, as a cross-functional team, in order to solve authentic challenges faced by Small Businesses.
Digitization Leaders with a Vision
The first classes set the stage for the course, especially as students explored the major trends affecting all industries. Every company is challenged to level up its game. Businesses compete on new and smart ways to leverage digital technology, in order to improve customer experience, productivity, and accessibility for their products and services. Our students already had a chance to reflect on innovation, and how it happens. They learned about S-curves and network externalities. They reflected on the pros and cons of diverse software licensing and adoption strategies. Disruptive innovation is on the back of their mind.
Finally, we discussed business strategy. Our students are already familiar with the internal and external forces that affect a business. They know how to assess those. We explored a bit more in depth the importance of a business’s core capabilities. As technology allows to automate certain processes, Digitization Leaders also need to understand where to (re)focus resources to maximize revenue (economic, and other types).
One of the main challenges faced by the Senior generation is our relative uneasiness with technology. Digital natives have an advantage, because they’re “naturals”, who are not afraid of technology. During our three days of Tech Labs, everyone installed Linux and the Open Source Community version of Odoo, in a matter of a few hours. I was pleasantly surprised by the intellectual agility demonstrated by the students. They don’t get stuck in the details. Instead, they have a very pragmatic approach, focusing on “making things work”. So, we went on experimenting with a wide range of applications used in business, popular and less popular ones. We installed and configured WordPress. One student even managed to set up his own website in Amazon Web Services. Another configured his machine to serve multiple customers from a single virtual machine. We had fun!!!
Solving real business problems
After these exciting first weeks, I’m looking forward to tackling the productivity challenge for small businesses. This week, students are diving deep into the main business processes run by all businesses: accounting, customer relationship (CRM), purchasing, selling, human resources, project management… They will build on what they are learning in class (including theory and software skills), to propose novel solutions at their workplace. At the end of the day, our goal is to help Small Businesses gain in productivity, reach new markets, and compete locally and anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, I’m confident our young Digitization Leaders will help Canada strive as a nation of modern business entrepreneurs and innovators. I’m looking forward to helping them realize their professional aspirations!