Have you ever wondered why people tend to feel almost mystic awe at the threshold of a new time period? Why we stick to anniversaries, birthdays, and New Year celebrations. If it was just about a certain number of hours, days, or weeks, would it be worth the fuss?
As we prepare annual plans with our customers, we see a year as a set of goals and the steps we need to take towards them. But once we think more philosophically, we realize a year is more of a movie. New characters and new motives are treading the boards. Tech trends for 2021 are shaping the plot of this year’s movie.
We’ve lived through drama years, criminal years, and soap opera years. After a dramatic 2020, 2021 seems to be a Sci-Fi year with three main characters: a Person, an Organization, and a Machine. They have common challenges to overcome, that’s why they need to develop synchronously. Let’s see what twists 2021 has prepared for these characters and what trends they will follow to deliver a happy ending.
Storyline 1: A Person
The year 2021 is going to be a year of human-centricity. But the whole concept of a human is being reconsidered. The entire mind-body dilemma seems to have finally found its solution. Social distancing and remote work have taught us it doesn’t matter where the body is. It turned out, most social interactions can happen without physical presence. So just like product digital twins, person digital twins appear on the stage among other tech trends for 2021.
Trend 1. Personality. Digitalized
We have turned into a set of actions we perform in the digital world: messages we exchange with friends and colleagues, social media posts, food orders, and transactions we make to pay for all of this. Altogether, they form a replica of our personality and behaviors in a digital format. A person becomes a model of itself – still unique but more measurable and predictable.
This model enters a digital ecosystem where it interacts with other digital models through machines:
Trend 2. Digital ecosystem
A digital ecosystem is an environment with shared experiences. This applies to both syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations. From a syntagmatic perspective, all parties engaged in a certain activity meet in a common digital reality. For example, a patient who books a doctor’s appointment via a mobile app gets a reminder to put on a face mask when he enters a clinic. Administrative staff can check their info using QR-code sensors and proceed with giving an electronic health card to minimize physical interaction. In this scenario, they all share the same digital experience.
From a paradigmatic perspective, a person expects the digital world to be built around them. This is a new, digital kind of egocentrism that is shaping tech trends for 2021. Technologies with single-point access are becoming more and more popular. Companies that provide extended experiences gain customer loyalty. This sounds like a story of co-dependent relationships where a person strives to capture all their attention. Now, let’s look at the situation through the eyes of the second party.
Storyline 2: An Organization
Organizations have two levels of integration into the digital ecosystem. From the inside, they use technology to build connections and experiences for employees. Also, they interact with clients outside an organization. All-round digitalization makes it logical to assume that organizations should consider technological aspects at each stage of the decision-making process.
Trend 3. Tech-based strategy
Unless a company invests in digitalization at the stage of strategic planning, a lack of technological basis turns into a huge burden that prevents it from moving forward and keeping pace with tech trends for 2021. Technology seems to be the one and only fulcrum in the world where everything changes in so many unpredictable ways. Building a growth strategy based on technological trends is a wise thing to do. This will ensure business sustainability in the digital ecosystem.
Once the technology and digital transformation become a core of your organization, you will be free to enter the world of innovations. The tech-based strategy enables visionary leaders to have a broader perspective and make bolder moves, which implies cost-effectiveness, agility, and security for the whole company.
Trend 4. Total automation
Digital transformation goes hand in hand with hyperautomation. While describing tech trends for 2021, Gartner positioned it as “everything that can be automated should be automated.” This included using RPA and AI technologies for:
- faster and more precise data processing
- taking routine tasks off employees’ shoulders
- managing risks based on data analysis
- improving customer experience
Business experts emphasized that there needs to be a link between all the technologies a company implements. As only interconnected streamlined technologies form an efficient stack, while a hodgepodge of programs will only confuse employees.
As for 2021 tech trends, the definition of hyperautomation goes even beyond. It presupposes not only automating as many tasks as you can but also expanding the functions this automation performs. Apart from accelerating and streamlining routine processes, machines are trusted to make decisions, design, and make predictions based on digital models. At this point, organizations start realizing they can engage in a dialogue with machines. The Sci-Fi plot has become a reality.
Trend 5. Machine-first data format
To make communication between organizations and machines happen, they need to speak the same language. Machines have made some progress in mastering a human language, but this is far from perfect. On the contrary, people know the language of machines, as they’ve initially created it, and can translate the data for them. This is what’s going to happen in 2021: as machines become engaged in more and more processes, more and more data will become digital-first.
Twenty percent of respondents of Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, 3rd Edition are intended to focus on modernizing data infrastructure for AI. They believe this will become the main competitive advantage of AI adoption and one of the tech trends for 2021.
Data digitalization, though, can’t be implemented to the detriment of human employees. You should remember that technologies are aimed to make employees’ lives easier, not overcomplicate them. It would be helpful to make specialists more tech-savvy through various training programs and ensure they are fluent in the digital-first language.
Storyline 3: A Machine
Machines are the only characters of this Sci-Fi year who are in their natural habitat. Tech trends for 2021 are their shiniest moment. Unlike us, they were born to exist in the digital ecosystem, and our reality is an observing material for them. And they are watching us from the inside of the digital world. Okay, let’s not turn our Sci-Fi into a thriller. As scary as this may sound, this is for our safety as they’ve got us covered. Here’s how this partnership works.
Trend 6. Internet of Behavior
In our everyday aspirations, we tend to forget about small things. Like where we put our keys, whether we turned off an iron or washed our hands. Meanwhile, the pandemic made us reconsider all our forgetfulness. That’s why IoB is among the TOP tech trends for 2021. Unlike us, machines don’t tend to forget about the necessary routine tasks. In fact, they don’t even know what “forget” is about. What they do know is how to verify our personality, track our location and activity and analyze this data to moderate our behavior.
Some people debate this sounds like a privacy violation. But no one minds when their Apple Watch reminds them to take a break and do a short workout. Reminders to put on a mask when entering a public place are just as crucial as taking breaks, then why shouldn’t they be in place?
Apart from sending reminders, IoB, as one of the tech trends for 2021, presents opportunities for effective workforce management, experiments, and testing. If you want to figure out how this can work for your company, let’s brainstorm this together.
Trend 7. Scalable cybersecurity
Even though machines are accused of controlling people, the latter are out of their reach in many aspects. This creates certain challenges for security policy. As soon as today’s workers are free to stay at home or work from a café, the same applies to the data they possess — it can be anywhere at any time.
“We’ve passed a tipping point — most organizational cyber assets are now outside the traditional physical and logical security perimeters,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. And that’s how companies are going to deal with this challenge in 2021:
- The cybersecurity mesh approach gains momentum: the infrastructure is built not around a physical location but around an identity. This approach is more flexible as it allows building multiple perimeters for individual users. As a result, they can safely access the network from various locations and devices.
- AI technologies will support the cybersecurity mesh approach by improving personality verification procedures and automatic thread detection.
- Companies will invest in securing the IoT technology as it’s going to burst in 2021 as the 5G network becomes available.
- The cyber insurance market is expected to reach $9.5 billion in 2021. Companies will more often pay for protection that ensures the business won’t be crippled as a result of ransomware or malware.
- Risk qualification technologies are among tech trends for 2021 as it’s always easier to prevent fraud than to eliminate its consequences. Organizations will rely on ML and AI to estimate potential exposure to threats and predict how they can impact business stability.
Trend 8. Distributed cloud
The era of long-distance relationships between a user and data seems to have come to an end. They used to be in different time zones, separated by borders, but not anymore. Distributed cloud technology allows storing data outside the centralized data centers, closer to an end user. This enables real-time data processing and lowers latency.
“The next generation of cloud computing, retains the advantages of cloud computing while extending the range and use cases for cloud,” says David Smith, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner.
Apart from obvious convenience, this is also a matter of compliance as laws and policy regulations require some data to stay in a specific location. This applies to private, medical, trade, or military data. With distributed cloud technology, companies can stick to these requirements without sacrificing data volume or processing speed.
As you can see, the story of a Personality, an Organization, and a Machine makes a typical hero’s journey. According to the narrative theory, a hero crosses a metaphorical border, goes on a journey and returns transformed. As all our characters follow tech trends for 2021 and cross the border of the digital world, they will experience digital transformation on their way. No matter how curious we are about what they will look like once it happens, this is next year’s story. We’ll see what genre it will be in.
However, there’s one point that makes it all really promising at the end of the day. Even if we’re in a Sci-Fi movie, this is an interactive one. It depends on us how the plot will develop. And we can meet in this digital world to navigate its challenges armed with double expertise.