No matter what your opinion might be of the pandemic or our collective response to it, one thing is clear: 2020 showed the business world how important it is to have a robust, agile digital transformation strategy. Companies with the flexibility to pivot – sometimes multiple times – with employees, customers, and production did better in 2020 than those with rigid systems and infrastructure.
The experience of 2020 served to accelerate digital transformation trends that were already in motion before the mainstream ever heard the term “coronavirus.” Regardless of what 2021 brings us in the world of public health, the goal of digital transformation will continue to drive initiatives that deliver new and increased sources of business and customer value in every industry and geography.
Here are four major transformation trends that rose to prominence in 2020. They will continue to be of central importance in 2021 and beyond:
1. Get Your Head in the Hybrid Cloud
Realizing maximum flexibility is all about having as many applications as possible in the cloud. There’s nothing new about this, but enterprises are now increasing the utilization of hybrid cloud architecture.
What is a hybrid cloud?
It’s a unique combination of onsite and cloud infrastructure, sometimes with more than one cloud service provider and often in combination with an assortment of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. The advantage of a hybrid cloud is that businesses realize the benefits of each environment for specific systems while retaining the flexibility to alter architecture when and as-needed.
Having a hybrid cloud architecture means you don’t have all your IT eggs in one basket. The availability of multiple environments and the emergence of robust tools that simplify their management has made it easier than ever for each enterprise to set up and optimize its own hybrid cloud architecture.
2. Bend Over Backwards for Flexible Customer Experience
Before 2020, most retailers were either e-commerce with a small or nonexistent brick-and-mortar presence (Amazon) or brick-and-mortar with a small or nonexistent e-commerce business (most grocery stores). Suddenly, everyone needed to figure out how to merge the online and brick-and-mortar aspects into a cohesive whole to continue serving their customers safely and still make a profit.
For many retailers, this meant adding curbside pickup to their existing in-store pickup and delivery options. This also meant developing easy-to-use mobile apps that enabled retail customers to:
- Announce arrival and location outside the store
- Verify identity
- Confirm receipt of ordered items
But a flexible user experience isn’t just for customers. The reality of large numbers of employees working from home caused employers to demand easy-to-use communication and collaboration tools to maximize productivity and some semblance of connectedness.
Software providers rose to the challenge. Everyone from Adobe to Microsoft to Zoom developed or enhanced collaboration tools.
One important lesson of 2020 is that employees can, with proper tools, be just as productive (or more so) working from home as they are in the office. We can expect many companies to encourage employees to continue home-based work even after the pandemic subsides, so the importance of good collaboration tools that focus on user experience will continue.
3. Keep Your Data Ducks in a Row
COVID-19 has done nothing to stem the tide of data that afflicts all businesses. Now more than ever, organizations need new and better ways to acquire, store, organize, secure, analyze, and present meaningful data to support good operational, tactical, and strategic decisions.
Enterprises will continue to invest in data infrastructure, security, and analysis tools as critical components of their digital transformations. Bad data – whether from poor organization, incomplete analysis, or misinterpretation – costs businesses billions every year, so the cost savings alone is a major driver for these initiatives.
4. Automate, Automate, Automate
In an environment in which entire teams can be lost to two-week quarantines without warning, automation has become more important than ever. Businesses will continue to look for ways to relieve humans of tedious, repetitive, time-wasting activities with value-added automating wherever possible. Enterprises will leverage a number of technologies.
Two of the most important technologies are:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) – Although most AI solutions can address only narrowly-defined problems, that’s often enough to automate, or at least assist, a decision-making process. Look for AI to work its way into numerous business processes and applications in the coming months and years.
- Robotic process automation (RPA) – When two or more systems can’t “talk” to each other directly, it often falls to a human to do the job by some mindless manual process. Special RPA software can be configured to automate these processes and perform them with greater speed and accuracy.
The Time for Transformation Is Now
Important transformation trends of 2020 will continue to command the attention of IT staff and business leadership for years to come, virus or no virus. Waiting for the “right time” to start your digital transformation will mean falling further behind your competitors and the expectations of your customers, employees, vendors, and other stakeholders.
The right time is now.
AndPlus can help. Contact us today to learn how.