The Digital Divide and the Road to Recovery for Canadian Enterprises – Part 2

Learn what attributes buyers are looking for from tech suppliers with IDC Canada's Tony Olvet

Dramatic Changes in Canadian Business Conditions

The pandemic and lockdowns have created a new set of customer expectations unlike we've ever seen before in the tech sector. Technology suppliers have had to adapt during the pandemic as organizations have been forced to shift their operations and remain viable (See Part 1 of my blog post). The dramatic change in business conditions, supply chains, physical operations, and government regulations have created new technology requirements. As one Canadian executive told IDC: “All of our efforts are now focused on the goal of continuing to conduct our business through telework. It's very difficult."

How is Buying Criteria Changing?

In June 2020, a survey of medium and large organizations revealed that buying criteria was shifting in the midst of the pandemic. While customer service, product reliability and industry compliance around security and privacy are the top 3 buying criteria, the pandemic has caused IT buyers to look increasingly at suppliers who are agile and can deliver on their promises. Specifically, buyers highlighted ease of doing business with, speed of implementation, and ability to deliver offering as increasing in importance. Turns out that buyers weigh attributes of their vendors differently during a time of crisis as needs rapidly change. That said a business is not going to sacrifice privacy or security compliance requirements just to get a service implemented quickly. But it may change who is shortlisted during the vendor selection process. 

When we look at the responses from a digital maturity perspective across the globe, we found that organizations that are more advanced were giving higher weighting to a vendor's number of existing customers, open architectures, and ecosystem partnerships during the pandemic. These "digitally determined" organizations have longer-term investment plans in place and their enterprise strategy is to use digital to transform markets and customers by creating new business models and experiences. They want to feel confident that their suppliers can thrive beyond the pandemic, have access to a breadth of technology, and can help them avoid technology lock-in. We also find on this side of the digital divide these companies already rank technology innovation as the top vendor selection criteria.

But to help close the digital divide, tech suppliers will need to support those struggling to broaden their perspective of digital transformation. The pandemic may help propel them forward as tech has underpinned so many new capabilities during the crisis, for example: enabling video consultations remotely between patients and doctors; rapidly producing personal protective equipment (PPE) using 3D printers; and quickly implementing ecommerce capabilities to support buy online pickup store (BOPIS) service. 

Buyers Need Guidance from Tech Suppliers

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of digital transformation, and IT vendors and service providers have been instrumental in delivering impactful solutions.

  1. Skills and experience will make a difference. According to IDC Canada's 2020 Top Executive survey we found that limited expertise is the number one hurdle preventing organizations in Canada from making progress in their digital transformation. This was the top challenge in 2019 as well. Tech suppliers provide the resources, the scale, and the bench strength to support organizations lacking internal capabilities.
  2. Vendors are in position to help companies innovate. In our Canadian Future of Work survey, when asked about the top initiatives organizations were undertaking to drive innovation, the most common response was partnerships with technology vendors. This approach complements working with customers, internal programs and institutional partnerships. With so many organizations having to shift their digital roadmap as a result of the pandemic, tech suppliers can help navigate a path forward.
  3. Delivering digital infrastructure and services that scale up and down rapidly. Organizations can't do this alone. Navigating quickly and efficiently through the pandemic will require flexible, resilient digital infrastructures and applications that enable organizations to maintain revenue streams while managing costs. While we will still see on-premise technology in the mix, organizations will increasingly look to third-party providers for cloud solutions.

Make the Effort to Understand the Customer's Situation

The most successful tech suppliers will recognize the unique needs of each organization and respond accordingly. This has been amplified during the pandemic with industry sectors and regions being impacted differently, and often the smallest businesses being affected the most. The classic "one size fits all" approach will fail. In fact, our Top Executive survey showed that understanding our organization's needs is the most important factor in IT vendors bringing value to the business. Unfortunately, it's also where Canadian IT buyers give the tech industry the lowest marks.

Spending the time to understand customer needs – in depth – will be a critical step in helping meet the demands of organizations along the road to recovery. Before getting to the technology discussion know the answers to the fundamental questions about an organization's current situation. Is the biggest challenge revenue shortfall, supply chain issues, or staff shortages? Do you know how regulations are impacting the timing of business re-openings in their region? Is contact tracing a high priority initiative to the organization? What new cyber risks are organizations and their employees facing now? Like training or studying, put in the effort before showing up for the race or the exam. And knowing the answers to these questions will benefit both parties.

We don't know how long we will be on the road to recovery. What we do know is that it will be a challenging and often unpredictable path. Tech buyers will remember if you spent the time to get to know them, if you listened, how they were treated, and if their suppliers came through as promised during these difficult times. Being knowledgeable, empathetic and transparent are key attributes of becoming a trusted advisor, and ultimately will be the basis for successful long-term partnerships.

Explore the 5 Stages of Enterprise Recovery and the Digital Initiatives Required

Download our new eBook Moving From Crisis to Recovery: Why Technology is Critical to Success to learn about the 5 stages to enterprise recovery and how enterprises can co-innovate with tech suppliers on their journey to the next normal.

Explore all of our Future Enterprise eBooks to learn more about the digital requirements facing Canadian businesses today.


About the Author

Tony Olvet

Group Vice President, Research

IDC Canada

Canadian ICT Executive: Digital Transformation Strategies



Cristina Santander

Manager, Marketing & Customer Experience