Canadian companies need to pair investment into digital transformation with a technologically skilled workforce

digital transformation
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By: Colm Sparks-Austin, President and Managing Director, Capgemini Canada

As the economy rapidly evolved and digitized over the last several years, there’s been a shift across Canadian industries to execute digital transformation initiatives. However, this hastiness is causing companies to overlook a key element in technological implementation – labour.

Digital transformation is more than offering automated solutions for process-oriented challenges. It requires critical thinking skills to understand the best approach to implementation that mitigates risk and benefits all business areas. To be socially and economically viable long-term, Canadian businesses need to realize the advantages that digital transformation can afford. 

The next wave of digital transformation will create the “Intelligent Industry,” where companies focus on digitizing key industrial parts of their businesses beyond traditional operational efficiencies and use embedded software, data and new generation wireless connectivity to generate positive results. It’s a critical shift in thinking that will better equip businesses to be positive contributors to global issues like supply chain challenges and climate change.

The driving force behind transformation, however, isn’t technology — it’s skilled people with the know-how to deliver long-term impact. In Canada, it’s been widely reported that we don’t have enough people with the right digital and technical skills to fill the existing demand. This is a major barrier to real and ongoing transformation and must be addressed. 

Defining an intelligent industry

At Capgemini, we pioneered the term “Intelligent Industry” to describe a holistic business approach bridging the digital and engineering worlds to help companies build intelligent products, operations, and services, at scale. For example, a physical factory can be integrated with its digital counterpart not only to improve production efficiency but to imagine new products and services through a data-driven process. It requires a full assessment of business functions and how they impact each other to create a fully intelligent value chain. 

Canada needs this shift to be realized. Technological implementation can promote new revenue opportunities for companies by creating new business models, such as shifting from a product-focused model to a product-and-service model. These optimizations go beyond improving the bottom line and simplifying processes – it puts businesses on the right path towards creating net-positive organizations which will have massive positive impacts on our communities locally and abroad. 

Narrowing the talent gap

With technology at the forefront of business change, the labour market needs to keep up. Capgemini data shows that 68 percent of global organizations plan to boost investment into technology-led initiatives. While investing in technology is valuable, its long-term viability and maximum return on investment can only be reached if we have a workforce with the right skills to make the most of it. In many cases, they simply don’t have it and too few companies are addressing this side of the equation. Executives across sectors agree that there is a wide skills gap in the market today, specifically in the areas of AI, machine learning, and software engineering. And yet, a whopping 73 percent of organizations have yet to kick off their upskilling pilots. 

To ensure the labour and technological investments are on parallel paths, organizations need to assess the impact of these investments on the workforce and develop a training plan to meet the skill demand. 

The skill shift needs to be built into the company’s business strategy and provide employee opportunities for ongoing development. Companies need to leverage the value of their existing people and potential talent in the external labour market. This can involve a variety of upskilling or reskilling initiatives, such as dedicated training and workshops, investment in courses from educational institutions, or even connecting with technology industry leaders to understand these constantly evolving technologies.

Addressing the skill shift head-on supports the goal of expanding market capabilities by allowing employees to evolve their roles and become more valuable. This motivates employees as they develop with the company, rather than jumping quickly from one job to the next. It also results in long-term savings, as companies invest in employees to equip them with the tools that contribute meaningfully to digital transformation initiatives across all business areas.

The right technology can foster a thriving economy, construct stronger infrastructure, promote job creation, and build cleaner environments. But it all starts with the right people.

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Colm Sparks-Austin

Colm Sparks-Austin is the President and Managing Director, Capgemini Canada.