A sobering look at the ‘ad-hoc, uncoordinated approach’ to digital business in Canada

Accenture’s Neil Bhattacharya discusses the consulting firm’s latest study of the Canadian enterprise sector, which shows some major gaps that need to be closed

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Two surprising things happened when I interviewed Accenture’s Neil Bhattacharya about his firm’s new Global Mobility Study.

First came the fire drill. Right before Bhattacharya was scheduled to call me for our phone interview, his downtown office was evacuated for a fire drill. He persevered, however, hopping across the street to borrow a landline and a quiet room at the Toronto Board of Trade offices so our interview could happen.

Before I get to the second surprise, here’s a breakdown of key findings from the report, which surveyed almost 2,000 senior decision makers with some responsibility for digital strategy and technology at their organization, including 150 here in Canada. (Quotations below are taken directly from the report unless noted otherwise.)

Get it together: Only 70 per cent of Canadian firms have “one, holistic strategy for moving towards becoming a digital business” compared with the global average of 80 per cent. Just 24 per cent of companies in this country have one internal team that “owns” digital strategy at their organization. Accenture concludes that Canadian organizations take a “largely ad hoc, uncoordinated approach to (digital) strategy and implementation.”

Bad app-itude?: Despite customer demand for mobile apps, “many Canadian companies have been slow to put in place measures that facilitate app adoption.” Accenture suggests “one factor is a generally negative perception of mobile apps among some Canadian executives … almost half (45 per cent) said mobile apps offer little business benefit and over half (55 per cent) believe mobile apps cannot be appropriately secured for business purposes.”

Pumped for IOT but not prepared: More than 80 per cent of Canadian executives believe the Internet of Things will result in benefits for their businesses, ranging from improved supply chains to new revenue streams. Yet “Canadian companies have been slow to invest in the capabilities required to successfully deploy the IOT … in most cases, Canadian companies trail the global average in having key capabilities in place and in a few instances, they rank dead last.”

Based on this study, what do Canadian enterprises need to do? Replace their hodge-podge approach to digital with a more holistic strategy. Believe in mobile’s business benefits and invest in facilitating it accordingly. Ramp up investment in IOT enablement so they don’t get left behind.

At most organizations, the authority (and budget) to make those things happen resides with CIOs and CTOs. So what can network administrators – the front line managers who keep the whole shebang running from day to day – take away from the report? I asked Bhattacharya how network admins can work towards the changes recommended by Accenture.

That’s when the second surprise cropped up. Although he’s currently a principal director at Accenture, it turns out Bhattacharya knows the network administration gig firsthand.

“I used to look after a large corporate network. So I feel that pain,” he said in reference to the complexities of network management today. “The network is becoming (companies’) most important asset … It’s literally the most important technology component.”

Bhattacharya suggested that in light of the network’s growing importance, senior executives need to devote more resources to the people who manage it. One of those resources is the chance for network admins to upgrade and continue their technical training so they’re up to speed on the very technologies covered in this report, he said.

“The network administrators are doing a lot of this work and they need a lot of education because what they’re (currently) dealing with is a lot different than what they need to implement the solutions” recommended, he said.

According to Bhattacharya, another resource that network admins could really use is more boots on the ground.

“Companies have to realize they need to hire more people to maintain these solutions,” he said. “Because people can’t work 24 hours a day.”

To fully adopt mobile, digital and IOT for maximum business benefits, perhaps Canadian companies should invest in supporting the people who manage the networks where those technologies are deployed.

At least that’s what one former network admin told me.

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