Ciara Technologies: Customer focus, leadership, quality and tailored construction
By: Jesse Champagne
CIARA Technologies, founded in Montreal in 1984, is a leading global provider of IT products, technologies, software, solutions and services to small and medium sized- businesses, large enterprises and to the public sector such as government, defense and educational entities. CIARA designs, develops, markets, services and supports a variety of computer systems ranging from mobile devices to high-end supercomputers. Although it is primarily based in Canada, CIARA serves customers located in more than 60 countries across 5 continents.
Business Elite Canada recently conducted a telephone interview with Jonathan Ahdoot, the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Ciara, and sought an elaboration of Ciara’s business model and strategy as well as his perspective on the current challenges facing the IT marketplace. Ahdoot, who joined the family owned and operated business in 1999, relishes the role CIARA plays as a leader in the field of Mission Critical IT requirement, High Performance Computing and OEM/ODM Appliance Services.
Facing strong competition from industry heavyweights such as IBM, Dell and HP, CIARA strives to differentiate itself by the quality, reliability and affordability of its manufactured products. In a competitive global market, companies are always searching for ways to lower costs, and this mission is often translated into outsourcing the labour component of manufacturing to Asia. “Major IT manufacturers tend to produce their products in huge volumes that cater to a mass market consumer audience. The principal underlying idea surrounding this business model is to pigeon-hole the customer’s needs and requirements to the standard solutions provided by this output. We instead decided to focus our energies on catering our products to customer needs and building our business model around this concept.’’ Ahdoot explains. Through the invaluable experience gained by its interactions with customers throughout the years, Ciara has ascertained that customers are seeking customized solutions that are cost effective, reliable and flexible, with a short lead time for delivery. In keeping with its customer-centric orientation, Ciara has determined that it is in the best interest of both the customer and Ciara to maintain its manufacturing facilities in Canada.
“Although labour costs are certainly higher in Canada than those that exist in the Orient, the labour cost differential is more than offset by reduced shipping costs, greater control over the quality of output, the added flexibility we can offer our customers as well as by a greater positive synergy between the system engineers and the manufacturing process that produces the product.” As the customer demands an increasing level of customization of Ciara products, lead times to fulfill these requirements and to quickly carry out requested modifications and changes have been drastically reduced by keeping production in-house. Attempts to outsource the production of customized solutions to low-cost countries overseas are usually met with frustrating delays arising from such barriers as language issues and lengthy lead times that can reach up to 12 weeks of shipping by boat. Electing to ship by air as an alternative means of transport would undoubtedly defeat the purpose of outsourcing production overseas.
Furthermore, in electing to retain its manufacturing facilities in Canada, Ciara has taken into consideration the high quality of the workforce currently available in Canada. “We are currently able to easily fulfill our engineering and R&D requirements from the local talent pool here in Canada without having to sacrifice quality and at rates that are far more reasonable than what you would pay in Silicon Valley,’’ Ahdoot notes. Canada–based engineers do not only keep abreast of current developments in the IT marketplace but are also in a superior position than their brethren overseas to forecast and anticipate future trends in the industry. Ciara engineers have continuously exhibited these tendencies to both Ciara’s and its customers’ advantage.
Focusing on the customer has proven to be a total success from both the customer and Ciara vantage points. “As we produce made-to-measure systems using only the specific components that are relevant and optimized to the software and applications the customer is running, not only is the performance of the system better but it also oftentimes costs less. It really is a win-win situation and the results have been amazing.”
Looking to the future, CIARA plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities, and with the purchase of a 50,000 square foot facility in Mississauga, it is clear that Canada remains an important component of its business model.
“We are very excited with the opening of this new facility in Mississauga as it will allow us to better service our customers in Ontario and Western Canada and diversify our manufacturing capabilities in Canada.” Not content with only expanding within Canada, Ahdoot added, “our service network is global. We have offices in Miami and Minneapolis and have recently opened offices in Scottsdale, Arizona and Boston. We also have plans to open offices in Rotterdam and Hong Kong before the end of 2013.”
For nearly 30 years, CIARA has provided IT products, services, and solutions of the highest quality, and it continues to focus on delivering the best customer experience to the market. Customer focus, leadership, quality, and tailored construction – these are the pillars on which CIARA stands in the marketplace.