It’s safe to say that 2020 was a year to remember. While the COVID-19 pandemic disruption continues to impact some industries harder than others, every company worldwide has had to learn to adapt to continue doing business.
For some organizations, that meant bringing their entire operations online. For others, it meant re-engineering their services to accommodate new health restrictions. Whether you are a restaurant owner, a construction company, or an IT services business, consumers and employees have grown accustomed to changes like remote work, on-demand delivery, and digital accessibility, all of which are going to stick around long after COVID-19.
After a rollercoaster full of challenges and transformation, it’s time to look ahead and start planning for the new year. A big part of what we do at Clients First is to help our customers understand the latest trends and technologies in business to stay ahead of the curve with what the market will demand from them. With many customers, specifically in manufacturing and distribution, we can offer guidance on what technologies will best prepare your business so you can capitalize on opportunities moving forward. Here are 7 of the top technology trends we predict for 2021.
Top 7 Technology Trends in Business for 2021
To create this list of trends, our ERP and business process experts took inspiration from Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021. We evaluated our own business and our customers over the past year and then prioritized what we think will make the biggest impact in the coming months. Interestingly, some of these trends are an evolution of the technology and business trends we saw emerge last year. Other trends were specifically chosen to help you meet current consumer expectations and tackle some of the challenges with a volatile economy.
- The (Further) Rise of a Digital Workforce
The pandemic has proven to even the most skeptical that traditional office workers can really be productive from anywhere with the right systems in place. Regional lockdowns pushed most businesses into finally going digital if they wanted to continue to operate. When employees could no longer go into the office, organizations had to transition to a remote work environment where their people could securely access data and systems and meet with colleagues and customers in order to do their jobs every day. Moving into 2021, we see this remote working trend and “anywhere operations” business model only growing.
With the infrastructure already in place, we expect to see more companies encouraging remote work and videoconferencing and even reimagining their workspaces in 2021. This trend also presents an opportunity for new business, as a virtual workforce lowers operating expenses and allows for fast geographic expansion.
- Cloud and Mobile Enablement
COVID-19 didn’t just fast-track digital workforces; it also accelerated how we use cloud and mobile technology every day. From healthcare and schools to online banking, we are living in a cloud-first world where businesses need to prioritize cloud adoption and modernization. Cloud and mobile technology are impacting how we connect and influences operational costs, speed of innovation, and organizational change in general.
To be successful in 2021, businesses in every industry need to continue finding the balance between cloud computing and business value. So much so that the US government acknowledge the imperative need for small business to adopt cloud technology by including cloud services and software expenses in coverage of the second round of PPP loans.
The advantages of cloud computing are numerous, but new deployment options have emerged to reduce network failure and data costs while increasing compliance, productivity, and availability. One of the major technology trends identified by Gartner this year is the “distributed cloud.” This rapidly growing trend is where cloud services are distributed to different physical locations but operated by the public cloud provider. Learn more about it here.
- Enhanced Data Management and Analytics
Over the last few years, data volumes have grown enormously. Businesses that leverage data to better understand their customers, predict trends, and improve strategic decision-making are the ones outperforming everyone else. In 2020, we experienced unprecedented market shifts across every industry. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in integrated reporting, business intelligence, data management solutions, and a noticeable rise in data analytics combined with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to predict new demand patterns. For manufacturers and distributors especially, this is imperative to prevent expensive overstocking, or on the flip side, feeding competitors due to lack of inventory.
By 2022, public cloud services will be essential for 90% of data and analytics innovation (Gartner). The keys to success are automation, integration, and adoption. With the right data management and analytics solutions in place, companies align and optimize their operations, make smarter decisions, and foster better communication and collaboration across their organization.
- Business Process Automation
The global pandemic resulted in an aberrant amount of job losses and unemployment around the world. Companies are working with a smaller workforce, remote staff, and suppliers are not as reliable as they once were. As manufacturing and supply chains eventually start returning to full operation in 2021, companies will face another hurdle: workforce shortages. Business process automation from ERP, AI, and the IoT will be a crucial differentiator and help many organizations put their focus on efficiency and business agility. In order to hit the ground running post-pandemic, companies need to have the right technology in place to be lean, optimized, and connected.
- Creating a Seamless Customer Experience
A common theme this year was adaptation. Businesses that kept up with changing customer expectations and demand by going digital and improving the experience between employee and customer were the ones who profited. From virtual support to digital platforms, companies were able to create a competitive advantage by switching to an omnichannel approach and providing an integrated experience through phone, email, live chat, social media, and offline. In 2021, we expect to see more and more businesses adopting these practices and new strategies that provide a seamless customer experience to drive sales and build brand loyalty.
- Continued Contactless Delivery and Shipping
In an effort to minimize contact this year, contactless delivery was born – and is here to stay. According to an Inc. article, the US has seen a 20 percent increase in preference for contactless operations. From grocery delivery to eCommerce, contactless delivery is a trend that will continue well past 2021. Learn more about end-to-end supply chain integration and other trends impacting the manufacturing industry in the blog post below.
- Increase in Cybersecurity and Data Protection
While the growth in remote work technology and digital business has led to a welcome increase in the speed that we share data and connect with people, it has also opened the door to new security threats. At the start of 2020, many businesses discovered that the data security infrastructure they had in place was not enough to prevent cyberattacks or ransomware and protect their network from downtime and data loss. Through a combination of data security training, data backup and disaster recovery technology, and business continuity planning, businesses have had to readjust how they maintain privacy and security. Learn more about hybrid cloud backup solutions and the cost of IT downtime here.
Future Proof Your Business with Clients First
The businesses that were prosperous during the pandemic and are equipped to endure the new marketplace ahead are those with the right business systems and technology that allow them to react quickly to the changes and do more with less. Looking forward into 2021, we want to make sure you are positioned to take advantage of the many opportunities that will come your way.
As a team of honest, knowledgeable, and experienced problem solvers, we have seen firsthand what an optimized business platform, ERP, data management, reporting, and analytics technology can do for a growing business. The truth is that not all of these trends will impact you, but there’s always a way to optimize your operations and improve the way you do business. Let us help by assessing your technology and business goals. We’re never going to sell you anything you don’t need, but we can provide expert advice on how to get the most out of your technology this year.