The world at the beginning of 2021 looks a lot different than the world at the beginning of last year. Although a new, hopefully less chaotic year is upon us, the impact of the pandemic in the previous year will continue to shape the near future. The world of technology has played a key role in the response to this pandemic and will continue to be crucial as we work toward a COVID-free world.
As we charge forward into 2021 and try to return to a course of innovation instead of adaptation, we do so keeping in mind the lessons we have learned. The end of 2020 does not mean COVID-19 has ended, and trends like remote work are not going away, while others like contactless shipping are just beginning to become common.
With these new trends come new opportunities, new pain points and new paths ahead. How will our new reality shape the year ahead, and how will that shape our future goals? As we consider our positioning for the year ahead, let’s take a look at some of the emerging tech trends that we think will have a big impact on your business in 2021.
Even as people slowly re-enter public spaces, many companies continue to see the benefits of remote work, as well as the drawbacks. Yes, employees have generally reported being happier once they got settled into their home offices, but working from home has not been all positive for their employers. Largely, companies were not ready for their employees working from home on a large scale.
But as comfort with working from home grew, so did the demand for support. Zoom and Microsoft Teams were among those battling it out for domination of the collaborative-hub market at the beginning of the pandemic, while startups like Eloops, Tandem and Bluescape also entered the market.
Among other things, the procurement of hardware and defense from cyberattacks were among the original challenges of working from home. Some companies decided to allow staff to use their personal devices to access their work networks, expanding the opportunity for cybercriminals to access corporate data.
With remote access becoming necessary for companies, so, too, has establishing a “zero-trust” architecture with their cybersecurity. By always verifying the identities of those who attempt to log in to company servers, businesses can eliminate the “trust” that can create major security vulnerabilities.
For these reasons, businesses should continue investing in their remote working environments, and ensure that their team can maximize collaboration and productivity. Of course, that investment includes shoring up your company’s cybersecurity by refining authentication protocols.
Anywhere Operations and Contactless Shipping
As the workforce becomes spread out, business that went digital because of COVID-19 is expected to continue trending toward being done from anywhere. Physical storefronts will not disappear completely following the pandemic, but they should be adapted as an extension of a company’s digital arm, as opposed to the other way around.
Scaling business online will require massive investments in infrastructure to support it. That includes upgrades in 5G technology and edge computing, or the process of placing cloud servers closer to clients, speeding up data transfers.
Shipping will also continue to its logical, digital conclusion, as robotic deliveries should begin their full rollout in 2021. Corporations across the world have invested capital to acquire automated shipping companies in recent years, while more robotics startups have attempted to meet the coming need. These services are heavily reliant on the instant data stream from 5G for safety because critical processes, such as braking by self-driving vehicles, have to be made instantly and reliably.
For smaller companies that may not be able to afford self-driving cars, anywhere operations can still make business more location independent. Using Microsoft cloud’s Endpoint Manager, managers can control how company devices are set up, and the policies governing them, no matter where they are deployed. For more information about how we can assist you with this task, visit our managed cloud services page.
By removing geographical dependencies on staff, decision-makers can concentrate on hiring the most qualified candidates, not just those in their area. They can also begin to extend their services reach beyond their geographic location.
Additionally, higher data transfer speeds and capacities mean businesses will be able to shape their decisions using information that unfolds in front of them. With transfer lag eliminated by edge computing, decision-makers can use real-time trends to shape strategy on the go, wherever they are.
One key to success in 2021 will be to bring business to the customer. That could be via a self-driven car, but will most likely be by expanding into spaces that your clients live.
According to business’s brightest minds, anything that can be automated should be automated. In 2021, business owners now have more opportunities to leverage the tools at their disposal to cut out inefficient processes.
For smaller businesses, the key to keeping up with corporations is to optimize headcount. Hiring employees is expensive, so you must make sure your workforce is handling the correct tasks. SMBs may not be able to afford automated delivery, but they can automate many marketing, sales, and customer service operations.
Services like Windows Autopilot can automate the entire journey of device configuration from the factory to your employee’s hands when used in combination with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. That means companies’ configurations and permissions are already set up on each device, eliminating setup tasks for your IT department.
This is not to say that everything should be automated, period. Reducing headcount is not the ultimate goal. Instead, have employees handle what machines shouldn’t, while letting the machines handle the rest.
Choosing the correct tasks to automate is key in refining business processes, as well as reducing labor costs and human error. Businesses should look to leverage automation where they can, and gain productivity in areas where they would be better served.
EaaS (Everything as a Service)
If you cannot automate a task, there is a chance that you can outsource it efficiently instead. Cloud services aim to simplify everything for your business, and because of that, everything is offered as a service. You may have heard of software as a service, infrastructure as a service, and platform as a service, but what about artificial intelligence as a service?
Scaling your business demands a balance between expansion and budget, and as your business expands, so does its IT infrastructure. When that infrastructure expands, so does the knowledge required to maintain it. The subscription-service-based model allows companies to add what they need, at scale, without the massive upfront costs of owning the means to do so.
What if servers or hardware components are not what your company needs? Thanks to the aforementioned 5G and edge advancements, as well as the success of the x-as-a-service model, everything from energy storage to farming will be readily available as a subscription.
So why go with the subscription model instead of paying upfront and budgeting money elsewhere? This approach works well with buying a car instead of leasing it, but the difference is that your car won’t need important updates along the way.
For example, Office Professional 2019 has an MSRP of $439.99 for a perpetual license, while the collection of its subscription-based Microsoft 365 Apps can be had for as little as $8.25 per month. At that value, it would take over 53 months to offset the upfront cost of the perpetual license.
This is without considering that the perpetual license only provides one license for one device, as well as just 60 days of support for the product. With the perpetual license, the user is also responsible for storing and moving their license key to a new piece of hardware.
With the monthly plan, each user subscription to Office 365 comes with installation on five PCs or Macs, as well as five tablets or phones. Licenses can be moved and verified with login information, while support is available at any time, and apps are automatically updated. This is just one specific example, but similar benefits often come with any subscription service.
If there is a solution you need, there is likely a company that offers it as a service. This allows your business to optimize your resources and concentrate on what you do best. In 2021, then, businesses should consider whether certain operations can be outsourced or converted to as-a-service.
A Bigger World Ahead
Businesses should enter 2021 aiming to invest in collaboration and strengthening their cybersecurity. Elsewhere, network infrastructure improvements should maximize the efficiency of operations and expand business into previously untapped areas.
While 2020 showed the world what can happen when a calamity of unprecedented size and severity strikes, the lessons we gained should better prepare us for any similar events that come our way. The world is ready to show 2021 what can happen when we are forward-thinking and resilient.
At IT Support Guys, we look forward to helping you navigate this world this year.