A train used to whistle down the tracks of what is now known as the Galloping Goose Trail. Despite trains feeling ancient, it was not that long ago that this relic of commerce was operating alive and well here. Now it seems e-bikes do the whistling. The world changes. Are Vancouver Island entrepreneurs prepared or are many of its local businesses relics-in-the-making?
I have met with several hundred local business leaders over the past decade to discuss their businesses – usually as it relates to IT. This has given me a unique and meaningful glimpse into an important cross-section of the foundation of the commerce in this community – and it makes me a little nervous.
The world is shrinking. For example, the waters (physical and metaphorical) surrounding us have been protective for a long time. We might feel safe, but a bridge is being built. Many haven’t noticed, but this bridge is not one you drive on; it is digital. A connected world isn’t held back by our ‘moat.’ The Internet, automation, robots, artificial intelligence and other technologies are changing our world. And with that, cybercrime is just getting warmed up.
I also have a view into the commerce in other cities through my peer group, travelling and from attending many industry events. Historically, this might not seem very relevant because we’re not Vancouver, Toronto or like any big American city. “The Island is a unique place to do business”, says everyone doing business here. From my perspective, Island businesses invest a lot less into IT compared to our peers elsewhere. This lack of investment is very relevant to the future of local business.
I have regular conversations with business people who think they are being smart, for example by stretching their employee’s primary tool (computer) too far. Some think they have a “backup,” a “firewall” and “antivirus” so they’re “fine.” Many of these business people ask me important and complicated strategic IT questions five minutes into our first conversation and expect valuable answers. Many have an IT guy who, when they call him, answers the phone quickly, so they check the “IT” checkbox on their business plan. Unfortunately, they view the cost of IT similar to the way that they see their janitorial expenses. So, as it turns out, too many companies on the island are not even taking care of the basics when it comes to IT – this is why I am nervous.
Of course, Vancouver Island isn’t going away nor is the sky falling. We have a lot of great things going for us – a place this magical will always find a way to be magical, but it won’t be a magical ride for all of us. A lot has gone into building the businesses that I have peeked into. Unfortunately, I see a world of hurt bearing down on some of those peers. It is time to take a more serious look into your IT.