In order to navigate the troubled waters of 2020, many companies were forced to invest in remote working technology, cloud adoption and the provision of online services. It was vital to prioritise technology innovation. However, this year brings a fresh set of challenges. Businesses must now look beyond merely surviving and focus on continued IT optimisation and strengthened defences against evolving cyber threats, as well as ensuring that digital transformation efforts reflect the ever-changing parameters of the modern workplace. All of this must be done while continuing business operations amid an ongoing pandemic and a new national lockdown, with stricter, smaller budgets. So, the question is: how can businesses approach IT advancements amid a year that is rightfully going to be defined by a cautious approach to growth and defence?
1. Analyse IT investments to define the best approach
The pandemic placed huge pressures on every organisation in 2020; in fact, 81% of IT professionals agree that COVID-19 was the biggest technology pressure they have ever faced. Subsequently, many businesses didn’t take or have the time to re-examine their investments to ensure the digital transformation approach was right for them. Where IT projects were rushed, long-term solutions were overlooked, and short-term fixes were prioritised. Put simply, a lot of companies rushed into technology investments in haste.
76% of IT professionals are now expressing concerns about the long-term impact of their projects. The lack of foresight has left businesses with the burden of outdated tech. Throughout the course of 2021, the successful businesses will be those that take a more considered approach towards digital transformation. It will be imperative for decision-makers to step back and take the time needed to ensure all business operations are optimised effectively.
2. Unleash the potential of 5G
With 5G set to revolutionise IoT and innovate new edge computing services, businesses that adopt it will enhance their digital capabilities significantly. With transmission speeds reaching ten gigabits per second, and latency less than 4-5 times that of 4G, the finance and retail industries in particular will be able to perform real-time data analytics. Such improved analytics will pave the way for AI to power bespoke customer service experiences. The same applications will likely be used more in the manufacturing and transportation sectors, as faster information gathering and enhanced IoT enables both safer and faster execution of services.
3. Be flexible and prepare for the working environment to change
The mass surge to remote working has ultimately created new priorities for CIOs. Organisations now must make the office a more appealing place to work in order to attract the best talent, given the new lure and ease of remote working.
Throughout the next year, we can expect to see a shift to a hybrid business model that will accommodate both physical and remote working. Optimising remote collaboration, and providing the tech that enables this, will be key to success.
4. Harness the power behind behavioural analytics
Remote working was unchartered territory for many workers and companies at the beginning of 2020. As we continue into 2021, many people will be used to working from home, and some businesses have been analysing behavioural patterns in order to understand employee activity to help ensure remote working is enjoyable and sustainable for everyone. Tracking and maintaining social distancing have become the norm, and workplace analytics are key to doing this successfully.
Such analytics have helped improve safety within office environments by enabling the enforcement of social distancing rules in meeting room environments. The insights that are unlocked by this technology will be invaluable in 2021, as they also provide businesses with insights into employee working patterns. When these tools are combined with data sources, such as networks and meeting room devices, it provides business leaders with an all-important overview of employee engagement.
5. Be proactive when thinking about cybersecurity
In a recent survey, 25% of respondents reported an increase in fraudulent emails, phishing attempts and spam to their corporate email since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Employees who were working remotely were left more vulnerable and at risk. As remote working continues and the number of connected devices multiplies, strong cybersecurity is key.
Businesses were not prepared for the safety issues associated with remote working, even though 88% of IT leaders made changes to their cybersecurity protocols. This highlights that while it is important to embrace enhanced connectivity, it is crucial to rectify any mistakes that were made in 2020 to provide a safe working environment for employees. This year, investing in automation and AI-driven security products will help businesses gain control of the ever-changing landscape.
Survival in 2020 was a struggle. Successful businesses acted urgently and brought IT operations to the forefront, which pushed growth onto the backburner. As we venture further into 2021, businesses must learn from the past 12 months. It’s unlikely that budgets will increase hugely after the struggle of last year, so CIOs must overcome this challenge by optimising fully the investments that they have made throughout 2020. Doing so will enable companies to capitalise on the appetite for change that the pandemic has created.