In the Midst of Change: What Can We Expect in Data and Technology for 2021

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Click to learn more about author Ravi Shankar.

2020 is a year that will not be forgotten quickly due to the global pandemic and its impact on billions of people around the world. Responses and adaptations to a rapidly different business environment accelerated change in how businesses function and their uses of data and technology. Companies had to be creative in order to do their best to manage not only business continuity but to find new opportunities in the midst of the challenges. Organizations looked to technology to better understand people’s behavior, enhance business flexibility to operate remotely, and increase productivity gains from automation. These accelerated the adoption of technology during the pandemic and laid the foundation for a number of trends that will continue to grow in 2021.

In particular, the trends that will shape business investments in the coming year include:

TREND 1: Internet of Behavior (IoB)

An extension of the Internet of Things, the Internet of Behavior (IoB) utilizes technology to track people’s activities and uses the data to predict and influence their behavior. Technologies including smartphones, location tracking, digital voice assistants, facial recognition cameras, smart speakers, and sensors in stores, factories, and offices gather data and associate them with behavioral actions such as payment method, purchase decisions, item preferences, adherence to codes of behavior, and other activities. The IoB can use behavioral analytics based on this device data for companies to predict and influence behavior and enable more personalized experiences. Making this vision a reality requires better connecting and leveraging data from the edge to warehouses containing information on people and predictive models.

TREND 2: Anywhere Business Operations

During these difficult times and the challenges of remaining healthy in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, companies have increasingly adopted an anywhere operations strategy model to successfully continue operations during the pandemic. This approach enables companies to seamlessly connect with customers, employers, and business partners operating in physically remote environments — anywhere. Business can take place anywhere through digital systems, making it possible for remote and mobile employees to be full participants in activities that used to require a physical presence in a specific location. This strategy requires enhanced ability to deliver digital experiences to abstract locations from work through secure remote access to systems and data, cloud computing, and remote work automation. The long-term benefits include greater flexibility for business and greater opportunities for work/life balance for employees.

TREND 3: Extreme Automation

For decades, businesses have leveraged information technology and automation to increase productivity and movement, but this came to the forefront in 2020. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation process for many companies, and for many, this has meant to trying to automate every process and part of their businesses as much as possible. Companies are replacing their legacy human-driven business processes with digitally enhanced workflows and work processes to achieve much greater business agility and reduce dependency on human participation, which may have limitations due to safety regulations and policies. Increasingly, companies are looking to automation to increase accuracy and speed, not only the execution of tasks but business decision-making through AI-powered automation. Organizations are pushing the limits of automation to not only function better during the pandemic but also to create the foundation for fundamentally more efficient approaches to operating their businesses going forward.

While few people will look back on 2020 in a positive light, we learned, if nothing else, that humans are extremely adaptable and were able to find ways to not only cope with the situation but use it as an opportunity to make progress. Going into 2021, organizations that reacted quickly and invested in approaches to make the best of last year’s challenges will be able to benefit from riding the ongoing trends pushed forward by the year of accelerated change.

In 2021, businesses will be able to drive growth by better understanding and reacting to human behavior, creating businesses that can operate independently from physical locations, and benefit from greater strides in automation. If anything positive can come from this painful year, it may be the growth that will result in 2021 and the coming years that resulted from our creative adaption to a year of challenges.

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