5 Technology Trends for Companies to Reset & Rebound in 2021
2020 was the year of the rapid pivot to Resiliency & Resolve. Consumer businesses introduced pre-ordering, curbside pick-up, delivery to safely serve valued customers. Telemedicine exploded as did video calls for other professions. Courtrooms went digital. Education learned to deliver remote experiences. Back offices stood up remote capabilities in days, calibrating later. Much of this was only possible with cloud and mobile platforms.
Following the crisis response last year, 2021 will be the year of Reset & Rebound. Businesses will evaluate which traditional practices will return, which new practices from 2020 will persevere, and what additional innovations in products and services will be needed once the vaccine is distributed, and comfort with and demand for personal interaction grows for an increasing number of people.
We see five trends that innovative leaders will emphasize in 2021:
1. Enabling High Performance Hybrid & Remote Teams: Some roles will return to the office full-time, others intermittently, with the remainder remote. One thing is for sure, we will never return to 2019. The opportunity now exists for companies to hire A-players in distant locales to secure the best skills and talent. To have teams performing at high levels, consistent adoption of work practices and collaboration tools will be required to replace the ad hoc efforts of 2020, along with a focus on building and sustaining culture.
2. Addressing Increasing Security & Privacy Challenges: 2020 highlighted many security and privacy issues, with a spike in ransomware and foreign actor attacks grabbing headlines late in the year. This is layered on European and California privacy statutes that companies were actively addressing. To get ahead, a renewed understanding of potential exposure and associated protection changes (technical, process and human) must remain a focus.
3. Unlocking the Value of Data: Data volume continues its exponential growth, yet the value of that data too often remains locked. Internally generated data blended with purchased data should build richer customer profiles and behavioral patterns and enable broader capabilities. Rich data should be used to speed human decision making and automate repeatable processes (e.g. through robotic process automation). However, the twin challenges of data ownership and the rise of Digital Ethics makes it clear that “what can be done” and “what should be done” are not the same.
4. Innovating Through Network Speed & Availability: Mobile 5G networks and devices are becoming increasingly affordable. The customer now expects to do business on whatever platform at whatever time they choose. These speeds will also enable more near-real-time computing (think autonomous vehicles) as well as data intense technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) applications. CIOs must now investigate what else is “possible” in their organizations once the constraints of speed, cost, and availability are diminished. Similar economic opportunities exist with cloud-based storage and compute platforms.
5. Leveraging “Your Seat at the Table”: We have seen, through our extensive network of CIOs, an increase in appreciation for the critical role of technology, and increased influence for technology leaders with their business peers. Now is neither the time to retreat, nor to overplay your hand. CIOs should build upon their enhanced roles by driving value, innovation, and security across their enterprises. Effective CIOs will focus on enhancing efficiency and customer experience and refuse to be relegated to commodity service provider roles.
In summary, innovative, efficient, and effective deployment of contemporary technologies focused on strategic needs will continue to separate winners from those longing for a simpler past. While new technologies bring risk, underinvestment carries a much greater penalty. Those that prioritize, plan, and execute will be the winners in 2021 and beyond.
Kevin Bonfield, is the founder and Managing Partner of Concentre, a boutique consultancy focused on digital and IT strategy and business transformation in complex environments. He has been in business, technology and leadership roles for 25 years, and traces his formative years in strategy and technology to Bain & Company and EDS. He focuses on addressing complex business and technology issues from setting clear strategies and roadmaps to transformation execution. He is an active member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
Kevin Christ, a partner with Concentre, has been in business technology consulting for over 30 years, working with over 100 companies over that span. He focuses on digital and technology strategy, innovation, complex project management / rescue, quality assurance and IT transformation. His four assignments as Acting CIO further cemented his knowledge of IT leadership. He is a frequent speaker at CIO conferences and area universities and serves on a number of technology advisory boards.