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Top ‘new normal’ trends waiting to shape the world in 2021

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2020 was a year of shocks and rapid change, reshaping the way we work and the ways in which technology was used to support the new normal.

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Organisations that adjusted quickly were able to weather the storm and come out on top, though others struggled to keep pace with the digital acceleration required to survive.

This digital acceleration will continue to shape the tech and business landscape into 2021. Here are my top predictions for trends that will shape the next 12 months.

Agile strategy implementation

As countries begin to look beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, we will start to see a slow, staggered return to physical workspaces. But it will be an uneven recovery. Across the Asia-Pacific region and further afield, our countries and economies are very interconnected. So, even if one country’s recovery is going well, global uncertainty will continue until all major international players return to an even keel.

Naturally, this will create a scattered return to growth. To deal with this, organisations will need the agility to shift their strategies and spending on a quarter-by-quarter basis to ensure they can react to the macro situation. The appetite for traditional, large capitalised IT spending will be replaced with just-in-time agility.

A traditional approach to technology doesn’t allow this agility. Instead, enterprises and governments will look to subscription models over longer-term contracts or lock-ins, to ensure they have the ability to shift and innovate in the face of uncertainty.

A pay-as-you-grow model which encourages “fail fast” strategies will balance the imperatives to innovate with the need to reduce exposure.

Validation for digitisation a top priority

Regardless of how far they lag behind pre-COVID-19, countries and businesses alike will be pushed to a new level of digitisation in the coming 12 months.

Every organisation will have to rethink its model – even if we snapped back to how things were (which we won’t), our environment and peoples’ expectations have changed. To cope, even the most brittle organisations will need to embrace agility. This is being seen already – Japan, for example, has gone so far as to mandate increased digitisation across key government departments.

Previously, digitisation was the priority of the chief information officer or CIO, and not given attention by the CEO or the rest of the management. This changed rapidly with the pandemic when finally, the enabling power of digital transformation was recognised across the business world. It will remain a top priority throughout 2021, when having the right level of digital ability will continue to be vital for business agility and survival.

As a result, the CIO will become more prominent in business decisions and leadership, with their tech investments having been validated in a big way. The shift of IT from a cost centre to a key business driver will accelerate. Every business is now a technology business, even if they don't realize it yet.

Climate change to be back on agenda

If it hadn't been for COVID-19, climate change would have been the biggest global story of 2020. After being pushed off the global agenda this year, climate change will return to be the dominant subject in 2021.

Politics aside, it's clear the effects of climate change are real and we need to find a way forward. This is particularly true of industries like resources, transport and agriculture. As companies continue to embed and accelerate their digital transformation, they need to do this with a view on climate change and its effects.

Distributed businesses, for example, will need to increase their resilience. Major weather events will impact supply chains and factories in vulnerable areas.

In the face of these concerns, technology can enable better practices. Innovative solutions like edge computing will play a key role in this space – for example, implementing and tracking efficient and sustainable practices on the ground, tweaking and optimising on the go to increase yield, decrease emissions, better manage productions lines, and so on.

Recent political shifts should also bring the US back to the table as a partner and driving force for dealing with climate change, with reverberations globally.

Hybrid and multi-cloud strategy

Many Asia-Pacific companies that wanted to run head first into the cloud are catching up with their US counterparts, who realised several years ago that many mission-critical or legacy applications vital to the running of a business aren't right for the cloud.

Companies want cloud-like capabilities but need to keep optionality and flexibility. No one wants to be locked into anything. As such, CIOs will begin insisting on hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, or at the very least insist on portability assurances as they become increasingly cloud smart.

Globally, we have seen many organisations begin to modernise their applications and shift to a “cloud first” strategy, only to hit a wall when they find that key applications cannot be efficiently migrated nor refactored to a cloud-friendly model. Instead, a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy will be necessary to balance desire for cloud agility and economics with the reality of sustaining operations.

This will also enable the quarter-on-quarter agility businesses will need for the foreseeable future. Organisations will learn to take the long-term view and avoid being locked into something that next quarter might not work, if the world suddenly looks completely different.

If there’s one thing organisations should take from 2020 and apply to their 2021 strategies, it’s this: Disruptive change is inevitable. Flexibility and adaptability need to be core to business thinking.

Thawipong Anotaisinthawee is country manager for Nutanix (Thailand).

Published : January 06, 2021

By : Thawipong Anotaisinthawee Special to The Nation