Over the past year, whether or not they were prepared, every business has been forced to become a technology business.
First, discussions revolved around shifting in-office work to a remote environment and driving brick-and-mortar operations to e-commerce channels. Now, organizations are discovering new market opportunities using the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics and supply chain management, all while trying to stay afloat – and profitable – amid an ongoing global crisis.
Today's leaders are largely those who have emerged as Masters of Change, having become early adopters of some of the technology trends described in Accenture's newest Technology Vision report. These organizations are enabling new ways of working and doing business, creating new interactions and experiences, and improving health and safety. This shift has local and global implications: 94% of Canadian executives are already operating on the belief that capturing tomorrow's market will require their organization to define it.
Put into action, the following five technology trends are well positioned to chart the course for our new reality here in Canada and beyond, uncovering ambitious but achievable ideas capable of rebuilding the world better than it was before.
1. Stack Strategically
Although most leading organizations boast dynamic technology architectures, the fact remains that one size fits none in this highly tailored segment of the enterprise. Organizations are increasingly seizing the power of custom technology stacks by blending business and technology strategies to sharpen their competitive edge in the post-pandemic landscape.
Montréal-based ready-to-eat food company Cook It was one of the many businesses that banked on technology to boost its social and online selling prowess at the onset of the pandemic. After unlocking trapped data, the company heard subscribers were missing the comfort of in-person dining and social experiences. In response, Cook It diversified its offerings with an aperitif option, brunch recipes and a new way for customers to cheers with friends and family via Zoom, satisfying subscribers' deepest cravings and attracting new members.
Several of our new traditions, including virtual gatherings, will stick around post-pandemic as people find a new appreciation for at-home experiences. Businesses experimenting and adapting now could be the pioneers of a whole new set of industry and technology trends.
2. Mirrored World
Advancements in interoperable technology are making space for a mirrored world that will bridge the divide between the digital and physical. Inhabiting this next-generation environment are massive networks of intelligent digital twins built on data and artificial intelligence, rapidly rising up to enable organizations to simulate, predict, automate and revolutionize how they operate and innovate in the real world.
Two-thirds (66%) of Canadian business executives expect their organization's investments in digital twins to increase over the next three years, according to Accenture's Technology Vision. The Port of Montreal can attest to this, having recently integrated 3D modelling into industry-leading interactive software to produce a digital twin of all port territory and infrastructure. This digital twin is now used as an information technology tool for infrastructure planning and optimization, training of security and fire prevention staff, and enhanced community and client outreach, including augmented reality tours.
3. I, Technologist
For years, technology has empowered individuals to take charge, think boldly and creatively, mobilize communities, and make a difference. This hasn't changed – and with every business becoming a technology business, core technologies need to be accessible and understood by everyone in the enterprise to deliver maximum impact. Fortunately, user-friendly paths of entry including low-code platforms, natural language processing and robotic process automation are further democratizing technology, putting powerful capabilities into the hands of people at all levels of the organization.
Montréal manufacturing company Mechasys transformed itself into a technology company by developing a laser projection system that displays full-scale construction plans at job sites. Following the forced shutdown of these sites due to the pandemic, the company's leaders have also enabled employees to explore the use of robotics and advanced software and management tools to improve productivity and think creatively about solutions offsite.
4. Anywhere, Everywhere
If people have proven anything in the past year, it's that a virtual workforce can maintain business as usual – not just from home but anywhere, and potentially more efficiently than ever before. This new culture of work is here to stay.
As some organizations plan for gradual returns to office, others have announced plans to scrap physical office space contracts all together. But in embracing a truly global talent pool and the string of benefits that follow, leaders must develop "bring your own environment" strategies to address the security implications of remote work. With teams more likely to be spread across cities, countries and time zones, companies should also rethink communication strategies to ensure workflows are seamless and secure regardless of where employees log in.
Recognizing the value of remote work as a competitive new work model, Shopify was one of the first companies to make headlines for moving their over 5,000 Canadian employees to work from home permanently. The decision to eliminate office work entirely came after the company cut costs and almost doubled revenues, seeing a 97% increase in the second quarter of 2020. Looking ahead, expect to see more companies shift remote work from an accommodation to an inherent advantage.
5. From Me to We
Coming out on the other side of this pandemic will require a great level of teamwork and collaboration, as well as navigating complex ecosystems and rethinking partnerships. The solution: Multiparty systems, which bring together multiple vendors, parts of the business and technologies such as blockchain and distributed ledgers to work in new ways. Organizations across industries are already benefitting from the use of multiparty systems to unlock trust and traceability in the supply chain and ensure the equitable distribution of resources.
Hospitals, including the Montreal Children's Hospital, have increased funding of multiparty systems to counter the impacts of the pandemic. At this critical time, they are investing heavily in technology platforms and skilled IT staff to support their operations and explore the potential of telemedicine. The Montreal Children's Hospital is already carrying out thousands of virtual appointments a month while opening access to patients in remote areas through new vendor partnerships.
Thanks to multiparty systems, organizations are able to conduct operations with greater speed, less complexity and reduced risk—three critical capabilities for current survival and future success.
Master change by reimagining everything
Technology has long shaped—and reshaped—industries and the human experience, but recent challenges have demanded technology to serve as a lifeline in ways never predicted. Despite the influx of uncertainty, one thing is certain: Our responses to the pandemic continue to cement new norms around how companies operate and how people live, with a renewed focus on health and safety and connectedness.
Make it your organization's goal to reimagine everything – from your workforce and customers to your data, ecosystems, use of technology, and the very definition of leadership. There's still time to master the change we're seeing now and that lies ahead yet to be realized. The journey of reinvention has just begun.
About the author
Martine is the Office Managing Director for Montréal as well as the SAP Transformation Lead for Resources clients in Accenture Canada. Martine has more than 23 years of experience in project delivery and client account management. Focused on achieving technological advancements in the business community, she infuses innovation in the New IT offerings for her clients at Accenture.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal. As a result, the Chamber cannot be held responsible for published content.