Mobility is widely viewed as a crucial driver of new productivity. Arming the mobile worker with the tools needed to work anywhere and to connect anytime (or in real time) to company systems serves both worker needs for more flexible work/life balance, and the employer’s interest in optimizing time/resource activities. But what if we substitute ‘things’ for ‘people’ in this equation? How are organizations understanding the productivity potential of mobility – and its newer first cousin, the Internet of Things? Accenture has tackled these questions by building IoT into its global mobility study for 2015. While research outcomes for Canada tell a familiar story – lag in the adoption of many digital technologies on the part of many Canadian organizations in comparison with their global counterparts – there appears to be no lack of vision. On the IoT front in particular, Canadian survey results indicate healthy anticipation of IoT benefits, if less investment in the capabilities needed to bring this vision to reality.
Designed to uncover digital technology trends in large organizations, Accenture’s Global Mobility Study for 2015 focused on three topics: how adoption of mobile can enhance the business, issues in the deployment of mobile applications, and company views on the emerging IoT opportunity. On the first two points, Accenture has calculated a relatively high “digital density score” for Canada in terms of overall integration of digital technologies in business practice and in the surrounding institutional and economic environment, but it has also found further evidence of laggard deployment of advanced technologies in Canada, a long held rationalization for Canada’s productivity gap relative to the US and other advanced economies, which first appeared at the beginning of the 1990s. For example, the firm’s Growing the Digital Business. Accenture Mobility Research 2015 Spotlight on Canada report concludes that: only 50 percent of Canadian organizations are successfully using cloud for IT infrastructure needs (59 percent of global companies); 49 percent use analytics to gain insight into strategic data (58 percent globally); 48 percent have strong presence on all social media channels to enhance customer engagement (57%); and just 40 percent have clear strategy and have implemented mobile technologies (65 percent globally).
Historically, the this investment disparity has been attributed to a number of factors, including Canada’s industrial structure (less representation of ICT-intensive industries in the business sector of its economy), size of the average business, which tends to be smaller in Canada and has less budget for ICT investment, higher prices for ICT in Canada – than in the US, for example, tax policies, which tended to insulate Canada from foreign competition, lower labour costs (which do not incent businesses to replace people with IT), and the tech education levels of Canadian management. Interestingly, many of the more important factors in this perspective are unlikely to play in Accenture’s current research. For example, while deregulation, more open policy on foreign investment and participation in global trade agreements has introduced competition in sectors of the Canadian economy, the mobility study itself investigates the experience of 150 Canadian respondents from companies having more than $1 billion in revenue and from the public sector. Focusing on the large enterprise (which made up 0.1 percent of employer businesses in Canada in 2013) and government, and excluding a good share of small businesses which are believed to account for approximately 98 percent of the total in Canada, Accenture has found gaps in technology adoption that cannot be attributed to differences in organizational size. While no explicit explanations for adoption lag are delivered in its analysis, the Accenture message is clear and closely aligned with company capabilities designed to overcome deployment barriers: “One of the biggest factors that has limited digital adoption by Canadian companies has been the largely ad hoc, uncoordinated approach to strategy and implementation.”
According to Neil Bhattacharya, mobile delivery lead, Accenture Digital, Canadian’s failure to keep pace with global peers on the development of clear mobile strategy is the most significant finding in the report. Explaining the ‘why’ in Canada’s dissimilar experience, Bhattacharya pointed to industry variation, noting that in follow up conversations with individual respondents, the firm works to understand “what digital transformation in the enterprise actually is.” In his view, “mobility is just one of the pieces of technology that enable digital transformation, which includes mobility, IoT, cloud and analytics.” In other words, Accenture has found respondent’s response on mobility to typically be “an indicator of a broader trend, where the companies do not have a business strategy around digital transformation and don’t know how to properly participate in an ecosystem or with partners to create very different solutions. Michelin, he added, has gone from selling tires to selling tires as a service… and it’s a very different model: other businesses are lagging because they don’t have the strategy or partnerships needed to come up with a product like this.”
So how ultimately does IoT fare in Accenture’s enterprise vision of Canadian technology adoption? Interestingly, survey respondents proved slightly more bullish on the opportunities in IoT relative to global peers than on the potential in the adoption of digital technologies more generally. Greater faith in the adoption benefits of IoT are evident in the Accenture charts below, which compare Canadian and global findings on expectations for the outcomes of technology deployment.
According to Accenture, many Canadian respondents in the survey also believe they are well on their way to capitalizing on IoT, though in term of actual deployment progress, the Canadian record fares slightly less well when compared with global responses: 17 percent of Canadian respondents say they are deploying multiple connected products (19 percent globally); 18 percent have deployed one or more connected products (20 percent globally); 20 percent have evaluated connected products and are beginning to deploy (19 percent globally); 15 percent are engaging in pilot programs (17 percent globally); 18 percent are evaluating how they can use connected products (18 percent globally); and 6 percent do not have a clear strategy and are not deploying connected products (7 percent globally).
If these differences appear to resemble more rounding error than significant difference in direction, Accenture’s assessment of Canadian and global investment in the capabilities needed to successfully deploy IoT show marked contrasts. As the figure from Accenture research below shows, Canada lags behind global peers in each readiness indicator, falling especially short in areas such as having a context-aware device interface, having a technology platform for data exchange, and a robust ecosystem of partners.
So what do all these numbers add up to in terms of prospects for IoT in Canada? While Accenture’s survey of 150 Canadian respondents may seem a sparse sample, it is important to bear in mind the firm’s access to and interest is in large enterprises, which are not that numerous in Canada. As Bhattacharya explained, these survey respondents may or may not be employed in Canadian branch locations of large, global headquartered firms, the sample includes government, and consists largely of IT leaders at the CIO level within their respective organizations. This snapshot of Canadian activity does not include the range of business types and sizes represented in the Canadian economy; however, it is likely that the large businesses will serve as the advance guard in the emerging IoT space, and any Canadian data on technology adoption is welcome as a means to inform potential users on the issues and benefits in IoT. Bhattacharya concluded: “If you look at who is offering IoT services in Canada, there is a very small niche group that is focused on IoT; these are going to market with connected space solutions largely through the utilities, and IoT is being bolted into people’s homes or into buildings. The utilities are a big broker in that discussion, and companies are working with this one stop shop to go to market. On the enterprise side, robust ecosystems simply have just not yet emerged. What I think we are going to see is uptake in IoT when more hybrid and electric cars enter the market, helping to better manage the microgrid aspects of energy storage. This will have a big impact on how IoT drives the economy… as with all of digital, we are sitting on the cusp of major innovation that is about to come. IoT will be as transformational as the web has been in our lives.”
Accenture itself is especially buoyant on the IoT opportunity and has worked on a number of projects for industrial and commercial applications. Some of the more unique examples include the Accenture Life Safety Solution, a wireless-enabled multi-gas detection system that helps protect workers in potentially hazardous environments, the Intelligent Pipeline, a predictive analytics solution developed with ecosystem partner GE, and a connected car commerce initiative for Visa, in which Accenture designed, built and tested proof-of-concept.
Next steps in driving IoT deployments here will be creation of more examples that feed local organizations’ preferences for finding themselves in Canadian case studies – supported by networking and educational activities aimed at implementation best practices. Stay tuned for more on InsightaaS’ latest community building project!