Technology Trends 2021: Our take on the leading trend reports, including Gartner, IDC, and McKinsey

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When something as disruptive as COVID-19 happens, naturally we expect lasting change to come...

When something as disruptive as COVID-19 happens, naturally we expect lasting change to come from the chaos, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Yet, history tells us that it can take decades, even centuries to substantively change the way we live and work. Fortunately, technology moves a lot faster and this year IT was accelerated to meet the sudden need for decentralised working. With a return to the office still off the cards for many countries, and some businesses scrapping offices all together, what organisations need from their enterprise technology, has certainly shifted. 

We have reviewed the leading forecasts for the tech industry in 2021 and, combined with our first-hand knowledge of the challenges and aspirations of 100s of UK and European businesses, we have put together our top trends to help you prepare for2021:

From enabler to differentiator.

Technology and IT teams have long been thought of as the enablers, so businesses can achieve their objectives. This year, with lockdowns and a shift in ways of working, technology was not only enabling businesses, it became the key factor in how they adapted and how they served their customers. Lareina Yee, McKinsey Senior Partner said “In this century—and certainly, post COVID-19—technology’s going to be very much in the front. It will be the competitive differentiator for how all businesses and ecosystems work.” Lareina asserts that based on the success of technology this year, there should be a drive for greater innovation in the years ahead.

Creating customer experiences.

User experience is a natural focus in design and development but in 2020 it’s taken on an entirely new form. Digital customer touchpoints have traditionally been designed as accessories to real world experiences. Chatbots as a complement to customer service lines for example. With so many people confined to their homes, brands have been forced to capture the essence of offline experiences, digitally. For retail brands this manifests as an increased focus on personalisation, aiding product discovery and we’ve also seen an increase in ‘try on’ features using AI and AR.

Cue what Gartner describes as total experience, “Total experience combines traditionally siloed disciplines like multi experience (MX), customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX) and user experience (UX), and links them to create a better overall experience for all parties.” This new approach to engaging users allows for greater collaboration and a more streamlined user experience.

Still in the Cloud.

Cloud has been a feature on trend reports for some time now, and 2021 will be no different. Remote working and a cultural shift away from office-based work necessitated a focus on Cloud adoption in 2020. Infrastructure as a service is now the fastest growing area of cloud computing. This allows organisations to build and manage servers, networks, operating systems and data storage through cloud-based resources. In 2021 the focus will be on ‘Distributed Cloud’. According to Gartner “Distributed Cloud provides public cloud options to different physical locations. Essentially, the public cloud company maintains, operates and evolves the services, but physically executes at the point of need.” This can take many forms, from the popular, but immature on premise public cloud to Global edge cloud, which is designed to integrate with global network infrastructures.

People Matter.

IDC’s technology trends report rightly points out that none of the technological ambitions set out in their trend forecast can succeed without the right teams. The Forbes report summary by Peter High makes it clear “The acceleration to build business automation and productive workforce cannot succeed without the required investment in developing IT or DevOps teams and enabling them with the necessary skills and technologies”. While it is perhaps less of a trend that some of the other predictions we see in these kinds of reports, it is an important reminder that not only do organisations need the skills to satisfy these trends they must continually invest in their people and in staffing. The legacy of global lockdowns will come in the way organisations commission the skills they need, upskilling internal teams, crowd sourcing, and flexible talent.

To discuss your plans for your technology teams in 2021, if you’re ready to plan your talent needs for next year, or to talk technology industry trends in more detail, get in touch.