Top 5 business and technology trends to watch in 2021

Find out where organisations are focusing their efforts as we enter another uncertain year.

Last year tested every organisation, pushing our business models and ways of working to the limit. The businesses that simply survived to see 2021 have proved themselves to be innovators, quickly adapting to market changes, social tension and economic instability. As we enter 2021 still in the grips of the pandemic, we can see the influence of COVID-19 impacts throughout these business and technology trends.

  1. Leading with integrity

Concerns over social and environmental injustice reached fever pitch in 2020. So, it’s no surprise that consumers increasingly want to ensure they back businesses and, more importantly, leaders who share their values. In 2020, with everyone under new pressures, business leaders had no choice but to get personal. They shared in the struggles of poor Wi-Fi connections and home-schooling, alongside the anxiety and fatigue of running an organisation in such turbulent times. They had to embrace true authenticity as they wrestled with everything from market disruption to global, racial tensions. Although they couldn’t have all the answers to such challenging problems, consumers read into everything from how leaders supported their furloughed workers, to their commitment to diversity.

  1. Next level remote working

We’re approaching one year into working from home for thousands of new remote workers. This first year was somewhat of an experiment as many companies pushed hard to roll out laptops and get employees up to speed with video conferencing tools. But now we’re asking questions like: do we need or want offices anymore? If so, how should they look and function?

Over the course of this year, it remains to be seen what this reduced footfall in city centres will mean as organisations re-evaluate their location strategies. In 2021, organisations are looking at remote working as part of organisational restructures. Indeed, in July 2020, Barclays CEO said the company was likely to take a more ‘decentralised approach to staff working.’ Furthermore, in a BBC survey, almost 50% of businesses said they had no plans to return workers to the office.

Many people reported increased productivity when working from home. But it’s taken a toll on others’ mental health. Moving forward, as remote working becomes a long-term reality, rather than a stopgap, it’s important that organisations can provide holistic home working support. That means a combination of office equipment, schedule flexibility and wellbeing support so everyone is comfortable.

  1. Cyber-secure services

By the end of this year, the global cost of cybercrime is predicted to be $6 trillion per year. Having robust cyber-security plans in place should be a top priority for companies in 2021. Cyber criminals know that as the pandemic continues there will be more opportunities to exploit weak online systems and poor cyber security practices. As phishing email are still a huge cause of security breaches, investing in cyber security training is a vital step in practicing good ‘cyber security hygiene’. Equipped with the right knowledge, employees can be organisations’ number one defence against cyber criminals.

  1. Mixed reality

Just 12 months ago, there were some services that we never imagined would soon be accessed virtually. Companies have had to think innovatively to create digital solutions to pandemic-related problems. Embracing virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality – a combination of VR and the physical world - have become a way to help consumers get a more personalised experience even when not in store. It allows customers to experience products, for example, viewing how they’d look wearing a piece of clothing or makeup, from the comfort and safety of their homes.

  1. Skills refresh

With last year’s rapid technology transformation and the fact that our workforce now spans five generations of people, companies have a real commitment to ensure that all of their employees are onboard for this digital evolution.

As organisations produce more data and do more of their work online, digital and data literacy is becoming increasingly important. Bringing together systems that efficiently process data, with people who are empowered with data skills, will enable companies to fully embrace data-driven decision making in 2021.

Although the year ahead looks uncertain, we can see that digital and data, along with authenticity and inclusion are key areas of focus for organisations. It’s interesting to see that as we spend more time apart, we’re increasingly keen to develop and use technologies that bring us together and give everyone access to the services they need, along with creating company cultures that are truly inclusive.

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