Let me start off by confessing that I didn’t have “global pandemic” on my list of technology trends for 2020. And whatever trends we did predict for 2020 were either accelerated by the pandemic or pushed far back into the shadows.
After all, we’ve already witnessed a decade’s worth of changes compressed into nine months of calendar time. The good news is that for as much chaos as the pandemic created, it’s also opened up opportunities for smart businesses that are willing to invest strategically for 2021 and beyond.
Here are three investment areas I’ll be watching:
- Embracing a hyper-adaptive business model
- Elevating the digital experience
- Doubling down on security at the network edge
1. Embracing a hyper-adaptive business model
Throughout 2020, we’ve experienced business disruption at an unprecedented scale. Business models were flipped upside down as both short- and long-term visibility got very cloudy. Yet despite this churn, many businesses have managed to thrive.
What do the winners have in common? They’re increasingly adaptive, responsive, and agile. Especially in a period of disruption, the ability to adapt quickly to new market dynamics or disruptions increases the probability of success.
The best way to succeed is by modernizing technology infrastructure and getting rid of legacy technical “debt.” To start, businesses need technology that’s flexible and resilient enough to allow for the unexpected. Even though we can’t predict precisely what will change, it’s safe to say that we’ll continue experiencing significant market disruption in one form or another. Embracing a hyper-adaptive business model provides the agility to adjust to whatever comes next.
Today, businesses that invested in digital transformation and ecommerce are already well ahead of their peers. On the flip side, businesses that hesitated to modernize before the pandemic now face enormous pressure—and technology hurdles—to catch up.
2. Elevating the digital experience
The era of social distancing and contactless service has brought a massive shift to online and mobile ordering across all types of industries. This means businesses must now deliver a frictionless digital and physical (omnichannel) experience—with the goal of forging lasting digital relationships rather than simply conducting online transactions.
Consumers now expect a seamless ordering, payment, and fulfillment experience. For example, the growing popularity of delivery and curbside pickup have made order accuracy and fulfillment much more important, because there’s greater urgency to “get it right” the first time.
One of the greatest disconnects for consumers during the pandemic has been a smooth digital experience that ends up with a less-than-spectacular human interaction. In other words, the technology does what it promises, but the human element fails to meet expectations—a critical element when business competition is fierce.
Networking technology also plays an integral role in elevating the digital experience for businesses that are now taking and fulfilling customer orders on mobile devices outside their stores. If the network—including guest Wi-Fi—isn’t highly reliable and flexible, the digital experience will suffer accordingly.
3. Doubling down on security at the network edge
One of the most significant changes caused by the pandemic has been the way we access, move, and secure data at the network edge—one of the most vulnerable areas for highly distributed enterprises.
Even before the pandemic, there was more activity at the network edge, fueled by the rapid rise in mobile technology, IoT devices, and new applications. Thanks to the pandemic, we can also add the influx of employees working from home. The higher workloads at remote locations now mean the network edge must deliver the same high levels of reliability and security traditionally associated with corporate data centers.
With greater potential for human error and cyberattacks at the network edge, businesses must be much more vigilant that their security policies and strategies account for this higher risk exposure. After all, cybersecurity is a common thread that runs across the entire enterprise.
Wishing you the best in 2021
My hope is that we’ll soon start feeling a sense of normality and get back to investing strategically in the future. Until then, I wish you a happy (and uneventful) 2021!