Based on our 2020 experience, new year predictions may seem like a game of make-believe. But predictions are one thing, trends are another. Synthesis Customer Success Manager, Peter Mülders shares technology insights into 2021 based on emerging trends.
COVID-19 shocked all businesses last year. However, enterprises are becoming used to the new normal “and digitisation should return to previous levels of growth in 2021,” according to Mülders.
The continued growth of cloud
There was substantial growth in cloud this past year. AWS Revenue grew 29% year-on-year in quarter three to $11.6bn and Microsoft Azure Revenue increased by 48% year-on-year in quarter three to an estimated $6.3bn according to BMIT SA Cloud Computing Overview & Market Sizing 2019. The South African cloud market should expect a 30% four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) according to this same report.
“Cloud-hosted infrastructure and cloud-based software as a service is going to be big this year. We have seen how quickly Microsoft 365 grew by offering businesses the chance to connect staff without needing to deploy new servers. This is becoming the norm as you can spin up whatever you need in a matter of hours and scale it on demand. And that doesn’t just mean servers and networking anymore, all the cloud providers are pushing out new software on a weekly basis to make building a digital business not only faster, but also easier”
Lockdown and the risk of infection has pushed many new consumers to online shopping. According to the Future of E-commerce Report by Shopify, there has been a dramatic increase in demand for the convenience and immediacy of shopping online, and they expect this increase to stick.
Many retailers took to the on-line market over lockdown, but not all had the infrastructure to meet consumer needs. Infrastructures that support customer satisfaction (speed and immediacy) will be imperative this year. “E-commerce is exploding along with mobile payments. The technology platforms supporting these two things have grown enormously in the past two to three years and are getting much easier to use and to integrate into businesses with options available from Salesforce, Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify... it’s a long list of very strong options.”
- Contactless payments
COVID-19 has amplified the consumer and business demand for contactless payments to reduce the chance of infection, along with the security threats that come with having to hand over a card. “In the retail space, we’ve now seen contactless payments take over in 2020 after a slow start in previous years. Consumers now trust the technology, so it’s gone mainstream and is definitely going to keep growing.” Halo, a first in Africa solution, is an extension of this payment method - where users simply need to tap their card on a merchant’s phone to make payments. There is no exchange of card or even a dedicated POS device necessary.
- Hybrid emergence
“Remote work is here to stay as businesses had to take a leap of faith, and for many of them it was a success. I think we’ll see hybrid working environments emerging with some staff on site and some staff working from home offices, and in terms of security it means there will need to be a focus not only at the perimeter (firewalls, VPNs, etc) but also inside the business. There is a movement to zero trust that’s best described by Google in BeyondCorp, where you need to treat every part of your digital landscape as if it’s on the internet. You can no longer rely on an attacker never getting into your network as your only defence.”
- The Rise of personalisation
“With 2020 being such an online year, I think we’ll see a lot of big businesses trying to achieve better and faster personalisation. This means we’ll see them exploring lots of new technologies in the space of data streaming architectures to assist in real-time computing (Kafka is the leader in this space), and there will be lots of interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) work to understand customer behaviour and preferences. These are two niche industries right now, but they are definitely emerging as some of the strongest solutions to the problems. But beware the sales agent that wants to throw AI and ML at everything, they are just a set of tools in an experienced problem solver’s toolbox so they are not appropriate for solving all your problems.”
The key question, how do you take advantage of these insights?
This comes down to many factors, but three of which are having the right people with the right skills in an environment that enables their success through supporting processes and culture.
“I believe,” says Mülders regarding people and skill acquisition, “that enterprises often already have the people they need, but not necessarily the skills. So a focus on identifying staff that are interested in new technology, and then training those staff, will be the best option in the long term. But if you need skills today, you need to find a strong technology partner that can offer you consulting services and skills that you don’t have yet. They will also inject new ideas into your business and help you with a true all-encompassing digital transformation.”
Mülders emphasises the skill of obtaining quality data, “Without good data you cannot do accurate work in a digital world.” He then explains why change management is imperative to optimise technology, “There will always be people using and supporting your digital business, and those people are an integral part of your organisation. Without their full support your digital dreams will remain just dreams, so you need to spend time on the cultural and psychological parts of your business and its systems.” An organisation’s design needs to be aligned to the strategy. When transformational technology, such as cloud, is implemented, organisational change is often necessary.
Whatever trends arise in 2021 and whatever technologies you decide to implement into your organisation, focusing on the fundamentals of people, skills, processes and culture, as well as the technology, will lead to the greatest impact.