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The Year When Everything Changed

For the last five years, NOVIPRO has published an annual study offering unique insights into how hundreds of Canadian businesses are approaching the digital shift and what their IT challenges are. While artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and talent acquisition are top priorities, cybersecurity has always been the Achilles heel for most companies. This was still the case in 2020, amid the pandemic. 

The companies surveyed reported that COVID-19 had completely disrupted their plans  and forced them to rethink their strategies.Trends that have been emerging since 2016 have halted in their progression and returned to a status similar to four years ago. To stay afloat, many businesses sacrificed cybersecurity concerns and investment in artificial intelligence to address urgent operational needs.  

Let’s take a look at cybersecurity. The telework boom led to a sharp rise in IT threats and our study shows that 35% of cyberattacks in 2020 were caused by ill-intentioned employees. Despite the red flags, 42% of companies plan to slash their cybersecurity budget in the next two years. Even more alarming, only 30% of respondents have a post pandemic crisis management plan to minimize the impact on their IT systems. When it comes to data protection, companies are still slow to tackle the issue head on. Even with frequent  headlines about sensitive data being breached or stolen, half of the businesses we surveyed had not tightened up their systems in the last year.  

Advances in artificial intelligence took a step backwards in 2020 compared to the previous four years. The proportion of respondents planning to invest in AI projects dropped for the first time, from 36% in 2019 to 29% in 2020. Artificial intelligence is a major investment, true, but businesses will reap the benefit in the long run. More efficient operations and tighter security are two significant benefits. 

There’s no denying that COVID-19 created shockwaves that led companies to instinctively pivot to survival mode. I admire the courage of entrepreneurs and managers who ramped up the pace of e-commerce and cloud computing deployments. Many were the business leaders who found themselves navigating in dense fog with no end in sight. They prioritized short-term investments to meet the immediate need for telework and video conferencing solutions that best suited their company. So who can blame them?  

Although the pandemic has wreaked havoc on plans for the future and caused major headaches, now is the time for businesses to review their long-term strategic vision and adapt to the new reality. Decision makers need to roll up their sleeves, beef up their security and competitiveness, and protect what matters most: their assets and their reputation. They must become cyber-resilient.  

Already in 2021 we’ve had some uncertainty, but there’s good reason to be optimistic. I encourage business leaders to stay the course and captain their ship with courage and determination. The future of their company is at stake! 

Download this complete Study

By Yves Paquette
President and co-founder of NOVIPRO

The data in the fifth annual NOVIPRO/Léger IT portrait of Canadian businesses comes from an online survey conducted between September 8 and October 23, 2020, among 484 respondents (331 it decision makers and 153 decision makers from other sectors).