Information technology (IT) management should be a key part of any business plan. Your clients, whether they are retail or foodservice partners, or the customers who take home your products are looking for companies who can engage with them electronically.

Making IT part of the way you do business is not only expected today, but it can also save you money and help strengthen your relationship with your customers.

In this section you will learn:

  • the IT basics needed to get started
  • business-to-business electronic commerce
  • the importance of contingency planning and how to protect and recover your data

IT basics you need to get started

An up-to-date hardware system

If you already have a desktop or notebook computer, it may need to be upgraded for business purposes. Check a computer store to see if your computer has enough memory and that you are using the latest operating system.

The latest computer software

Contact other food manufacturers you know to get recommendations on the software that could work best for you. You may need:

  • customer relationship management (CRM) or another enterprise management program to manage your client data, relationships and contacts
  • e-B2B software developed by the food industry and now used by many retailers for all types of products and services
  • Software for business functions including sales, purchasing, inventory tracking, bookkeeping, blockchain, traceability and enterprise resource planning (ERP) are generally sold as stand-alone software packages. As stand-alone software packages, data entry is labour-intensive. A digital integration platform resembles a house where stand-alone software packages are arranged like separate and connected rooms. As your business grows and the list of software-related functions increases, a digital integration platform is a tool for effective IT use. As your business grows, your data management skills also need to grow.
  • Digital integration (DI) is a fast-developing field. Ask an OMAFRA economic development advisor about the DI providers that are specialized in servicing smaller and/or early-stage businesses by contacting the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or

You should stay updated on the latest software and hardware available to meet your growing needs.

An internet connection

It is ideal to have a high-speed internet connection, if possible, in your area.

An online presence

Make it easy for customers and suppliers to find you by getting a domain name based on your company name, such as "" or "".

Social media presence

Establish a presence on a social media platform. By having a social media presence, you can engage and network directly with your customers. There are many social media tools that you can use to help you stay connected with your target market. The more popular ones are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. It is up to you to choose the tools that work best for your business. Regular and consistent participation on your chosen social media sites will help you build your brand awareness.

Direct your staff on how and when to use social media. You may need to develop strategies and implement policies on managing your social media accounts.

Technology risk management

Every company needs a strong security plan to protect their data. For more details on how to do this please refer to the Contingency planning section.

Other resources (performance measures, online tools or web performance tools)

Website analytics is an online tool that measures, collects, analyzes and reports on web data for the purpose of understanding visitor movements on your website. You can find out how many people are visiting your website and what web pages they are looking at. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a process to establish a high-ranking placement in a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo, so your customers can find you and your products easier.

B2B e-commerce

Your product will pass through many steps on its journey from your plant to the consumer. Each of those steps may require a transaction that is documented. For example, when wholesalers decide to buy product from you, they will issue you a purchase order authorizing the sale. Once they have verified the delivery, you can issue them an invoice and then they will send you a payment confirmation.

Today, most of these documents get done electronically and are paperless. The documents passed back and forth between businesses is called B2B e-commerce (electronic commerce).

You may find that you will work with several companies as your product is managed in a supply chain.

For this to run smoothly, all the links in the supply chain must communicate effectively with each other. One way to ensure that your B2B e-commerce works is to implement an electronic data interchange (EDI) system. This can be costly to initially set-up and maintain however, there are service providers that will provide this service for a fee. Make sure you factor in this cost in your business plan so that there are no surprises later. The following are global standards already in use by other businesses and countries.


For over 35 years, the GS1 System of global supply chain standards has been transforming the way organizations worldwide communicate and work together. These voluntary standards ensure effective exchanges between companies around the world.

GS1 Canada

GS1 Canada is the recognized GS1 member organization for Canada, enabling its more than 20,000 members to enhance their competitiveness and cost effectiveness by adopting the GS1 System of standards and best practices for supply chains.

The GS1 System includes the following:

  • Bar codes (also known as Electronic Products Codes or EPCs) are the most well-known GS1 standard, accounting for over six billion scanning transactions per day. Bar codes allow larger retailers to scan and track your products.
  • eCom are standards for electronic business messaging that allow rapid, efficient and accurate electronic transmission between trading partners. This includes such things as purchase orders, ship-to notices and payment confirmation information.
  • Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) are standards for the secure and continuous exchange of accurate, standardized data between trading partners.
  • GS1 EPCglobal is a new global standards system that combines radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, existing communications network infrastructure and the bar code to enable immediate and automatic identification and tracking of an item through the whole supply chain, globally.

Contingency planning — security breaches and data recovery

What if your business encountered one of these scenarios?

  • A major storm, flood, or fire destroyed your office and all your files.
  • Your computer network went down for days and you could not access email or the information on your hard drive(s).
  • A computer virus wiped out your network.
  • A hacker gained access to your customers’ private information.

How quickly could your company recover from a serious data loss, if at all?

Imagine if you lost days or weeks of work, your client database and telephone numbers, financial records and all the work files your company has ever produced or compiled.

What about your reputation when your customers find out that you failed to protect their confidential information?

The cost of losing that information or being without it for an extended period is hard to accurately measure because it affects so many aspects of a business. There are direct costs of repairing and restoring data, and the indirect costs of lost productivity, lost sales and lost confidence by your customers.

How to protect and recover your data

It is important to develop an emergency recovery plan that you can rely on to keep your business safe.

Business continuity is the range of activities a company performs to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators and anyone else who needs them. These activities include daily tasks such as project management, system backups and more. Business continuity is not something to be implemented at the time of a disaster, it should be performed daily to maintain service, consistency and recoverability.

If you are backing up data to external hard drives or USB devices, then recovering from a drive failure can be time consuming. That is assuming you have been backing everything up correctly and have all your program software and license keys on hand during the recovery.

Automatic back up of data to a cloud is more common and eliminates having to keep external drives or USB devices in a safe place. Using the cloud makes recovery of information easier and less time consuming.

Cloud backup simply means that your data is hosted in a remote data centre that lives on the Internet.

Business continuity solutions send copies of your data over an Internet connection to a server in a secure vault. In the event of a disaster, all your data will still be there, safe and sound.

You can find companies that provide these services by searching for business continuity solutions online. Talk to other food processors you know to see who they recommend.

Protection against hackers, viruses and spyware

There are a wide variety of software programs available to protect your business from hackers, viruses and spies. Talk to a specialist at your local computer centre about what will work for you.


  • I have a computer with an up-to-date operating system and sufficient memory.
  • I have researched the software I will need and am acquiring it.
  • I have a high-speed Internet connection.
  • I have researched a domain name for my business and have it registered.
  • I have set up e-mails with my domain name.
  • I am researching the possibility of a website/web presence.
  • I have identified how to make my supply chain management GS1 compliant.
  • I have a method to back up my data. I also have an emergency recovery plan.