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Digital Transformation & Disruption – How The Digital Revolution Has Changed Business & How Canada Is Leading The Way

As we have seen in disruptions caused by digital development through recent years, the "Digital Revolution" has impacted nearly every societal norm and industry practice - including the economy, innovation, science, and education, to health, sustainability, governance, and lifestyles. It is clear that digital technologies will fundamentally change business models, institutions, and society as a whole, as new digital ecosystems emerge. [1]

To help guide the world into this new environment, it is important that companies and organizations which are the digital backbone of the economy, quickly adapt and implement digital transformation practices.

We are presented with an opportunity to ensure sustainability and resilience through effective planning and mitigation of near-future disruptions. This will anchor our position as a success driver in our digital transformation journey, navigating through the unprecedented digital space.

Defining the Digital Revolution

The Digital Revolution that is taking place throughout the world was aptly described by Michael Clarke as:

“the most significant event in information dissemination since Gutenberg’s printing press and arguably marks a much bigger shift in human communication.” [2].

The impact and subsequent aftershocks of the digital revolution have caused digital disruption ripples industry-wide and is changing the way companies do business strategically on every level.

In the span of only five decades, society in-large has become dependent on the digital world to function and grow. Like no revolution before, the digital world has rapidly consumed nearly every industry and societal norm, bringing billions of people together to collaborate and do business in a united front, never before seen in history. While there have been revolutions in the past that have drastically altered culture and society - see the mechanization Industrial Revolution of 1765 and the electronic Industrial Revolution of 1969 - this fourth Industrial Revolution has been one of the most disruptive in history. [3]

Generally, this revolution has been a positive one. For example, many world governments have become more accessible and transparent to their constituents through the application of digital technology. The ability to grow and overcome poverty has become easier through access to online jobs and services.

However, there remains millions of people around the world who lack the basic access and understanding of the digital space, which has created a Digital Divide - that is keeping the most-at-risk from the opportunities that the digital revolution can provide. To alleviate this growing digital humanitarian crisis, many organizations have stepped in to develop digital transformation services that help companies and organizations better navigate through the digital world.

The Digital Divide - Revealing the most at-risk of the Fourth Revolution

As the digital revolution continues to upend the commonly understood methods of business, a stark issue has emerged: The Digital Divide.

The Digital Divide has been noted and defined by a team of Stanford students as the reality of many communities throughout the United States and the world lacking adequate technical knowledge and equipment to adapt to the rapidly changing digital environment. [4]

In an effort to alleviate this issue, groups have begun to emerge to help individuals from diverse backgrounds learn and engage with the digital revolution. For example, a group known as “Plugged In” began giving their local community access to the future through their computer cluster and teaching programs, teaching individuals the necessity of digital knowledge and acceptance for the new digital marketplace. Through targeted efforts, these groups seek to help all individuals access the incredible opportunities afforded in the digital transformation field.

Looking ahead to technology trends that will cause digital disruption in the near future

Thousands of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Information Technology (IT) executives came together at the Gartner IT symposium Xpo in Orlando Florida in October of 2019. Gartner, the research and consulting firm defined the term: “Strategic Technology Trend” as one that has the potential for substantial disruption, as well as showing signs of breaking out of an emerging state into a broader impact and use.

These trends will most certainly cause future disruption, and also show a high degree of volatility with the possibility of reaching tipping points over the next five years.

Gartner’s team noted that the current strategic technology trends for 2020 all fall under the concept of people-centric approaches. Gartner’s Research VP Brian Burke noted:

"Putting people at the center of your technology strategy highlights one of the most important aspects of technology -- how it impacts customers, employees, business partners, society or other key constituencies," he said. "Arguably all actions of the organization can be attributed to how it impacts these individuals and groups either directly or indirectly." [5]

Gartner’s top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020

The following trends are structured around the idea of “People-Centric, Smart Spaces,” a concept which promotes technologies affecting individuals (i.e., customers, employees) and the places that they live in (i.e., home, office, car).

“These trends have a profound impact on the people and the spaces they inhabit” says David Cearley, Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “Rather than building a technology stack and then exploring the potential applications, organizations must consider the business and human context first.” [5]

Here are a few of the disruptive strategic trends to watch for in 2020, broken up by “People-Centric Trends” and “Smart Spaces Trends”. [8]

People-Centric Trends & Smart Spaces Trends

Hyperautomation (People-Centric Trends)

  • Organizations will continue to use technology to automate tasks that once required human judgment or action, leading to a lightning-fast decision system based on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
By 2022, application integrations delivered with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will grow 40% year over year.

Empowered Edge (Smart Spaces Trends)

  • Edge computing is a topology where information processing and content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources of the information, with the idea that keeping traffic local and distributed will reduce latency. This includes all the technology on the Internet of Things (IoT).
By 2023, there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network as in conventional IT roles.

Multiexperience (People-Centric Trends)

  • Multiexperience will replace technology-literate people with people-literate technology. The traditional idea of a computer will evolve from a single point of interaction to include multisensory and multi-touchpoint interfaces like wearables and advanced computer sensors.
By 2021, at least one-third of enterprises will have deployed a multiexperience development platform to support mobile, web, conversational and augmented reality development.

Distributed Cloud (Smart Spaces Trends)

  • The distributed cloud refers to the distribution of public cloud services to locations outside the cloud provider’s physical data centers, but which are still controlled by the provider. In distributed cloud, the cloud provider is responsible for all aspects of cloud service architecture, delivery, operations, governance, and updates. The evolution from centralized public cloud to distributed public cloud ushers in a new era of cloud computing.
By 2024, most cloud service platforms will provide at least some services that execute at the point of need.

Democratization (People-Centric Trends)

  • Democratization provides people with easy, low-/no-cost access to technical or business domain expertise. It focuses on four key areas — application development, data and analytics, design, and knowledge — and is often referred to as “citizen access,” which has led to the rise of citizen data scientists, citizen programmers, and more.
By 2024, 75% of large enterprises will be using at least four low-code development tools for both IT application development and citizen development initiatives.

Autonomous Things (Smart Spaces Trends)

  • Autonomous things are physical devices that use AI to automate functions previously performed by humans. They range in size and sophistication from small drones to autonomous ships and operate across many different environments (i.e., land, sea, and air.)
By 2023, over 30% of operational warehouse workers will be supplemented by collaborative robots.

Human Augmentation (People-Centric Trends)

  • Human augmentation is the use of technology and science to heighten a person’s cognitive and physical experiences.
Through 2023, 30% of IT organizations will extend BYOD policies with “bring your own enhancement” (BYOE) to address augmented humans in the workforce.

Practical Blockchain (Smart Spaces Trends)

  • Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger, an expanding chronologically ordered list of cryptographically signed, irrevocable transactional records shared by all participants in a network. This enables two (or more) parties who don’t know each other to exchange value without a need for a centralized authority.
By 2023, blockchain will be scalable technically and will support trusted private transactions with the necessary data confidentiality.

Transparency and Traceability (People-Centric Trends)

  • As consumers become more aware and savvier about how organizations are using their data — and organizations are using increasing amounts of AI and Machine Learning (ML) to drive business decisions — a trust crisis has emerged. Enterprises must embrace ideas like explainable AI and transparent data policies for both ethical and business reasons.
By 2020, Gartner expects companies that are digitally trustworthy will generate 20% more online profit than those that aren’t.

Artificial intelligence (AI) Security (Smart Spaces Trends)

  • The increase in the number of AI solutions and potential points of attack, via IoT devices and highly connected services, creates a true security challenge that will need to be met by increased AI Security processes across networks.
Through 2022, 30% of all AI cyberattacks will leverage training-data poisoning, AI model theft or adversarial samples to attack AI-powered systems.

Working on tomorrow’s Canada, today: Canada’s plan to digitally shift to become Agile, Open, and User-Centric

As digital technology continues to revolutionize society and the economy in ways we could never anticipate, it is important to grasp and understand the data that is emerging so that companies can better develop their products and services to reach the world. One of the country’s leading the charge in this disruptive trend is: Canada.

In the process of taking new ground in the digital realm, companies and organizations must ensure that Canadian’s privacy and data are secure and handled responsibly. As a prime example of leading the way in this process, the Government of Canada (GC) has developed governance instruments such as:

GC Strategic Plans:

Policies and Directives:


Canadian Digital Charter

Individuals and companies can build trust in their users by following the 10 golden rules set out in the Canadian Digital Charter:

1)   Universal Access: All Canadians will have equal opportunity to participate in the digital world and the necessary tools to do so, including access, connectivity, literacy, and skills.

2)   Safety and Security: Canadians will be able to rely on the integrity, authenticity, and security of the services they use and should feel safe online.

3)   Control and Consent: Canadians will have control over what data they are sharing, who is using their personal data, and for what purposes and know that their privacy is protected.

4)   Transparency, Portability, and Interoperability: Canadians will have clear and manageable access to their personal data and should be free to share or transfer it without undue burden.

5)   Open and Modern Digital Government: Canadians will be able to access modern digital services from the Government of Canada, which are secure and simple to use.

6)   A Level Playing Field: The Government of Canada will ensure fair competition in the online marketplace to facilitate the growth of Canadian businesses and affirm Canada's leadership on digital and data innovation while protecting Canadian consumers from market abuses.

7)   Data and Digital for Good: The Government of Canada will ensure the ethical use of data to create value, promote openness, and improve the lives of people—at home and around the world.

8)   Strong Democracy: The Government of Canada will defend freedom of expression and protect against online threats and disinformation designed to undermine the integrity of elections and democratic institutions.

9)   Free from Hate and Violent Extremism: Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism, or criminal content.

10)  Strong Enforcement and Real Accountability: There will be clear, meaningful penalties for violations of the laws and regulations that support these principles.

For more details on the Canadian Digital Charter:

Moving Forward: Embracing Digital Product Management

"Digital" is not an industry. It isn’t a strategy. It’s an essential tactic that should be embedded into every industry. The competitive advantage of any Canadian company will be connected to its digital advantage - Tobias Lütke, Table Chair, CEO and Founder of Shopify. [6]

In light of the reality of the digital revolution and the ever-widening digital divide that has resulted, it is clearer than ever that businesses and organizations must be prepared to pivot and adapt to move forward in this new environment. While initiatives such as Scrum and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) have created opportunities for engineering agility, project management must keep up with these developments. This need has created a new opportunity for organizations: Digital Product Management.

Digital Product Management - How the Canadian Government is working to build and maintain thousands of Digital Products to benefit taxpayers

In providing services to taxpayers, the Canadian government is working to build and maintain thousands of digital capabilities as products, which has led to an entirely new medium known as Digital Product Management.

The approach taken to build and deliver digital products needs to evolve to take advantage of modern development methods including agile iterative development, human-centered design, and continuous integration & delivery.

We can improve both user experience and cost efficiencies of digital product development in government by doing two things:

  • Designate experienced government product managers to lead digital product development;
  • Evolve our national model of service to make it easier and more attractive for talented private sector product managers, engineers, and designers to serve in government for “tours of duty”.

Organizations require an on-going cultural change, adapting agility, as they continue to deliver digital products using traditional project management and waterfall development methods (Project vs. Product) [7]

Moving forward: Embracing Digital Product Management and Digital Transformation

As we have seen, the digital disruptions caused by the fourth digital revolution will have vast implications across the globe. In leading the way, Canada has prepared its people and its economy to be proactive rather than reactive to this new reality through the development of digital transformation initiatives that seek to serve the public, and for small businesses to emerge as the backbone of the digital economy.

This is the beginning of a new digital era, where we are challenged and privileged with an opportunity to explore the unknown, develop governance frameworks, world-class digital infrastructure and capabilities that will guide the world on this digital transformation journey.

Digital revolution is the most significant event in information dissemination since Gutenberg’s printing press and arguably marks a much bigger shift in human communication.



  1. Economics of the Digital Revolution, European Commission, Knowledge for policy
  2. The Digital Revolution, Michael Clarke, Academic and Professional Publishing
  3. The 4 Industrial Revolutions, Institute of Entrepreneurship Development
  4. Digital Divide, Stanford Project
  5. 10 Strategic Technology Trends 2020, CIO Insights & Innovation, InformationWeek
  6. Report from Canada's Economic Strategy Tables: Digital Industries, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  7. Why Digital Transformation Requires Product Management, mind the Product
  8. Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, Gartner

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