Published: October 13th, 2016

The message was loud and clear at the Connection 2016 event hosted by CDN Top 100 Solution Provider WBM earlier this October: there are some amazing things happening in western Canada’s IT community.

A decade ago, the Connection event consisted of about 50 members of the IT community convening at a golf course. At Connection 2016, which took place in Saskatoon earlier this October, more than 500 leaders of the IT community in western Canada came together to celebrate and share the growth and transformation the community has seen.

“It is not an event about the technology, but an event about the community,” said WBM vice president Brett Bailey in an interview with CDN. “We pull members of the IT community onto the stage and they discuss the issues they are facing and the outcomes that they’re getting.

By and large, the event celebrated the aggressive transformations seen across the IT community in western Canada, and the outcomes that are possible due to taking those risks. Instead of presentations about the latest technology a company could use, the event instead focused on the stories of transformations made by some of the western Canadian IT organizations in attendance.

An IT team from Farm Credit Canada, the nation’s largest agricultural lender, spoke about how technology has changed traditional farming with GPS trackers in tractors and drones, to a “Fitbit for cows”. Representatives from WestJet Airlines spoke about how WestJet transformed from a startup airline to a global carrier. Members from the Vancouver Film School spoke about how technology has changed how people view stories, and how that has transformed their school.

Gord Wyant, Province of Saskatchewan Attorney General, Minister of Justice, and Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Power Corporation introduces a session on the outcomes being generated by transforming procurement at WBM’s Connection 2016.
Gord Wyant, Province of Saskatchewan Attorney General, Minister of Justice, and Minister Responsible for the Saskatchewan Power Corporation at WBM’s Connection 2016.

“There was a point in time where you would see trends form in the U.S. and they’d move into the Toronto market before they’d eventually move over to the west, and I don’t necessarily think that is the case anymore ,” Bailey said. “What used to be a resistance in change is now an interest in change, a need to change, and sometimes a corporate enterprise-wide strategic directive to transform. The stories that we heard on the stage were examples of significant steps forward. Total transformations being taken by western Canadian IT organizations representing more of a leadership position than a follower position.”

The desire for transformation isn’t the only leading factor in western Canada, as economic realities have forced some of these IT organizations to grow in order to survive. These realities and conditions in the Canadian market led to these organizations looking inward and become willing to let go of how they were doing things in order to grow, even if it wasn’t on their terms. Transformation isn’t always about the next great thing, and that message was preached throughout the event.

HP Canada Co. head of Solutions Leyland Brown discusses the recent Samsung acquisition and HP’s momentum at WBM’s Connection 2016.
HP Canada Co. head of Solutions Leyland Brown discusses the recent Samsung acquisition and HP’s momentum at WBM’s Connection 2016.

For the first time, the event fell under the gaze of a significant amount of Canada’s top channel executives with leaders such as Leyland Brown, head of solutions at HP Canada, Kevin Peekser, president of Dell EMC Canada, and Glenn Laverty, president and CEO of Ricoh Canada, all in attendance, Connection 2016 is a nice and welcome validation of sorts for the success companies have seen in this community. Attendees of the event are used to visiting the US or eastern Canada for these sort of events, making channel leaders coming to the west a sign of how things have changed in that region of the country. 

“One thing about western Canada is that business and IT has always been very personal and relationship driven, and the visibility as to what is going on, across the board positive or negative, is magnified in a community like that where there is that much collaboration,” Bailey said. In western Canada, if one person is having success, they’re going to share it with everybody, and vice versa. 

Whetstone Inc President Adrian Davis inspires the community to continue forging ahead with a very personal message at WBM’s Connection 2016.
Whetstone Inc President Adrian Davis inspires the community to continue forging ahead with a very personal message at WBM’s Connection 2016.

“This year it was a fundamental step in that we were able to look around the room and see 500 IT leaders from every Western province, and realize that this is now a very powerful IT community. That was the coolest thing to be apart of,” Bailey said.