3 Enterprise Tech Trends for 2021

The year 2020 has been the most chaotic in recent memory. Enterprises shifted strategy rapidly and reactively in the face of lockdown orders, changing economic conditions, and evolving health concerns. 

The pace of change next year will likely be more manageable as organizations adjust to the new normal. This period of relative peace will give leaders the opportunity to make thoughtful investments in technology that put 2020’s positive developments — like increased cloud adoption and remote work flexibility — on more solid ground. Companies will also have bandwidth to prepare for the next crisis, eschewing reactive, flash-in-the-pan solutions in favor of longer-term strategies.  

Boosting enterprise speed and agility with automation

If Covid-19 taught us anything, it’s that organizations need to adapt swiftly to change. Tech leaders will address this lesson in 2021 by investing in specialized business applications that increase efficiency and reduce wasted time. This will be especially true if the economic downturn continues, increasing pressure to cut costs and get more from less.

Organizations will accelerate the automation of rote tasks with robotic process automation (RPA) and will also invest in automating more complex work with technologies like machine learning (ML). For these solutions to deliver, however, they can’t be a patchwork or disconnected solutions. They have to work together as a whole — a state Gartner calls hyper-automation.

By 2024, a combination of hyper-automation and changes to internal processes will decrease operational costs by 30%, according to a recent Gartner report. Plan automation initiatives carefully to ensure your organization derives the full benefit from its investments.

Improving virtual collaboration with new technology

During the pandemic, we’ve seen a great deal of innovation around tools that enable remote work and create new ways of doing business. For example, many video conferencing apps have added or enhanced existing features, such as digital whiteboards, that enable collaboration within remote teams. As remote work totality continues for many into 2021, we’ll likely see more innovations that will allow us to work more effectively. This will help us recover some of what’s been lost in the move from the office.

However, with a vaccine potentially on the horizon, enterprise leaders are also thinking ahead to plans for gradual office re-openings. Many organizations are reluctant to completely give up the flexibility and productivity gains of remote work, even as they recognize the need for some collaboration in person. A hybrid of remote and in-person work may become the new normal in many offices. This shift will inspire a number of new operational and technological changes to ensure employees are on an even playing field no matter where their desks are located. 

These changes may occur even in previously hybrid organizations, where the period of company-wide remote work has given leaders a new understanding of how challenging remote work can be. For example, some companies have adopted specialized webcams that give remote workers dialing into a meeting an individualized view of each person in a conference room, as if everyone were dialing into a zoom call. In 2021, consider which technologies your organization needs to thrive in the even more hybridized environment we’re evolving toward.

Taking a more measured approach to trendy tech

When the pandemic first hit, Covid-related apps and tools were popping up left and right. The market was flooded with contract tracing apps, wearable social distance monitors, and a large variety of other health tech devices. However, as people have adjusted, investors have stepped back from chasing the latest and trendiest new tech. 

In 2021, we’ll see startups and innovators take a more measured approach. Instead of jumping to execute on any idea that serves a current need, they’ll consider the lifespan of the potential product or service beyond the pandemic. This will result in a more sustainable wave of innovation in the coming year.

As things start to settle, I am excited to see innovation that will be focused on solving new business problems that have arisen from a more virtual workforce. It will be our responsibility as technology leaders to measure the value these new innovations and technologies will generate for business.  

Making the most of the 2021 opportunity

After the chaos of the past year, 2021 is an opportunity to refresh and rebuild — so don’t squander it by resting on your laurels. To thrive in the coming year, organizations must address weaknesses in the processes and infrastructure put into place during Covid-19, while also thinking ahead to crises in the future. If you can do that, you’ll set your organization up for a fruitful 2021 — and beyond.

Ronda Cilsick is Group VP and CIO at Deltek.

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