If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that electronic communications and remote access are vital to our continued functioning as a society. It has also highlighted our ingenuity and ability to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
This overview of digital trends is a little different than typical year end/new year prognostications. At this same time last year, I was writing about innovations that would change how we live, work, and communicate in the coming decade.
Many of these trends and transitions have been fast-tracked by necessity. For example, global lock downs have pushed industries like educational app development to the forefront, a trend that none of us saw coming pre-pandemic. In some locations, schools remain closed and distance learning is the new normal.
That isn’t the only major shift in the ways society has learned to cope. Everything from employee training programs to customer service has changed.
What digital trends will affect your business in 2021? Read on to learn more.
Digital Trends That Will Affect Your Business Most in 2021
From contact-free food deliveries to employee onboarding, the theme for 2021 could be “The Future Is Mobile”. We saw this coming as predictions about the rise of mobile app development filled tech forums and eZines across the globe. But, we could never have imagined the speed and circumstances under which this evolution would begin.
Before last year, remote work was more the exception than the rule. Now, it’s no longer the domain of writers and business travelers. Social media platforms are more vital than ever as we try to remain sane and connected from afar. Videoconferencing is no longer a special event that’s used to keep branches and satellite offices connected or allow bosses to pop in for a weekly pep talk.
These changes are sweeping and global, but they affect all of us on a micro level. They’re now part of everyday business for companies of every size and industry as diverse as restaurants, production facilities, and public transportation. Even the entertainment industry has adapted with remote transmission and quarantine specials that connect entertainers together remotely and broadcast them live via Zoom to our homes.
Get Ready for 5G to Keep us All Connected
Shifts in how we live and do business have also highlighted the importance of developing learning management programs as well as the need for enhanced privacy and confidential computing. Many of us are even obtaining our healthcare via telehealth delivery systems, and customer data platforms are expanding at a rate that older tech could never handle.
This makes the availability of solid, secure, and uninterrupted connections more essential than ever. Many of us discovered the shortcomings of our current home internet connections the hard way as families were forced to begin sharing devices and networks due to working and learning from home. Family celebrations and holidays are even conducted remotely nowadays.
Because we’re being kept physically apart, interactive messaging has stepped in to bridge the gap, allowing us to build and nurture relationships in business and our personal lives.
These interactions go far beyond the text-only conversations of what will soon be known as “olden times”. If we can’t meet face-to-face, we’re sending video, images, and other large data files. We spend so much time on Zoom chats, it has actually created a condition called Zoom fatigue.
All of this sets the stage for 5G to go mainstream by providing the kind of speed and reliable connectivity we need to handle these exponentially increased workloads. It also sends a jolt through the cybersecurity and DevSecOp communities because more information and expanded remote access also provide more opportunities for cybercrime.
Corona relief efforts alone lead to 600 percent more cyber attacks on cloud servers and a 238 percent increase in attempted bank hacks. Pair that with ongoing social distancing requirements and demand for contactless, cashless financial transactions, and the need for greater security is compounded.
This leads us to blockchain technology, which hasn’t really been part of the mainstream discourse in the light of other priorities. Usually considered in terms of finance and cryptocurrency, blockchain offers additional benefits in our newer, more digital and distant world. Applications have the potential to revolutionize nearly every industry and create permanent changes in the way we conduct business on every level.
Blockchain is the ultimate democratized system. There’s no central authority or copies of data, and the open nature lends itself to heightened transparency and accountability. Each new block of information is added as a transaction progresses, creating a new and universally verifiable link in the chain. It’s also safer because the data contained inside each block is inaccessible.
The New Normal
The COVID crisis will eventually taper off, but the tech issues it created – and innovations it sparked – will remain with us. Greater autonomy and flexibility have been on the worker’s wish list for a long time, but many companies resisted allowing staff to work from home. This was partially due to unfounded fears about lost productivity.
Managers feel the need to micromanage. But, studies have shown that remote work increases productivity and staff accountability rather than diminishing it. Business leaders have also learned that a remote workforce can be very cost-effective. They’re able to save on overhead and re-invest those savings in tech.
This has led some companies, especially tech giants like Google, to transition to a 100 percent remote workforce. Even smaller enterprises are finding some combination of remote/on-premises work to have financial and staff satisfaction benefits. Many companies are considering making this a permanent work environment rather than a temporary fix during a global crisis.
This is good for workers, too. Employees have been searching for a better quality of life and a more equitable work-life balance. Telecommuting from home, greater autonomy, and more flexible schedules fulfill these wishes, and we have the technology to make this a widespread reality even after COVID.
This shift in perception also leads us to ponder …
The Customer Data Platform (CDP) Explosion
More people and more data traversing our networks mean a greater necessity for speed and reliability. It also affects data manipulation and storage. Security and access concerns triggered an evolution in the development of AI and how it’s deployed. This is no longer a nicety, but a necessity.
Big data is bigger than ever, but it’s coming to us in fragments from thousands, in some cases millions, of different sources. Artificial Intelligence helps us to sort and make sense of it all. Voice-enabled technology makes it more fun and easy to multi-task.
However, the AI and IoT will become more commonplace, and much ahead of an expected transition to automated workplaces, as another side-effect of COVID. Fewer workers in factories, warehouses, and other large manufacturing and storage enterprises mean robotics and other tech needed to keep production and logistics rolling.
Data access and proliferation lead us naturally to the problem of storage. Cloud-based systems became the platform of choice due to their cost-effectiveness and scalability. You could add or decrease storage as needed and access data from anywhere, at any time.
Remote storage and access also fed the evolution of software as a service (SaaS). Rather than a constant cycle of application purchases, installations, and upgrades, companies could get what they needed on-demand.
However, it is no longer advantageous – or secure – to do business entirely in the cloud. That’s why the award-winning Enterprise Architecture solution for 2021 is the hybrid cloud model. This environment allows companies to combine the expanded storage and access capabilities of cloud computing with the security of on-premises storage.
Partly as a result of numerous privacy breaches by tech companies in recent years, the adoption of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and growing calls in the US to take control of tech companies, we will see more companies finally take privacy and data security seriously in 2021. Many are likely to argue that privacy and transparency are hallmarks of their brand, making it easier for users to engage in or opt out of data collection schemes than before.
The crucial concern will be whether such companies like Amazon (via Alexa) and Facebook will join the trend or continue to quietly gather user information that is available to them. It will be interesting to see which companies will be committed to privacy, remaining in the status quo, and which will continue to collect data like nothing is happening.
Over the past year, we’ve experienced an acceleration of expected tech advancements. Many of these advancements were anticipated to change the face and pace of business by 2030.
We never got the chance to transition comfortably into a new normal. Concepts like working and learning from home will far outlast the COVID crisis. Some of us techies see this as a good thing, but it is a steep learning curve for the bulk of society.
Development took a jump start as the world struggles to cope with the new realities of COVID-19 and remote access. Digital transformations shape how we interact, learn, and conduct business, and they are developed and adapted by evolving circumstances in return.
About the Author!
Eisele Candace has 5 years of experience as a freelance technical writer, specializing in content related to IT technologies (e-prescription software, logistics management software, real estate apps, Airbnb technologies and so on) and web design. Holder of a Master’s degree in Journalism and Public Relations. She has written many posts for Yalantis – software development company. She also completed programming courses in “UI / UX design”, iOS and Python in Mansfield, OH.