Almost 90 per cent of Canadian businesses are anticipating or experiencing digital transformation over the next 12 months, and nearly 80 per cent are feeling optimistic about it, but more than 90 per cent are also facing barriers to implementing it, according to a new report by Canadian consulting firm MNP LLP.

Released Wednesday, MNP’s “Capturing the Change Wave: How Canadian Businesses are Transforming” report found that 91 per cent of large Canadian businesses (defined as companies with 100 employees or more) and 81 per cent of small Canadian businesses (those with 99 employees or fewer) were currently experiencing or anticipating tactical, operational, or strategic digital transformation over the next 12 months; 83 per cent were reporting at least one technological advancement currently underway at their organization; and 77 per cent felt “very” or “somewhat” optimistic about it.

However, the report also uncovered few specifics, with only 32 per cent of respondents incorporating workplace technology into their operations; only 28 per cent using business intelligence or analytics; and 93 per cent facing at least one barrier to digital transformation (42 per cent related to budget, 32 per cent to time and staff, and 27 per cent to skills and expertise).

“Canadian businesses have long been criticized for being digital laggards,” MNP senior vice president of consulting Trent Bester said in a Feb. 21 statement. “Our results indicate the start of an important shift but… in terms of technological readiness and digital competitiveness, Canada is languishing behind.”

The report is based on a survey of 1200 Canadian business leaders across multiple industries, including energy, real estate, manufacturing, finance, and health, that Ipsos conducted on MNP’s behalf in October 2017. It defined workplace technology as online skills marketplaces such as Upwork and productivity tools such as Skype.

In addition to gauging respondents’ interest in digital transformation, the survey also divided reported digital transformation projects by industry and type, with tactical, operational, and strategic change being implemented at relatively equal levels, but with greater frequency in some industries than others.

Courtesy MNP

Respondents’ reasons for implementing digital transformation also varied widely, with the leading external drivers including technology (45 per cent), market demands (41 per cent), and competitors (39 per cent); and the leading internal drivers including profitability (48 per cent), strategic planning (44 per cent), and employee skills and attitudes (41 per cent).

The larger the company, the more likely its impetus for digital transformation was external, MNP noted, with more than 51 per cent of large companies reporting technology as the primary driver of their digital transformation.

The survey also found that businesses were likely to seek outside help in their digital transformation efforts, with three quarters of all businesses relying on a technology support provider to help manage their transformation, and 74 per cent reaching out for help with data collection and analysis.

“Reacting in fear or frustration — or not reacting at all — is sometimes how companies deal with change,” MNP national technology solutions director Scott Greenlay said in the Feb. 21 statement. “A more successful way is to find external expertise.”

“When it comes to data there will be a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots,” Greenlay said. “It’s imperative for Canadian businesses to leverage these technologies so they can compete.”

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