This past year is one that many would like to forget and for good reason. COVID-19 has impacted our lives in so many ways and the long-term implications are still unknown. Companies across all industries were impacted and just like when any crisis strikes – there have been those that gain and those that lose. Although this year is not quite over yet (though it"s safe to say that most of us would want it to end already), now is a good time to discuss what lies ahead. Of course, no one can predict the future, but we can be sure that technology will continue to evolve. In an ironic way, COVID-19 may prove to be a catalyst for many technological trends as we head into 2021.
Recently, both Gartner and Forrester published their technological trends report for 2021 and beyond. A handful of the strategic tech trends in both reports caught my attention and really resonated with me. Below is my interpretation of them:
1. Continued Advancement of the Distributed Cloud – the movement to the cloud has accelerated in recent years and now is common for organizations to leverage software. Distributed cloud is the natural evolution of cloud technology. By having organizations’ services physically closer, latency is reduced, as are the costs of data, helping to ensure compliance with laws that dictate data must remain in a specific geographical region. If your company is still using on-premise solutions or any “version” of cloud offering which is not pure-cloud (multi-tenant) then 2021 should definitely be the year to finally take the leap.
2. Anywhere Operations – this is likely the most expected topic as a result of COVID-19. Not surprisingly, COVID imposed significant restrictions on operations which required companies and employees to quickly adjust so operations could continue from anywhere, anytime, on any device. Gartner notes that this is a “digital first, remote first” model. The report notes that digital should be the default for business at all times. Even the physical spaces that remain should be digitally enhanced. If companies have not done so yet, the move to technological tools, software, etc. that enable remote operations from anywhere are no longer “luxury” but rather a necessity for business continuity in 2021 and beyond.
3. Intelligent Composable Business – this refers to the ability of organizations to shift and change rapidly in response to changes to the business. This has become even more important due to COVID-19. Gartner says, “To successfully do this, organizations must enable better access to information, augment that information with better insight and have the ability to respond quickly to the implications of that insight. This will also include increasing autonomy and democratization across the organization, enabling parts of the businesses to quickly react instead of being bogged down by inefficient processes.” Let 2021 be the year to remove inefficient processes, many of which might still be on paper or Excel spreadsheets. Again, it’s time to move to cloud software solutions that streamline your business processes.
4. Another COVID-19 related trend that is being accelerated is Recasting of Automation Roadmaps. COVID-19 is changing firms' automation agendas rapidly towards back-office processes and business resilience. Intelligent automation will represent the infusion of robotic and digital process automation with pragmatic AI and low-code tools. These technologies will help businesses become more efficient and resilient while expanding their operations.
5. Driving Innovation Everywhere Using Cloud-native Technologies. Emerging cloud-native technologies, born from open source and incubated in public clouds, drive fast innovation — and in more locations than just the public cloud. Over the next five years, cloud-native technologies such as container platforms and serverless computing will herald a new era of distributed enterprise software — from cloud providers, edge providers, and software vendors alike.
According to Brian Hopkins, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, "The recipe for successful tech innovation is changing”. This became very clear during the year of the pandemic in 2020. "The strategies that worked in the 2010s will not work in the 2020s. Firms that make big bets on new business models, new ways of working, and new talent will be more adaptive and resilient to the disruptive forces that will characterize the 2020s.
Technology will continue to play a vital role in 2021 and beyond, and likely expedite digital transformation activities as more and more companies realize the importance during this pandemic era. Companies who do not invest in enabling technologies will continue to struggle with performing many activities which ultimately impact their overall business. Going back to work and maintaining a safe and secure environment for employees will be achieved, but for now we must continue to leverage systems that minimize physical interactions when they are not necessarily needed.