Three Powerful Trends that will Transform 2021

2020 can be defined by dramatic change. On every front, from health to economic, political to social, the pandemic has forced individuals and businesses to adapt in a hurry.

The long-term effects will not be truly understood for at least another year, but in the short term some more agile businesses are making quick decisions and shifting priorities. How? With the ability to transform quickly thanks to two enablers – a culture where change is anticipated, and a stable platform of digital capabilities.

Take DHL Express, for example: Suddenly faced with an unprecedented growth of online shopping deliveries, it quickly scaled its IT platform to fulfil this demand. Or Philips, which invested in best-in-class process excellence to ensure business continuity and well-documented enterprise architectures.

These are great examples of resilience in the face of crisis, showing just how quickly many organizations have adapted by embracing transformation. And transformation is just one of the three major trends that have emerged from the pandemic that will greatly impact the way your company survives in 2021.

Here they are:

Transformation is ready to mean transformation

Although true digital transformation has been rare to date, the pandemic has changed all that. The levels of investment and timeline for change were supercharged in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic. McKinsey suggested five years of progress took place in eight weeks. At Software AG, we have clearly seen an innovation-acceleration effect driven by the crisis; for example, many enterprises invested in business continuity solutions and technologies to empower remote working abilities.

There are different estimates on the pace, but almost every company would agree that they have seen change, with 60% going through large-scale digital transformation. Companies are now seeing the advantages of taking software-first and customer-first strategies when it comes to digital transformation. They finally see “the point” to transformation – to make something better in real life. 

Generational change will alter business behavior

Millennials and, increasingly, Generation Z, are a group of largely digital natives who are about to become business decision makers. Digital natives want to do more than “the basics” when it comes to software. A generational shift means businesses will be more open to using technology in more practical ways: Rather than moving procedurally through Proofs of Concept to Minimum Viable Products, they are already skipping straight to MVPs.

There is growing demand for self-service solutions, not only in analytics but also in areas that were formerly dominated by IT-techies only. The new generation of business owners is willing and capable to design workflows, create dashboards, or analyze processes on their own, using tools that focus on a first-class user experience and interactive design.

Quantifiable or Quantum? Resilience-building tech is more important than big-bang innovation

Many predictions for 2021 will talk about quantum computing, which is poised to develop significantly thanks to funding flooding in from venture capitalists. However, as big of a bang as quantum could make, it’s not the technological innovation that most companies need in 2021. After a year of unexpected challenges, most companies will seek stability and resilience instead of a more wholesale big bang – because it’s what they need.

Much of technology innovation is not about finding the technology that no one else can find, or inventing something nobody has ever seen before. It’s about doing the important things significantly better than before. That is most noticeable when it comes to customer experiences, but it’s also essential for building resilience. The ability to weather unexpected storms is important, because there are more challenges on the horizon.

Companies that seize the opportunities to do the “simple” things well will be successful. Digital disruptors are perceived as technology masterminds, when really their skill is in affecting the customer experience. They deliver what the customer wants in a better way than anyone else.

In conclusion: What does 2021 really hold?

Anyone who can say with absolute certainty what lies ahead is a liar or a fool. However, we can be quite confident that there will be uncertainty and instability in many different forms. The ability to roll with the punches is crucial to success.

That’s the easy answer. In practice, that means using investments in digital capabilities to affect positive outcomes for customers, employees or partners. Keep looking outside of the boundaries of the technology itself for positive change…that is how businesses can steer their way to not only survival, but also to success.