2021 Business & Technology Trends Forecast

John Kalogirou, Business Development,  ExandiaJohn Kalogirou, Business Development, Exandia
2020 has been a challenging year for corporations and the global workforce due to the unprecedented economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to distancing, firms have been required to adjust operations and support a larger distributed workforce. The result has been for technology, software, connectivity, and intelligence to become a more critical component of companies’ operations.

The pandemic introduced challenges and opportunities including the reduced need and cost to occupy large offices in heavily populated cities, the relocation of employees to remote geographic areas, the need for dependable, fast and secure internet connectivity, and the need for systems to manage and monitor the expanded remote workforce. In response, firms expedited the adoption of technology in order to operate more efficiently. And so, with the pandemic macroeconomic changes at the forefront of our minds, we predict the following business & technology trends as we embark on 2021:

Cloud Adoption

Firms have been migrating IT infrastructure from on premise to the cloud for over a decade in order to capitalize on cloud benefits such as lower infrastructure cost, dynamic elasticity, on-demand self-service, pay per use, and easier implementation of best practices related to access, security, and management.

Cloud adoption has accelerated due to COVID-19 and continues to be an enabler and opportunity for our clients. Companies not leveraging cloud for IT operations are now at a competitive disadvantage to their industry peers in terms of infrastructure return on investment (ROI). Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) continues to be the leader in cloud capabilities and adoption, with Microsoft’s Azure close on its heels. A notable and welcomed change this year is the AWS addition of support for hybrid cloud architectures into the AWS ecosystem.

Distributed Workforces

Work from home has been proven to be a workable model both from an employee and employer perspective.
Work from home is expected to decrease after the pandemic passes but not to the levels prior to COVID-19 as some of the work adjustments made will be permanent. The need for connectivity, management and monitoring of a more distributed workforce will continue. As such, video conferencing software, networking and security solutions, 5G, team management and monitoring software and solutions are expected to continue to be in high demand.

Software Development

In terms of software development and services we are forecasting additional demand and traction with transportation related systems, e-Commerce sites, mobile enablement, compliance to best practices, and business intelligence reporting systems. In addition, new logistics requirements due to COVID-19 impacting business operations are translating in the need for new systems development and enhancements to existing systems, policies, and processes.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) concepts are continuing to mature from theory to practice. We expect continued growth and implementation of machine learning applications where neural networks instead of humans can be leveraged. Implemented use cases we saw this year include the following:

Cloud infrastructure use case. AWS introduced predictive scaling of infrastructure powered by machine learning models which learn to forecast expected traffic through monitoring of historical traffic.

Logistics transportation use case. Cameras installed on a truck docking station stream video to neural networks. The cameras leverage image recognition for license plate identification, look-up the customer and order by license plate in the database, and trigger the loading of the appropriate order to the truck.

Retail store use case. Cameras installed in an eyewear store stream video to neural networks. The cameras leverage machine learning to identify gender of each visitor and if they are wearing glasses when entering the store to perform analytics on demographics and buying patterns.

In summary, the adoption of the business and technology trends mentioned above is accelerating due to the pandemic. Technology is becoming more central and critical to companies’ ability to deliver products and services, as well as manage the expanded distributed workforce. We are expecting these trends to continue throughout 2021 and well beyond the pandemic.
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