Simple tips, 4 examples, and focused support – crush through your application by wrapping your head around what no one is talking about.
We recently hosted a webinar all about the subject – you can watch it below – or scroll on to skim over a guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative
- A Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative
What is the Digital Manitoba Initiative?
The Digital Manitoba Initiative is a fund delivered by the Manitoba Government and managed by the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. From the $15 million dollars in funding, two grants have been made available to Manitoba Businesses:
This is a phenomenal opportunity for Manitoba businesses to reduce risks and barriers to the adoption of cutting-edge digital technology. At Auxesys, we believe that while great digital technology is key to the success of modern businesses, it isn’t everything.
So why is this opportunity for Manitoba businesses to step up their digital game so important? One word: competition.
Whether you are a mom and pop, a professional services firm, or a manufacturer; regardless of your firm’s size – small, medium, or large; and irrespective of your market – whether you service only your neighbourhood, or the whole world, revolutions in technology (excacerbated by this pesky pandemic) have smashed down the traditional barriers to competition.
The small local bake shop now competes for attention online with some of the most savvy digital marketers in the world. The boutique accounting or bookkeeping firm now must go toe-to-toe with some of the most sophisticated SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms around. And the local retailer, manufacturer, or distributor now must compete with the likes of Amazon, Alibaba, and the manufacturing giants abroad.
The Digital Manitoba Initiative helps Manitoba businesses get a “leg up”. If we’ve been ignoring the writing on the wall telling us that now is the time to tune up our online presence – this is the opportunity that so many of us have been waiting for. If we’ve been staring at the hefty quote to upgrade our network infrastructure and cybersecurity – the DMI could be just what we need. And if we’ve been telling ourselves that things will turn around, that word of mouth and foot traffic will get us through this – a TechUP or PowerUP grant could be the spark that helps to finally launch our eCommerce store and digital marketing systems.
Read onward for a Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative.
The Differences Between TechUP and PowerUP
Beyond the $20,000 difference in the funding amounts, you’ll have to read between the lines on the Digital Manitoba Initiative website to really get a sense of what the difference between these two grants is and to determine which your organization should apply for.
…after speaking with the folks at the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, one thing becomes clear: the funds are intended for projects that provide a “step change”.
What is the difference between TechUP and PowerUP? Let’s try to simplify things here:
- Focused on “upgrades” to digital assets and tools
- Projects should be complete in 30 days
- Projects that help you “take that next big step”, for example:
- Getting your ecommerce store up
- Purchasing some digital camera or streaming hardware
- Making your first foray into paid online advertising
- Focused on “adaptation” – business model adaptation, process adaptation, and/or cultural/organizational adaptation (see the DMI website for more on what these mean).
- Projects should be complete in 90 days
- Projects that help you breath life into big new business initiatives, for example:
- Solidifying your online presence based on analysis of your space and competitors
- Cranking your digital advertising and selling processes into high gear
- Upgrading your networking and security infrastructure to something that serioulsy outshines your previous setup
- Engaging with an “MSP” (IT managed service provider), especially if IT has never been formally and fully “managed”
What are the similarities? Well, in reading through the wall of text on the official site and after speaking with the folks at the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, one thing becomes clear: the funds are intended for projects that provide a “step change”. This is the opposite of a gradual change. Whether you are applying for TechUP or PowerUP, a skim of your application and supporting documents should scream “this is not business as usual!”.
Beyond the “step chage” concept, the grants can both be applied to very similar project elements. To simplify things (see the DMI site for a more exhaustive list), both grants can be applied to projects for:
- Software, so long as it represents a “step change” (e.g. an application to cover the Microsoft 365 licenses you’ve had for years will probably get denied)
- Hardware, so long as it represents a “step change” (e.g. an application to cover the purchase of 10 more of the same laptops you currently supply to staff members will probably get denied)
- Contractor fees, so long as they represent a “step change” (e.g. an application to cover the managed IT service you’ve always had will probably get denied)
Both grants can be used to recoup funds spent on digital projects begnning as far back as April 2021. Now, be careful if you plan to propose a recoupment – If you’re hoping to cover that hefty printer toner purchase, or those website hosting fees, you might be out of luck, because reading of these “upgrades” reeks of “business as usual”, as opposed to “business that’s gamechanging”.
The “Pause” and Lesser Known Oddities
You may notice the big “pause” disclaimer currently sitting atop the DMI website. You’re probably wondering – “are we too late if we haven’t ‘registered’ yet?” Or maybe, “we registered, but haven’t really heard anything – does that mean we didn’t make it in in time?”.
The short answers are:
- if you haven’t “registered” yet, you’re not too late; and,
- if you’ve “registered” but haven’t heard anything, you’re likely still in good standing.
As with most things, the devil is in the details. Here are some key facts and considerations:
- The DMI team chose to put registration on pause so they could “keep things clean” and focus on the current cohort of registrants (i.e. keeping over a thousand registrations straight and fair is tough work!)
- The Initiative has already received over 1,000 registrations – see press release
- The fund is capped and $15 million and is “first-come-first-serve” (i.e. it’s basically a race)
- There is a small panels of experts administering and adjudicating the fund (i.e. your case brief and accompanying documents need to be super clear to maximize your chance at success)
- The application process has many steps (i.e. a basic understanding of the DMI process will help improve your chances)
- The fund has obvious goals (i.e. of course the funders and managers want great newspaper headlines and datasets – thinking about tho help them better achieve their goals is likely to help you)
- A quick dispersal of funds is part of the initiative’s objectives (i.e. this is a double edged sword – yes, if you do everthing right, you could have funds in your account very soon – BUT, this also means that the limited funds will be soaked up quickly)
OK, so chances are you’re in one of three situations (or, you’ve already been funded through TechUP – in which case, congrats!).
Never fear, we’ve got some tips that should help:
Situation 1: You haven’t registered yet, you’re waiting on the pause, and you want to maximize your chance of success
- Bookmark and monitor the DMI homepage daily
- Ensure your business meets the eligiblitiy requirements
- Prepare you case brief and accompanying documenation
- Prepare your digital voice cheque
Situation 2: You have have registered, you’ve uploaded your documents, but you can’t hit “submit”
No need for alarm, the DMI will alert us when the submit function is activated. However, you’ll need to make sure that you’re “paying attention” – the DMI won’t wait forever for you to press that button once it’s activated!
Situation 3: You’ve registered and either have access to the submission portal, or have yet to receive access to the submission portal
First, if you’ve been notified of your registration, never fear. The DMI team has been doing a really great job of getting everyone who is eligible into the portal – it just takes time.
Next, If you’re in the portal and not sure exactly what documents to submit, we’ve got some tips:
- Start with a spreadsheet to spec out your project (whether you’re building forwards or recouping)
- Use the fillable case brief (this is a format the DMI team will be used to – we want to make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for)
- Answer Question 1 clearly and plainly. The question asks for your challenge – your first sentence should name your challenge. The following sentences should describe it.
- Use a separate document to answer Question 4 (if you’re having trouble here – feel free to get in touch with us!)
- Make sure your accompanying documents are super clear (e.g. a 40 page project proposal might be really difficult for the DMI team to adjudicate. Again, make it really easy for the team to find what they are looking for, and to match it up with your case brief)
Keep in mind, this is a guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative, as opposed to an official handbook or instruction manual. Still have questions? Still not sure how to structure your application and documents? We’re here to help 🙂
Ensjuring Your Business’ Eligibility
Ensuring your business is eligible is incredibly easy (Thanks DMI!). There are really only three requirements. In order to be eligible you must:
- Be a Manitoba registered business (You need a Manitobe business number as oppose to a federal BN)
- Be in good standing with the Manitoba Companies Office
- Be able to submit a digital copy of a void cheque for an account associated with the business
Ensuring Your Project’s Eligibility
Ensuring your project is elibible is a bit more nuanced. Here is the simple stuff:
- DMI wants to see a “step change” (something radically new)
- TechUP: Software, hardware, service (IT or Digital Marketing)
- PowerUP: “Digital Adaptation” (Adapting processes, business model, or culture)
If you want to dive into the nuance you can watch our webinar from Nov. 9th, 2020, “Fund Your Focus: Navigating the Digital Manitoba Initiative”.
Some Examples of Eligible Projects
Don’t forget, this only a Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative – it’s non-official and is only our interpretation of the communications received from the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.
“Online Presence Upgrade”
Software and service to improve your online presence and help you put the fundamentals in place.
- Software for social scheduling, review management, review requests, digital listing management, digital ad monitoring
- Regular consulting to help manage software, optimize configurations, analyze performance, adjust strategy
- SEO investment
- Prepaid digital ad budget
- Ad creative
- Ad buying
- Ad management
- Three “sizzle videos” for use in digital ads (each focused on different stage of customer journey)
- Three landing pages to be used with ads (each focused on different stage of customer journey)
“Robust Digital Advertising”
Implementing a system that can help you reliably leverage and scale digital advertising.
- Consultancy to help you determine strategy, initial implementation, and initial channel mix
- Design and creative production
- Ad buying and management
- Consulting to monitor performance, adjust channel mix, adjust strategy
- Landing page development
- Implementation of proper tracking and analytics
- “Funnel-building” and integrating with email marketing, trickle campaigns
- Integrating with ecommerce and associated tools
“Small Business Network Upgrade
Network hardware and infrastructure to help improve reliability, improve performance, harden security, and put monitoring in place.
- Next-gen firewall / security gateway
- Next-gen layer 2 and layer 3 network switches
- Next-gen wireless access points
- Consulting to help ensure you have the right internet package
- Continuous monitoring and management
“Managed IT Services”
Implementing a system and service to ensure reliable IT operations.
- Access to a vCIO, network administrator, and support/help desk
- Systems administration for software and cloud services
- Regular reporting and planning
- Managed antivirus
- Managed backup
- Managed RMM (remote monitoring and management)
- Vendor management (assistance managing software, internet, and other vendors)
- Assistance with developing a proper IT budget
The Application Process and Required Documents
OK, so this part can be a bit confusing! In preparing a Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative, we’ve done a lot of digging and made this process-flow chart that we believe represents the process reasonably well:
Certainly, there’s a lot more to it this – but this flow chart should:
a. help you get an undestanding of each step and how they’re related
b. drive home the importance of being prepared (i.e. if you’re serious about success, it’s advisable to make sure you have all of your documents in order ASAP)
Our approach is simple as are our motivations (hey, let’s be transparent here!). There’s a big reason why we’ve developed a Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative – the types of projects that are eligible read like a laundry list of Auxesys’ products and services.
We’re here to help clients, prospective clients, and Manitoba businesses alike navigate the DMI. We’ve got a “digital open door” policy, and we’re happy to offer our time at no charge to any who could use a hand. We do this for the same reason that we put together a guide to the digital manitoba initiative.
Obviously, our hope is that some of those firms we assist will become clients – it’s that simple 🙂
Following from everything we’ve learned in developing a Guide to the Digital Manitoba Initiative Here’s how we’ve approached helping DMI applicants so far:
- Discovery calls to help you sketch out what a project/budget could look like (or to help add structure to an already existing project)
- Assistance with completing the “business case brief” and identifying necessary support
- Development of quotes/proposal/scope of work
- Execution and implementation
If you’d like to chat about your firm’s application, use the button below to get the ball rolling: