In 2020, many questions were raised about the way we work; maybe in 2021 we will have our answers.
During the pandemic, businesses were forced to reconsider their priorities and adopt new strategies, tools and change their way of working. But how technology teams react to these new challenges will be fundamental in our understanding of the most important technology trends to watch in 2021 and beyond.
Necessity being the mother of invention, the pandemic has remarkably accelerated our capacity to adapt and evolve. As many businesses aim to evolve new digital capabilities and endeavor to build resilience for the post-pandemic world, keeping up with rapid technology trends is essential, too.
Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and the evolution of technology in the healthcare system, for example, have all redefined our scope for the future, and at a time when there are advancements in seemingly all corners of the industry, keeping up with everything seems too daunting a task. Predictably some might say then, this debate question was one of the most requested topics for debate for our Technology Leaders Meetup, and the debates did not disappoint.
Thank you to our moderators, Georgina Owens, Mark Chillingworth, Peter Stojanovic for their notes, and to the rest of the moderators and group who offered their insights that helped to create the below:
1 – AI and future of data
AI is finally being realized thanks to increased volumes of data and advanced algorithms. Our technology leaders pointed to AI almost as a magic solution that many companies are seeking to adopt to handle the complexity and scale of data being produced and used today. Machine learning, neural networks and natural language processing, and more, are helping businesses analyze data faster right now, however, and can now do more tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns. Leaders are reporting better vision, better understanding and more clarity in their strategies.
2 – Cybersecurity: zero trust
During the pandemic, many businesses catalyzed their cloud adoptions and reverted to BYOD (bring your own device). Consequently, zero trust has shifted from a business option in 2020 to a business imperative in 2021—and security leaders present were keen to explore this further. Our technology leaders highlighted the importance of moving from the traditional IT security models to question your assumptions of trust at every access attempt. Consequently, “How do we achieve a Zero Trust architecture?”, is a question that requires strong effort and planning to answer.
3 – Drones
Perhaps surprisingly, our technology leaders shed light on the emergence of drone technology usage in 2021. For instance, we heard of drones used for mines, railways, traffic management and accident sites. The adoption of drone technology across many companies moved from the exploring stage to the trending stage quickly as more businesses started to realize its importance, scope and scale of global reach. Not just a niche interest, drone technology has captured the interest of the general public as well, as well as global brands like Amazon.
4 – Blockchain?
Conversely, we heard that investment was flowing freely to data and security initiatives but not blockchain. There is currently little appetite to go beyond the research phase; although some leaders are interested in blockchain theoretically, there is marked agreement that investment won’t follow yet.
5 – IoT and privacy
The evolution of IoT raised a fundamental question about protecting consumers’ data and how to improve data privacy. Simply, the main concern of IoT that the more data you collect, the more control you lose. And as privacy is one of the most vocally supported topics in the public hemisphere right now, leaders stated they are doubling down on any misuses of technology.
6 – Technology debt
Last year, many businesses bought or requested a high volume of technology, processes, systems and products to cope with the pandemic. Now we are not in the same position and as the world is going into some semblance of normality, those same investments have turned into debt. Our technology leaders called attention to that if 2020 was the year of adaptation and rapid acceleration, 2021 is the year of its own debt.
7 – Partnership management
Technology leaders are already questioning the partners that are going to get them to the next stage of their evolution. They also raised two essential questions: how do you manage your vendors and partners in a new normal? And what does that mean for your supply chain?
8 – Quantum Computing
Some technology leaders gave prominence to how quantum computers could change how businesses approach real-world problems like financial portfolio management, drug discovery, logistics, and much more. The statistics we heard during the debate were mind-bogglingly game-changing. And yet—we still do not fully understand even AI so what are we getting ourselves into?
9 – Ethics
An argument could be made that technology doesn’t solve problems, it just speeds up our lives each time enough so we don’t notice them as much. With all this new technology we are still not that much different in society as we were last century, and yet the tools available to some of us are rapidly changing and we have had no mature conversation about how or why. Ethics allows us to frame that conversation and technology leaders must be a part of that, and so it was pleasing to hear ethics take such a central role in a technology trends debate.