Technology forecast sees Canada spending smart

Thrifty Canadian enterprises are more likely to reap the greatest benefit from their limited investments in technology, according to one of the world’s largest consulting firms.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Wednesday released

Volume One of its Technology Forecast 2002-2004, its overview of coming trends in hardware, software, usability and Web services. Though it takes a global look at the market, one of the book’s contributors said there are major differences between the way some of its predictions will play out in Canada versus the rest of the world.

“”Acceptance of mobile tools for telephony in Canada is better than it is in the United States,”” said Terry Retter, a PwC director. “”The acceptance of mobile phones in Europe is better than it is in Canada. Does that mean Europe is ahead of the North Americans? In the use of mobile phones, yes. In the evolution of software to drive business process, I would say no. North Americans are still ahead. It’s no longer a situation where one country or one geography is going to be ahead in all the segments of technology.””

“”We have the same access to technology; the difference is our ability to spend on it,”” added Dave Forster, leader of the Information and Communications practice at PwC Canada. “”Companies may not be in the position to actually invest in technology as we would see in the United States.””

Retter said that in some ways, however, Canadians are more frugal with their IT spending dollars.

“”In terms of electronic payments between businesses, Canada is anywhere from three to 12 months ahead of what we’re seeing in the U.S.,”” he said. “”Looking at the financial services environment in Canada versus the U.S., you’ve got the ability for everybody to play on the same page a lot easier.””

To a great extent the Technology Forecast tackles some of the complex changes underway in enterprise applications — the area where Retter admitted it is very difficult to make accurate predictions.

“”It’s still an art form,”” he said. “”We have not seen the development of tools and capabilities of software move anywhere nearly as fast as what’s going on in hardware.””

PwC sees these tools as crticially important as the industry moves from the use of middleware to connect packaged application suites to one where apps are divided into a component-level architecture. As in other emerging markets like XML, the development of standards is moving slowly and is embroiled in politics that can stall the market. Ron Schwartz, leader of the IT practice with PwC Consulting, said enterprises can’t wait for these battles to sort themselves out.

“”We’re working with a lot of companies right now who are adopting XML and the practical systems we’re implementing for them are XML-friendly but standards-agnostic,”” he said. “”At a practical level, they have a real need to move ahead with some of this stuff. They need to architect their solutions that, if need be, will fill out that piece later. But we gotta get something going now.””

The Technology Forecast also looks at the evolution of usability in enterprise applications. Retter predicted a shift whereby marketing professionals, rather than programmers, will update rules used by systems.

“”We move up the level of abstraction of where the technical skill sets have to be applied,”” he said. “”Ten years ago we had an awful lot of engineering in getting communications systems to talk to one another. Now we don’t worry about that . . . as we move towards components and this stuff disaggregates into different pieces, who’s going to write the components? There will always be a place for software engineers.””

PwC’s Technology Forecast is based on interviews with university professors, venture capitalists as well as Groove Network’s Ray Ozzie and SAP AG’s Hasso Plattner. The second volume, covering IT infrastructure, will be published in October.


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