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InfoStreet 2021 Predictions
| - Small Business - Cloud - Business Owners - IT/Tech Solutions - Tech Trends - Team/Productivity - All - |
 Mike Connell

Image source: Shutterstock

The pandemic has changed everything, how we live, and how we work.

It has forced us as employees, employers, service providers, and business owners to pivot away from how things used to get done. And, in turn, it has redefined success. We find our wins when, where, why, and how we can.

From an industry perspective, it’s unfortunately all-too-clear what the impact of COVID-19 has been. Brick-and-mortar retail businesses, hospitality, and countless other sectors are in dire straits.

On the flip side, it is important to note that the pandemic has triggered some beneficial activities. Specifically, it has accelerated the need for and development of cloud automation.

A confluence of existing factors driving cloud transition has been further accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis: Cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020. This trend is likely to persist, as the exodus to virtual work underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology services.
- “Can you meet customer demand for cloud-based computing?” PwC.

Adapting to remote work

The realities of increased investment in automation and a need for “scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology services” reminds us how quickly we all adapted to remote work and how rapidly the concept of working from home indefinitely became entrenched as our new normal. We still have a long way to go, but the innovation and advancements we have seen are promising, and it’s clear there are more to come.

From now on, it’s clear that some trends will continue, but we also have some predictions for how businesses and technology will change as we all prepare for 2021 and the ongoing pandemic.

The first and perhaps most obvious prediction: Remote work levels will remain high. In fact, more than high, with market research company Forrester predicting a 300% increase from pre-COVID levels.

As a major portion of the workforce develops the skills and preference for effective remote work, they will expect a work-from-anywhere strategy from their company rather than an exception-driven remote-work policy.
- “Accelerating out of the crisis,” Forrester Research study.

As a result, remote work and supporting these remote businesses will focus on the foreseeable future.

Supporting remote work with automation

“Just six months ago, tech and business leaders would lightly suggest automation ideas, jockey for budget, and get nods and smiles for their efforts but little commitment,” said Craig Le Clair, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester in a recent article (“Predictions 2021: Automation Becomes A Business Imperative”).

“Now, automation has moved to heated board-level discussions that often end with statements such as ‘If we don’t automate everything we can, we may not survive.’”

New tools and technology bring about change and, usually, improvement. The prediction: More productivity, doing more with less, better communication and connectivity, and more potential for engagement.

Can we learn as fast as we innovate?

More innovation doesn’t always translate into positive change. The reality is that not everyone picks up how to use these new technologies on the fly. With that in mind, a big trend for 2021 is the ongoing struggle accompanying the adoption of everything we’ve automated and supporting our teams in their efforts to figure it all out.

According to Deloitte, “23% of employees have seen a change to their role and ways of working because of the implementation of these technologies, while one in ten has already had to retrain,” because their role has been affected by automation.

As a result, “To prepare for the disruption automation will bring to their organizations over the next three years, business leaders expect that they will have to retrain 34% of their workforce because their roles will sufficiently change as a result of the implementation of new automation technologies.” (“Two-thirds of business leaders used automation to respond to the impact of COVID-19,” Deloitte, November 2020).

The human touch

Offices should be naturally collaborative environments. Open concept spaces encourage open discourse. No Zoom invites or meeting requests necessary, just an impromptu huddle.

As a new hire and, more importantly, as someone starting in their first career role, one can observe, learn from, and model behavior (professional or otherwise) in real life.

In a remote-work environment, this is not as easy. The mentorship opportunities that can and should evolve naturally in a workspace are hard to replicate.

Prediction: With all these advances in automation and communication technologies, businesses and business leaders will learn how to engage with their customers and their colleagues in new and fascinating ways. The result: Many new entrants to the workplace will miss out on so-called organic mentorship opportunities.

The answer: To foster new talent, organizations have to identify new ways to build mentorship programs. Good leaders, managers, and colleagues have to be more observant and aware to build bonds and loyalty that help attract, retain, and foster talent.

Will automation replace real workers?

For as long as there has been researching and conjecture around robots and AI, people have discussed the uncertain possibility of creating our own replacements.

But, for now, at least, the Forrester study mentioned above indicates that advancements in automation are more about supporting, than supplanting, people. It’s about taking over repetitive tasks and ultimately helping everyone be more effective.

In the future: More of the same

COVID-19 has been attributed as the “digital accelerant of the decade.” Twilio, a cloud communications platform, compiled a COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report, indicating that the pandemic has sped up “companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of six years.”

As a result, while working from home/remotely has its hiccups, the reality is that we’ve figured out how to make it work, and for better or worse, the predictions suggest that we’ll be maintaining our new normal for some time to come.

When the pandemic is over, one in six workers is projected to continue working from home or co-working at least two days a week, according to a recent survey by economists at Harvard Business School. Another survey of hiring managers by the global freelancing platform Upwork found that one-fifth of the workforce could be entirely remote after the pandemic.
- “The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically,” The Atlantic, August 2020


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