CanadianSME sat down with Craig McQueen, VP of Innovation at Softchoice and discussed initiatives that Softchoice has implemented to help businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19, the biggest technology challenges faced by businesses today.
Craig McQueen, VP of Innovation at Softchoice
As the Vice President, Innovation, Craig provides strategic direction and leadership in driving the creation of highly differentiated, customer-centric service capabilities and offerings for Softchoice. Craig and his team bring to life the Softchoice strategy by painting a vision for technologies we take to customers, lead the development of the services required to help our customers adopt the most secure Hybrid IT and End User Productivity solutions. Craig joined Softchoice in 2013 prior to which he spent two years as a sales coach and consultant helping large technology companies adopt the “Helping Clients Succeed” sales methodology. He worked with sales leaders, sales specialists, and engineers in Canada, US, Denmark, and UK resulting in larger deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, and higher customer satisfaction. Craig also co-founded a successful managed and professional services firm which was eventually acquired by Bell Canada.
What are some of the services and programs that Softchoice offers to Canadian small businesses?
One area that has been particularly important this year is how we help customers to effectively work remotely. This isn’t just getting the technology working but also ensure that the infrastructure is secure and guide customers with the change management and training of their employees to adapt to these new ways of working.
The other area has been helping customers run some of their IT environments in the cloud. Some of them have had to quickly deploy new applications or put in place disaster recovery for their organization. It some cases in an effort to reduce costs, cloud technologies have been very helpful.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on many businesses across Canada. What would you say is the biggest challenge that businesses who weren’t as technology advanced faced?
The pandemic hit every organization in different ways, but the biggest and most common challenge faced by everyone was business continuity in an environment where everyone was remote. With the current situation, the ability to work remotely has become key to business continuity for many organizations. And organizations of all sizes struggled with the lack of a collaborative digital ecosystem that allowed employees to meet virtually, work on shared documents and access information- video conferencing tools, document sharing tools and shared work environments are some key tools.
Some organizations were to set up remotely but only a small portion of their organization at a time. They didn’t have the right IT environments to scale to their whole organization.
In your expert opinion, why is it crucial for small businesses to embrace technology?
The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption across sectors and for every organization, there will be some adjusting to be done on both people and process side to adapt to the new normal. Factors like investment in IT infrastructure, skills gap and re-structuring operations are some key challenges faced by SMBs which can be addressed with the adoption of digital technologies. Digital technology like cloud services can provide a full range of capabilities for SMBs while being straightforward to navigate and manage. In our recent research brief- 2020 Cloud Migration & Adoption Research Brief, we found that organizations with 100-249 employees were set to increase their total number of applications in the cloud by 19.8% within 2 years, by far the largest jump expected across the segments in our survey. Those with 500-999 employees, on the other hand, will see the second-largest jump in cloud adoption with an increase of 15.8%.
SMEs may also be able to shift faster because they have less of a choice and can make decisions faster compared to larger organizations and the one thing the pandemic has taught us is to be agile in our approach and pivot to adapt to new ways of working.
Customers are also demanding to interact through technology. No one wants to pick up a phone to call someone anymore. They expect to do business through an application and have it as automated as possible. This is key to organizations transforming the way they function.
What advice can you give to small business owners when it comes to creating a security operations centre based on technology?
I would say that all industries and sectors are facing increased targeting from a security perspective. End users and companies of all sizes and industries will be targeted more than ever. The problem is that often the credential theft achieved by the cybercriminals has them logging into corporate networks as opposed to breaking in. SMBs are typically short-staffed in security and are limited in the budget when it comes to mitigating risk with proper security measures. I would say this has been exposed even more during the pandemic. That doesn’t mean larger corporations have it figured out completely, but they typically have the means to pivot quickly to address threats by investing more in their security program.
With cloud technologies becoming secure there is less investment requirement than ever before. Much of the required security technologies are built into the platform. The small business just needs to find a partner to help them enable those technologies.
Throughout your professional career, what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve seen entrepreneurs face when it comes to implementing technology in their everyday tasks?
Entrepreneurs often have to wear many hats just to keep their business going. This leaves little time to explore how technology can help improve their business and ultimately save them time. There are many communities out there for entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and best practices saving them the research time. Organizations such as Softchoice also make a lot of this information available at no cost to help simplify decisions for organizations.
On a final note, what are some of the initiatives that Softchoice has implemented to help businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19?
Once COVID-19 hit we had to continue to act as consultants and guide our customers through this tough time in a faster manner. We began by listening to our customers’ challenges and launching a four-phased marketing campaign of Continuity- Stability-Efficiency and Recovery. Based on this approach we launched critical solutions like the Remote Work Preparedness workshop and the Rapid Response Series of webinars and workshops, all geared towards helping customers address their immediate needs of business continuity.
From an internal training perspective, we launched #RoadtoRecovery program to help customers understand the stage they were in their journey. We ran workshops to identify and train our sales teams in customer journeys (i.e. major customer need categories), to quickly diagnose current customer situations and adding a tighter focus on helping our customers adapt in real-time to a remote environment to stay agile and productive.