At the beginning of every year, after the craziness of the holidays, I like to take time to reflect on the previous year and assess the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s safe to say 2020 was a unique year as individuals and businesses took new approaches to everything they did. And it’s clear that the influence the pandemic had on enterprise technology will be felt for years to come.
Prior to COVID-19 many organizations were on a slow, but steady pace toward their digital transformation goals. That all changed overnight, roughly a year ago, when the impact and spread of the virus was grew rapidly. Businesses had to shift their work environments to encompass and support remote workers. Looking back, many of the technology trends we saw last year continue to be relevant in 2021 and should be built into your IT strategy – if you haven’t already.
- Cloud migration, microservices and the use of hybrid and distributed cloud
Prior to last year, the shift to the cloud was steadily increasing. In response to COVID-19 there was a significant surge in companies implementing cloud strategies to best support newly remote and distributed workforces. While planning their go-forward strategies to maintain remote working environments, many organizations found technology gaps that could have been addressed with the right cloud IT strategy. This year, I expect companies to learn from the lessons in 2020 and move forward with cloud-first strategies to support business, employees and customers. By removing technology maintenance and IT infrastructure, organizations create new efficiencies allowing information services professionals to focus on application creation, adoption and optimization.
Additionally, we’re seeing organizations increase their adoption of microservices. This trend further supports utilization of cloud solutions delivering the desired scalability and flexibility of a container driven deployment without the additional overhead and orchestration of superfluous workloads. I foresee more companies relying on cloud vendors and moving workloads between cloud solutions as needs and cost fluctuate.
- Robotic process automation (RPA) and hyperautomation
Content services platforms have always excelled at automating workflow processes to achieve increased efficiency and effectiveness. As new innovative technologies are developed, it’s important organizations consider the impact they can have when integrated into the larger IT strategy. Take RPA for example. While no longer considered cutting-edge, in 2021 RPA will be in its prime to help businesses further automate labor-intensive processes utilizing bots. RPA can bring some quick wins for organizations, automating mundane, repetitive tasks. Acting as an automation extension within a content services platform, RPA adds a layer of intelligent automation to further drive digital transformation within an organization. As a key initiative in 2021 and beyond, any organization that isn’t considering the value RPA brings for greater automation is missing out. I see the trajectory of RPA continuing within an intelligent automation theme, with the future encompassing self-leering bots and integrations with artificial intelligence (AI) especially around machine learning. In this prediction, systems and bots learn from previous scenarios and decisions to handle rules-based processes independently.
- Low code application development and rapid application delivery
Gartner predicts that by 2024, 65 percent of all application development will be done by a low-code platform. This is because low-code platforms allow for greater speed, flexibility and iterability when bringing solutions to market. Organizations need to recognize the value of low-code platforms beyond the ease of drag-and-drop configurability. The real value is the transformation low-code platforms provide with speed of delivery. In response to the events of 2020, we saw organizations rapidly build applications to address specific use cases related to COVID-19 or remote work environments. This year, I believe the focus of low-code applications will be to provide a complete view of information beyond just a specific process, transaction or incident. Additionally, I think we’ll see a tighter integration of technology, to provide better reporting, predictive modeling, evidenced based tracking, location analytics, microservice execution, collaboration, images/video viewing and more.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI and ML have long been hyped in the content services space for their transformational potential. AI and ML microservices are now available by technology powerhouses, such as Amazon and Google, and are therefore built on public data sets and accessible to anyone. These microservices, however, are meaningless without impactful and specific application to business – something that I believe we’ll see more of this year. One powerful example of AI-infused content services in the healthcare industry is the ability for AI engines to facilitate early diagnosis of conditions based on anomalies found in the medical images, sourced from trends or details that physicians had not yet found. We expect more seriously impactful applications of AI like this to happen soon.
- Death of paper and the rise of electronic forms and digital signatures
Ok, so maybe this trend has been around passively for some time. But no matter how strong a focus an organization has on digital transformation, paper still exists – either from an inability or unwillingness to change ways. I think COVID-19 should be considered the official nail in the coffin when it comes to paper-based methods, processes and payments. If there was any doubt, 2021 will put them out, and business processes will finally transition to digital-first preferences to meet user experience expectations.
It’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty what the future holds. If the events that unfolded in 2020 aren’t a prime example, I don’t know what is. However, based on the conversations I’ve had and reports I’ve read, I’m confident that the trends outlined above will continue to be at the forefront of business conversations and enterprise technology decisions this year. If you have questions, or additional trends you’d like to discuss with me I’d love to connect via email to continue the conversation.
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