In previous years, digital transformation was a buzzword and an item on many companies' to-do lists, with some off to a good head start - on their own or with the help of custom application development companies. The unique circumstances of 2020 supercharged the process, rendering the old digital transformation useless and ushering in a new process: digital acceleration. Companies across industries needed to support remote work teams, so they quickly digitized processes and evolved new ways to handle data, manage projects, and collaborate.
While many companies have made great strides in modernizing their digital environments, they may still have work to do to truly bring their operations up to speed. Others still haven't started the process and are making do with separate applications like Zoom, Slack, and Outlook, rather than streamlined solutions.
No matter where companies are in their digital journeys, digital acceleration will continue to be top of mind for leaders, especially those heading up technology departments. The year 2021 will see developments in areas that will continue to be critically important, including those listed here.
Pressure to Digitize
For companies that haven't yet started a digital acceleration process, there will be pressure coming from many directions to do so. They include customers who demand new ways of interacting, such as omnichannel communications, industry regulations that necessitate savvy applications, and financial imperatives that require the trimming of expenses related to outdated processes.
Automation and robotics will play a role in the digital acceleration of some companies, especially those in industries like manufacturing. These technologies can contribute to efficiency, flexibility, accuracy, cost reduction, and improved customer experiences.
Additionally, as explained by ZDNet, "Automation is top of mind to enable innovation." That is, automating tasks that used to be handled by people allows those people to spend more time coming up with improved processes, products, services, and approaches to CX.
Enhanced Customer Experience
If digital acceleration was a big concept in 2020, customer experience (CX) was even bigger. That's because CX has become a leading factor for customer satisfaction. Customers are willing to pay more and make do with a smaller product or service selection from a company that prioritizes treating them well.
In 2021, companies of all kinds will continue to find ways to delight customers and encourage their loyalty and repeat business. Many of these solutions will come in a digital form, such as omnichannel communication options, modern apps, chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive activities based on augmented reality (AR).
Data Deep Dive
From the demand for an enhanced CX to the need to keep an eye on the competition, track industry trends, and refine productivity methods, the usefulness of data can't be overstated. In 2021 and beyond, companies will find new ways to collect, manage, and analyze data using improved analysis tools.
A recent Forbes article stated, "A 238% rise in attacks on banks, and a 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers were observed from January to April 2020 alone." Greater reliance on digital solutions has led to a greater need for digital cybersecurity.
Remote teams are especially vulnerable to attacks when team members are working from home and may not have the most secure setup to keep company data safe and communications secure. Therefore, organizations must be vigilant and ensure that new attack vectors are secured with the appropriate protections.
Everything as a Service
Starting with Software as a Service (SaaS), the as-a-service paradigm has expanded out to Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Analytics as a Service (AaaS). The Everything as a Service (XaaS) model will continue to adopt new services to deliver via the cloud as cloud computing continues to grow in 2021.
More Working From Home
COVID-19 pushed many companies to create work from home (WFH) arrangements for employees but working from home won't end when the pandemic does. Many organizations have discovered the benefits of this model, including higher productivity, reduced overhead costs, and improved employee satisfaction. The Forbes article stated, "Workers have been clamoring for increased work flexibility for a long time...."
The coming year will likely see a refinement of the technologies - such as secure connectivity and hardware solutions - and processes that businesses have deployed so far.
The need for transformation and rapid changes in technology require that businesses be able to respond quickly to new opportunities. Those that will be the most successful in 2021 and beyond will be highly agile. Many will engage in an iterative process in which quick adoption leads to new ways to manage operations and engage with customers - which leads to the need to adopt new solutions or new ways to use existing ones.
While 2020 brought much pain and suffering throughout the world due to the pandemic, it also brought on innovation and digital acceleration as a core element for businesses preparing for the post-pandemic days. As these plans continue to be implemented, companies will make use of the many tools available for essential shifts in 2021.