Canadian firms showing their age with lacking mobile tech adoption

Ryerson report suggests productivity, innovation and competitiveness could take a major blow without integrated mobile strategies.

TORONTO — In spite of the potential benefits, Canadian organizations lack the capacity to adopt mobile technologies – a major business issue that if ignored could negatively impact productivity and competitiveness, according to a report published last month by Ryerson University, in partnership with Rogers and Mitacs.

Only 50% of the managers studied in the report had clearly integrated mobile technologies into their business strategy. It advises that new technologies, including wireless and mobile devices, strong network infrastructure, web-based collaboration tools, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), pervasive and scalable cloud-based IT solutions, as well as analytics and applications can lead to dramatic improvements in productivity, development of new products and services, and more engaged employees and customers.

Transformation of Work reinforces the findings from other reports that suggest that a disjointed approach to managing technologies in Canadian organizations is limiting adoption and impeding productivity and innovation.

“Digital technologies have the potential to transform virtually every sector, said Wendy Cukier, vice-president of research and innovation at Toronto’s Ryerson University and co-author of the report.

“There is ample evidence that under-investments in technology are impeding growth and productivity improvements. A strategic approach supported by management and operational policies, measurement and a culture embracing innovation are essential. Creating something new does not produce innovation unless it is actually adopted.”

While only half of companies studied are integrating mobile technologies into their business strategy, there are many companies who are leaders in adoption of mobile technologies. These organizations had well-defined mobile strategies linked to corporate objectives and the policies and structures needed to support their implementation and they also reported significant benefits from their use of mobile technologies.

Reasons given for not utilizing mobile technologies to the fullest include challenges with privacy and security concerns, integration with legacy systems, the costs of implementation, and the policies, processes and talent required to implement them effectively.

A key finding in the report shows that businesses are just starting to understand and manage the opportunities in mobile technology and need help to develop management processes that drive value.

The report did find, however, that mobile adoption is important and growing in Canadian organizations. Almost all (96% of) companies are using mobile technologies, and Canada has a higher rate of smartphone adoption than the US, yet is behind in the adoption of mobile apps in the workplace.

Most employees (70%) are mobile in some way (physically) and this is expected to increase to 73% by 2016.The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) estimates that every 1% increase in mobile technology adoption will lead to 0.08% of GDP growth.

The adoption of mobile technologies is also allowing Canada’s workforce to become more mobile and workers increasingly export
flexibility and support for their use of technology. Fewer than 30% of organizations see a clear value proposition for the technology, while 50% of respondents said more research is necessary on impacts and metrics.

Adoption is being drive by a number of factors, the report said, but understanding and measuring the value remains elusive.
Change is coming from both the needs of management and the demands of employees, but there is an unclear return on investment (ROI) for mobile adoption.

When it comes to concern about barriers to adoption, the biggest challenges for Canadian companies relate to privacy and security. So far, Mobile technology management has been ad-hoc or opportunistic and differentiated across organizations.

“Canada is preoccupied with the innovation gap and most of our attention has been focused on supporting entrepreneurs and startups that commercialize and develop new technologies and processes – the supply side,” Cukier says. “Unless these new technologies are actually used, there is no innovation. We need additional focus on understanding the human, organizational and policy issues that affect the demand and adoption of these technologies to drive productivity improvements and global competitiveness.”

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