digitize future economy digitize future economy
digitize future economy
Xerxes Cooper
General Manager, Global Technology Services - IBM Canada

The Necessity of Digitization for the Future Economy

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  1. The necessity of digital adoption is a major megatrend prompting businesses to fundamentally transform their processes and adopt a digitization strategy.
  2. Cloud technologies are a key tool for businesses of all sizes in the move towards digitization, helping them manage their data and innovate rapidly.
  3. Canadian workers need to be skilled appropriately in conjunction with the digitization of the economy, with more investment being put into training initiatives.


The future economy is going to demand that businesses and government entities be adequately digitized, with advanced cybersecurity and cloud technologies. With such widespread digital adoption, Canadian consumers can expect better and safer access to key services to improve their lives and the economy.

What are the global megatrends affecting the transformation of businesses in Canada?

In Canada, the fundamentals of the economy are quite strong. I see a very resilient business environment through the pandemic and Canadian businesses are going to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

I say that for a couple of reasons. First, we are seeing the acceleration of digital strategy for all our clients, and that is driven by the demands of both clients and employees, as well as the pace of business on how folks want to consume services and have more differentiated experiences. Many clients tell me that the pandemic has accelerated a five-year plan into a six-month plan. As such, one of the major global trends is the digitization of businesses and the need to create and innovate at a rapid scale. That is one of the fundamentals for our businesses in Canada.

The second trend comes from a skills perspective. Our ability to build the future skills that are needed to propel the economy for the future is going to define the Canadian business environment. A lot of those skills, especially in my area, come from a technical perspective, to help clients and the business community extract insights from the data they have and help us innovate at speed and scale.

Our ability to build the future skills that are needed to propel the economy for the future is going to define the Canadian business environment.

Another trend we are seeing in the marketplace is the demand for differentiated skills, as well as the need for the Canadian marketplace and businesses to generate those skills and support those clients. We at IBM are very excited about the skills that we bring to the marketplace to support our clients, as well as the work we do in the marketplace to help develop those skills at scale for our clients.

Think of the environment we are in today. When the pandemic first started, we had to get 3,000 people working remotely but also help them to be productive and innovative in that environment, as well as supporting their physical and mental health. The pandemic has really forced a lot of businesses in Canada to rethink how we work, partner, and innovate. At IBM, we try to support our clients with different innovative tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), data insights, or cloud technologies so our clients can get their people as productive as possible in this environment while also innovating and transforming at scale.

What does the adoption of a digital strategy look like for businesses of all sizes in Canada?

In the past, it was very expensive to have a big digital footprint and enablement. However, technology today can enable firms of all sizes to have a digital strategy. It comes down to marketization and what we are seeing with the power of AI. Now, firms of all sizes can take advantage of the data they have. Data that is stranded can be translated into insights to help them have a better understanding of their clients, the marketplace, and show enhanced value. Clients of all sizes are also unlocking the power of cloud technologies. Cloud technologies help businesses undertake a more cost-effective and efficient way to manage the underlying technology they need to support their digital strategy.

In order to unleash the power of their data, many firms are working on leveraging their toolsets. First, businesses need to get access to their data. Second, they need to leverage AI and other capabilities to translate that data into insights. The more innovative and proactive firms are, the most successful they will be leveraging those insights to change how they engage with clients and transform their processes to become more efficient. Properly leveraging technological toolsets can help businesses unlock ideas and innovation to produce new product sets.

Adoption of cloud technologies has historically been more of a slow migration, but now clients are recognizing how enabling the power of a cloud environment can be. There are technological tools to help businesses keep one foot on their legacy and physical assets and another foot on leveraging the power of the cloud. Firms that embrace infusing data insights at scale are able to rapidly innovate and adapt their efforts to where the opportunities are in the Canadian marketplace.

There are technological tools to help businesses keep one foot on their legacy and physical assets and another foot on leveraging the power of the cloud.

When it comes to larger enterprises, Canadians are really reliant on their services, especially now during the pandemic. Think of the enablement we have from an innovative financial or government sector. Government and financial services play such a critical role in leading a digitization strategy because of how dependent we are on their services. If they were unable to provide more of these services in a value-added manner, we would be much worse off today. I am seeing a lot of innovation, transformation, and fast, agile responsiveness from both our public and financial sector in Canada. They are unleashing the power of AI, data, and the cloud to provide these transformed services to their clients.

Is there a specific technological solution or advanced practice that Canadian businesses are looking at today?

Cybersecurity is one area in the marketplace, especially during the pandemic, where we have seen a significant rise in impacts. Bad actors have become well-organized to launch attacks on the Canadian marketplace in terms of denial of services, ransomware, and so on. The need for cybersecurity capabilities has substantially accelerated through the pandemic due to the volatility and risk in the environment.

Many firms’ prior approach to security was from a physical mindset, where all their workers were located in the same building. Much of their security architecture was never based on the assumption that they would have so many personnel working from home. At the start of the pandemic, IBM worked very closely with many of our clients to help them understand what the risks are, ultimately helping them to build more resilient environments for today’s environment.

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What must be done and by who to ensure Canadian companies can excel in the process of digitization and technology acceleration?

Skills are fundamental. We need to continue to build the next generation of skills and retain them in the Canadian landscape. The environment is changing. In the past, it was a very predesigned model, where people simply went to certain schools to get specific certifications. Now, with a changing marketplace, many individuals can find lucrative and challenging roles without a university education, so we no longer need to conform to such precedents. We also need to find ways to retrain individuals who left the marketplace for a number of years to bring them back into the workforce in these technical areas.

One thing I am very proud of at IBM is our Tech Re-Entry Program, where we support individuals who left the technology field for 10 years or more. We help them gain entry back into the workforce with roles that help them bring their skills back up to where they need to be competitive. They can do that with investment from us and ultimately have thriving careers.

IBM also launched SkillsBuild Reignite, which is an open digital learning platform that allows Canadian jobseekers and business owners to get back to work and leverage this free toolset of skills and education. Everybody has to play their part as skills are going to be a defining catalyst for our growth for the future.

We need to be investing continuously across the Canadian landscape in skills, in not only how we can rapidly build the skills we need for today, but also on how to build a model for the future. The most impactful skills in the future would be around cybersecurity, architecture and development, AI and data, and services. We are in an exciting timeframe right now and all of these areas are going to be in hot demand.

What does successful and accelerated digitization mean for Canada’s future economy?

For Canadians, a digitized Canadian economy would mean substantive access to and democratization of services. Individuals that did not have access to certain services are now able to in a very low-cost digital way. You can be a very empowered individual today with your smartphone. In the past, that was just not possible. Further digitization will only bring significantly greater access in terms of services.

A digitized Canadian economy is going to phenomenally accelerate innovation. We will have more access to data, insights, and the power of cloud technologies, which will help our Canadian business innovate at scale rapidly. We will see more new products, services, and ideas.

A digitized Canadian economy is going to phenomenally accelerate innovation.

A digitized economy is also going to need to be a self-aware economy with regard to the threats. Digitized businesses need to be cognizant of threats that now exist, which they were not previously aware of. Being aware of these threats allows services to be accessed in a much better way, and we can also protect our citizens better.

These are very exciting times. They are not without their challenges and we all hope to be out of this pandemic shortly. I am an eternal optimist and I feel the Canadian economy will emerge very strong.

digitize future economy
Xerxes Cooper
General Manager, Global Technology Services - IBM Canada

Bio: Xerxes Cooper is the General Manager of Global Technology Services at IBM Canada. He has been with IBM for over 16 years, honing his focus on designing, building, and running the hybrid cloud systems and services used by businesses throughout Canada. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Venture Lab and the Information Technology Association of Canada. He has a degree in Finance and Accounting from the Schulich School of Business.

Organization Profile: IBM is a multinational technology company with operations in over 170 countries. It was founded in 1911, becoming renowned for inventing a host of technological tools. IBM is also a major research organization, holding the record for most US patents generated by a business for 28 years as of 2020. Recently, IBM Canada was recognized by IDC MarketScape as being a leader in cloud services, helping businesses modernize applications for the cloud.