Canadian firms aren’t ready for digital disruption

Posted on November 04, 2019
Canadian firms aren’t ready for digital disruption

Why are Canadian organizations caught like a deer in the headlights on a northern (digital) highway?

Video-tape rental giant Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010. Of its 9000+ stores only one remains in Oregon. Long live Netflix. In 2012, photography icon Kodak filed for bankruptcy. The newest smartphones have three digital camera lenses and there are about three billion units in the world today. Sears was well over 100 years old when it started closing retail stores and filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Amazon now delivers packages to your door, every hour of every day.

Disruption by digital technologies is happening in all industries, everywhere. The combination of social networks, reliable mobile technologies, anywhere secure cloud services – all at affordable prices – has created a perfect storm for incumbent organizations. Some adapt, some (Blockbuster, Kodak, Sears) ignore the threat, many are not sure.

Research conducted by Ron Babin, program director of the new Centre of Excellence in Disruption and Transformation at the Schulich ExecEd, shows that Canadian firms are woefully unprepared for digital disruption. Babin and his team surveyed participants in seminars and executive education programs over the past year and this is what they found:  87 per cent of the respondents expect their industry to be disrupted by digital technologies. However, only 38% believe that their organization is “adequately preparing for disruptions projected to occur due to digital trends”. He modelled the survey on global research conducted at MIT, which found very similar results:  globally, 87% of respondents expect their industry to be disrupted by digital technologies but at least 44% were adequately preparing. Clearly, Canadians are less prepared.

Why are Canadian organizations caught like a deer in the headlights on a northern (digital) highway?  At a recent seminar, Babin explored this question and said it might be that Canadian organizations, such as banks, telcos, etc., are more heavily regulated and protected by our governments. Perhaps Canada has a higher portion of public organizations, such as health-care, compared to other countries like our US neighbours. Perhaps Canadian organizations are more conservative and reluctant to invest in digital technologies until the benefits are clear. There is no definitive answer yet, although the implications of being unprepared for digital disruption appear obvious.

Some other interesting findings from the research suggest that a strong majority of respondents (46%) expect to “improve the customer experience and engagement” as their primary digital strategy objective, while internal efficiencies and improved decisions are less important. This aligns with other research that suggests customer insight is the prime goal of the leading digital firms, such as Amazon, Google, Netflix and others.

Research continues and you can expect to see the published results early in 2020. To get an early preview of the study, join Ron Babin on Nov. 14 at the next ExecEd Advantage Strategic Insight Series Information Breakfast, 7:30am at Schulich ExecEd’s Miles S. Nadal Management Centre, 222 Bay Street, Toronto (at Wellington). For information and to register, visit the Schulich ExecEd Eventbrite page. All paid registrants receive a complimentary additional guest pass for a colleague.