Activity is expected to rise sharply as people come to terms with how things will work in a post-lockdown world. Attention is finally turning from short-term survival to planning for the future.
An integral part of this planning has to be information technology. Earlier in 2020, we identified the need for organisations to adopt a more dynamic, distributed work environment to respond to the COVID challenge. We’re now recognising that this migration towards a modern distributed workplace is a core ongoing strategy for organisations that want to emerge stronger in 2021. The critical role IT plays in supporting business functions means IT adoption needs to be carefully matched against strategic objectives.
For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the key trends that will shape the year ahead. Emerging technologies and services can deliver significant benefits as long as they are properly implemented and managed.
Some of the key trends that will emerge during 2021 include:
- SaaS reaches a tipping point:
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been growing in popularity for some years. Increasingly, organisations are opting to rent access to applications rather than purchasing and deploying them in on-premise facilities.
The coming year will be when SaaS becomes the dominant method of software usage. Encouraged by the cost savings and improved flexibility it offers, organisations will embrace the strategy and migrate from ageing, legacy platforms.
- Increasing awareness of security:
It’s a topic that is far from new, but IT security remains a top concern for businesses of all sizes. In 2021, awareness will increase even further among senior managers and boards. No longer regarded as a challenge just for the IT department, there will be recognition it must be viewed as an organisation-wide priority.
This will result in increasing investments in security platforms rather than point products. Such platforms reduce complexity while maintaining consistent security measures throughout an organisation. More money will be allocated to IT security overall as managers come to recognise effective security is an evolutionary journey rather than a destination.
The strategy of zero trust will also become more widely entrenched. With workforces likely to remain in work-from-home mode for an extended period, zero trust is an effective way to provide secure remote access to centralised resources
- The decline of niche software developers:
This trend has been evident for some time but the pace of decline for smaller software firms will accelerate in 2021. The key driver is the adoption by businesses of software platforms rather than individual applications and tools.
Increasingly, organisations are engineering themselves around platforms such as Salesforce, Microsoft 365, and Google Workspace which can meet the majority of their day-to-day IT requirements. As a result, there is less need for additional add-ons that traditionally have been provided by smaller firms.
While this strategy can be appealing for many organisations, it does come with risks. The organisation will only be able to evolve at the pace set by their chosen platform. They may also find themselves locked in as the effort of shifting becomes too great.
- The rise of intelligent automation:
Within many organisations, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to a review of internal processes. In many cases, manual, paper-based workflows have been able to be replaced with automated alternatives. Expect this trend to continue in 2021.
A key benefit of automation is that it allows organisations to scale up their operations without needing to employ more people. For this reason, it’s likely that automation will become a key driver of increased profits.
- Ongoing adoption of hybrid cloud:
The perception that managing an IT infrastructure that comprises both on-premise and public cloud-based resources is too complex will disappear. More organisations will recognise the significant benefits that can flow from the careful selection of a portfolio of IT resources that can work together as a cohesive whole.
A properly designed and managed hybrid cloud infrastructure can allow an organisation to meet both its service and security requirements in a cost-effective manner.
- The enduring impact of COVID:
Finally, the aftereffects of the virus will be felt throughout 2021. The ‘anywhere working’ strategy now widely in use will mature and become a mainstream method of operating.
Organisations will take the time to review the new technologies, tools, and workflows they have in place and determine what additional changes need to be made. In many cases, the lasting legacy of COVID-19 will be stronger, more resilient business operations.
It’s clear that 2021 holds much promise but will also present some significant challenges for organisations throughout the world. Understanding the technology trends that will emerge will be critical for ongoing expansion and success.