“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”- Alan Kay
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ – that’s what 2020’s all about! The last couple of months alone have produced more digital transformation than the last decade. Technologies that were long ignored became an intrinsic part of life and work (thanks to our increasingly online and digital lives). Businesses were forced to adjust not by choice, but out of necessity. And before we realized, here we are, again, at the end of December, gazing at the crystal ball, trying to figure out what 2021 would look like for enterprise technology.
Good news is, the major disruptions of the COVID-19 era are opening new opportunities for businesses, enabling tech leaders to better prepare for the ‘next normal’ and look at a whole host of changes that were already on the cards anyway. So, as the year comes to a close, we asked experts in the tech industry to make predictions about the future of enterprise technology and where it’s headed in 2021.
Here’s what the experts say.
In the ‘next normal’, organizations will have to adopt digital led business models to address the evolving needs of the customers and new supply chain models. Long-term strategy planning will have to be complemented with agility of execution. Enterprises will need to reimagine their strategy across customer and people and technology will be at the heart of this strategy planning and decision making.
The pandemic has brought to forefront new and innovative employee experience with collaborative working styles. The Future of Work will see an enhanced focus on employee wellbeing, employee engagements, more emphasis on training and reskilling in the coming year. In addition to distributed ledger, AI and Cloud, technologies such as 5G, Edge Computing, AR/VR, Nano tech and Quantum computing will see significant adoption in new products and services resulting in new business models. We will also see an increased and concerted efforts from corporates to integrate their business priorities with sustainability priorities. – Ashwin Yardi, CEO, India, Capgemini
“The pandemic is significantly increasing investments in automated solutions this year, such as AI, ML, and robotic process automation (RPA). So, in 2021, I predict more businesses will become platform-driven digital business and use of these technologies will continue to rise. This will help them automate routine, repetitive, predictable tasks and unlock tactical benefits.
These innovations will strengthen operational efficiency, increase accuracy of platforms, and improve user experiences across ecosystems. This will also drive cost efficiencies and realignments, by helping businesses intelligently repurpose these savings in the right innovations. Looking forward at what poses to be an increasingly more uncertain future, expect businesses to continue to gravitate towards solutions that make them more resilient and agile,” – Srinivasan CR, Chief Digital Officer at Tata Communications
“The pandemic inspired new ways of working and underscored the necessity of business transformation. Despite news of multiple vaccines, hybrid working will remain for the foreseeable future. For businesses, continuing to develop a technology-enabled flexible work environment that supports a hybrid working culture will be critical. We also expect an increased focus on addressing security concerns, particularly with the rise of cloud-based software and collaboration technology which open up potential vulnerabilities. Enhanced security measures will be a top priority in 2021. This is especially true for SMBs, which are more at risk to security breaches due to overburdened staff, smaller tech budgets and less in-house IT security expertise.” – Leo Joseph, Managing Director, Xerox India
“This has been an extraordinary year. And as India raced to adapt, it witnessed a distinct upswing in technology adoption across sectors to maintain business continuity, ensure access to essential services and even monitor the situation. Technology has truly emerged from the realms of the IT department to influence every aspect of how we work, study, access information and essential services and even how we socialize and connect. As we move into 2021, there will be a sharpened focus on leveraging next-generation technology, such as AI, IoT and robotics to drive growth and progress across sectors. I am looking forward to seeing how the tech-powered future of India unfolds and to being part of the transformation story in the country.” – Pradeep Nair, Vice President and Managing Director, VMware India
“The smartphone market has been impacted by COVID, but in 2021, we expect a rebound in smartphone unit volumes, coupled with robust average capacity growth across both DRAM and NAND solutions. 5G handset volumes could grow to approximately 500M units in 2021, from around 200M units in 2020, and these 5G products feature higher memory and storage content to enable enhanced user experience. The data center market is expected to start its transition to DDR5 in the second half of FY21, and networking and 5G deployments, particularly in Asia, will drive healthy DRAM bit growth quarter-over-quarter. Work from home trends continue to drive strong demand for notebooks, we expect resurgence in desktop PC sales after a weak 2020 due to pandemic-driven changes to customer buying patterns.” – Anand Ramamoorthy, Managing Director, Micron India
“A growing trend in hybrid working enabled with digital transformation was witnessed through 2020. A key learning has been that every business needs to be a digital business. Resilience, adaptability, and lifelong learning have been key skills that stood out. The leadership structure and work culture underwent a sea change as organizations strived to limit the pandemic backlash and drive a digital and hybrid transition. Learn, unlearn, and relearn became the new superpowers as leaders tried to accelerate automation and enterprise sustainability. Many organizations worked towards ensuring business continuity employee wellbeing and pivoted towards adapting themselves to navigate and survive through the storm. As we enter 2021, organizations will focus on talent strategies, leadership, and culture, combined with a focus on deep tech, and reskilling, will boost our resilience and stand us in good stead during future upheavals.” – Rajiv Bhalla, Managing Director, Barco India
“2020 has set the stage for 5G to go mainstream and in 2021, driving the next level of innovation across sectors, be it remote working, gaming, healthcare, manufacturing, video and data consumption, setting the pace for a smarter and faster-connected devices ecosystem. This will also lead to an increase in demand for next-gen 5G smartphones, newer applications and smart devices like smart TVs, tablets, phones integrated with voice interface etc. 2021 will see a bigger trend towards improved remote work capabilities with 5G SoCs taking smartphone and smart device experience to the next level. The pandemic has acted as a great catalyst expediting digitalization and faster adoption of transformative technologies like Artificial Intelligence, AIoT, Robotics and Cloud Computing, among others.” – Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India
“To foster resilience and agility in the new normal, enterprises are fast-tracking their digital transformation, turning to remote/hybrid operations and automation. Here, 5G will allow companies, irrespective of size, to facilitate seamless and secure collaboration between widely dispersed teams, enable contactless manufacturing, and connect mission-critical IoT devices reliably and provide for a significantly enhanced user experience. Ultimately, if 4G was about speeds and feeds, 5G will be about creating experiences, and its possibilities for enterprises are endless. To help enterprises tap into the potential of 5G, Cisco is building the “internet of the future”, with an end-to-end strategy around silicon, optics, software, and security which form the foundation for enabling all key 5G services for telecom service providers.” – Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers, Cisco India & SAARC
“In modern business, CISOs can no longer operate solely within the parameters of a security program. They have to expand their understanding of how businesses operate in order to truly understand how best to protect them. The pandemic too massively affected how cybersecurity protection is delivered to organizations and users, fast-tracking remote workforce support and accelerating cloud adoption. It forced organizations to switch for supporting and securing remote workers at a pace and scale they couldn’t have imagined. Indeed, security has evolved as a business enabler in this new normal. At the board level, this transition also had another impact: it’s helping boards to see value in digital transformation efforts across multiple areas in an organization. The upshot: it has elevated the roles of CIOs and CISOs to the board level—one of the big reasons why many are looking to double-digit growth in terms of cybersecurity funding through 2021.” – Surendra Singh, Senior Director & Country Manager, Forcepoint
“As we head into a new decade, it’s obvious to think about what the future will have in store for us. From a cybersecurity perspective Cyber risks are here to stay and they are going to rise (as it only takes one bad click to breach your system). In 2020, we saw the rise of threat attackers cherry pick protocols that were used for meaningful exploitation. While this is likely to continue in 2021, attacks on Network Time Protocol (NTP) and Windows-time service may be next. There is a need to keep pace with trends such as Cloud, Zero Trust, AI and analytics that will shape how we address cybersecurity. However, being proactive is the need of the hour. Even with the increased awareness on the importance of cybersecurity, globally, it is predicted that in 2021, there could be one attack every 11 seconds! Hence, the need of the hour moving forward, is to focus on the entire threat lifecycle in a proactive manner.” – Neelesh Kripalani, Sr. VP & Head- Center of Excellence – Clover Infotech
“As we step into a new data-driven world, business leaders are taking the compassionate leadership route at the helm of this new normal. As for the future, it can only be navigated successfully by leveraging the in-house data lake through optimized data management solutions, empowering the workforce and clients with robust endpoint protection framework, augmenting use of cloud native applications across environments and unleashing the potential of 5G. While 2021 and beyond looks promising, the onus lies with digital enterprises to choose the sustainable route and become Future-Ready. Ultimately, the decisions enterprises’ make from here on, be it their IT systems or data security, should not just reflect the capabilities to stay successful today but also deliver ammunition to fight the uncertainties and threats of tomorrow,” – Ramesh Mamgain, Country Manager, India and SAARC, Commvault
“2021 and beyond will see software product companies play a larger role in empowering organizations across industries with the right set of cutting-edge technologies to future-proof their operations. The next phase of the new normal is going to see the emergence of connected enterprises—where there is a perfect synergy between all the processes, people, and systems—inside and outside the organization. 2020 has made us realize that digitizing individual processes is no longer enough. Organizations must adopt a single, unified platform to drive enterprise-wide digital transformation and improve their business outcomes. There are structural shifts in the industry toward low code, hyper-automation, and cloud—critical capabilities that can facilitate agile and anytime-anywhere operations in a paperless environment.” – Diwakar Nigam, Chairman and Managing Director at Newgen Software
“There has been a complete paradigm shift across sectors due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The trends have shifted from large scale investments to the consumerization of the technology. Going forward, we will see minimal investments in the infrastructure by the large organizations as they prepare their organizations for a hybrid workforce in this new normal. Additionally, huddle rooms and conference rooms are days of past as cloud-based collaboration and remote working solutions have digitally transformed the workforce and the future of work. In 2021, organizations will invest in infrastructure in a distributed manner to provide a similar and effective experience as enterprises pave way for flexible hybrid work model for employees. Undeniably, the customer experience and collaboration sector has evolved during these unprecedented times and that the industry now has enhanced resilience, and formulated companies from varied sectors for success.” – Vishal Agrawal, MD, Avaya India & SAARC
“The pandemic has had an immensely negative impact on women entrepreneurs, as they suffered from factors such as lack of customer orders, supply chain disruptions, limited workforce, and financial crunch. Along with all these financial problems they also had to suffer from personal challenges which they faced at their homes. 2021 should mark the dawn of a brighter future for India’s women entrepreneurs because as per a joint report by Bain & Company, Google and AWE Foundation, 80% of women entrepreneurs expect demand to bounce back to pre-lockdown levels by March 2021 while some believe it might happen by this December; but let’s admit that estimations can sometimes waver. However, at the same time this pandemic has boosted the digital revolution in India which could act as a highly profitable domain for women entrepreneurs in the near future as it has already helped them to sustain their businesses in such harsh times.” – Jahnabi Phookan, National President, FICCI FLO
“With most people now acclimatized with ‘virtual’, 2021 will see a shift towards more permanent digital stakeholder engagement and experiences. Contactless everything will see increased focus right from manufacturing to sales and delivery. Customer engagement in most industries like, banking, healthcare, retail, education, will focus on deeper digital experiences including augmented technologies from AR and VR. AI will get more pervasive, encompassing the huge data ecosystem as well as unstructured content to drive insights and predictions in addition to automation. Enterprises will focus on building new capabilities via digital including faster time to market, customer outreach as well as building new customer segments. This will necessitate building stronger digital trust to protect internal as well as external stakeholder privacy, data security, transparency and stronger focus on social responsibility. Good talent supply will be a huge area of focus as well as concern for everyone.” -Srividya Kannan, Founder, Director – Avaali Solutions
“The coming year will witness Hybrid Banking going mainstream. In a hybrid banking model, financial institutions combine the brick and mortar physical banking approach with virtual banking. The banks should be using the technology and digital for creating Integrated Banking with a Human Touch. While the regulations like Video Banking and widespread adoption of digital opens ways of expansion, banks will have to strive for retention of customers and convert this expansion and growth to bottom line. Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence that have been in the discourse for years will play a major role in creating new age banking and will see rapid adoption for implementation for various use cases. While 2020 forced businesses to learn and evolve, 2021 is the time to implement those learnings. Undoubtedly, it is going to be a path-breaking year, one we hope will set new milestones for the banking ecosystem.” – Lalit Mehta, Co-founder & CEO, Decimal Technologies
“Social distancing, self-isolation and work from home are part of our ‘New Normal’. Staying connected is a human need, and, unintentionally, this pandemic has brought to light the true value of technology for businesses, individuals, and, even the governments. I firmly believe that 2021 will see IoT at the forefront of all the transformational programs in large to medium to even small enterprises. IoT will be at the core of driving data-driven customer experiences in key industry verticals including Retail, Healthcare, BFSI, Manufacturing, Agriculture and even the Social sector! The post Covid-19 world will see surge in spend on buying personal vehicles, spike in connected healthcare solutions to manage illness and monitor health with wearable technology becoming more affordable, and, a major consolidation in real estate with rise in demand for smart offices.”
– Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President at Aeris Communications
“In addition to the continued progress of AI, Internet of Things, Data science, Cloud across various sectors, in 2021, we will see an increased focus on Ecommerce, Collaboration tech, Digital Healthcare and Cyber Security. Ecommerce will witness accelerated innovation for on-the-go shopping through mobile and social selling, omnichannel experience, virtually assisted shopping, and on on-demand fulfilment and delivery including supply chain optimization, warehouse robotics, carrier route optimization, and drones for faster delivery. Collaboration tools including voice and video collaboration, virtual white boards, remote team and project management solutions, immersive technologies (AR/VR) for office environments will see a sharp upsurge. In Digital healthcare, AI and data-based expedited drug discovery, tele-consultation, connected healthcare, predictive diagnosis through wearables, and even robotic surgeries will see a rise.Security will become key and distributed and secured ledger systems such as blockchain for digital transactions and digital assets will pick up.” – Pankaj Sachdeva, Vice President, Innovation and India Site Leader at Pitney Bowes
The disruption brought about by COVID-19 has seen the acceleration of cloud adoption, with over 90% of enterprise IT environments now relying on cloud solutions. We can expect the cloud’s popularity to continue to grow because of its proven track record with businesses, who have successfully used the technology to rapidly respond to issues with targeted solutions. As adoption continues to accelerate among enterprises, hybrid, multi-cloud environments in particular will be a critical focus area. These technologies will offer the capacity needed to provide businesses with speed, control and security, as they prepare themselves to better work and operate with the cloud. Kubernetes too will come into focus, serving as the abstraction layer to manage and control multi-cloud together through a “single pane of glass.” Due to this, and despite the pandemic, the implementation of Kubernetes and container adoption will remain high priorities for businesses. In addition to Kubernetes, 95% of new microservices are predicted to be deployed in the containers by 2021. Cross-cloud Kubernetes will also become more common as a management tool for cross-cloud scenarios due to players like Google’s Anthos and VMware’s Tanzu Kubernetes Grid.” – Avishai Sharlin, Division President, Amdocs Technology
“Businesses are already working on merging values from a pre-COVID era with the ever-changing demands of a post-COVID world, keeping customers and their needs at the center of everything. Businesses are, therefore, re-emphasizing the need for a people-first approach and working hard to retain a human connection. People around the globe are eagerly awaiting 2021 and the many promises that it brings. Looking ahead, we anticipate that CX will continue to remain a catalyst to business success as businesses reorganize their priorities to incorporate a seamless CX journey for customers. On the other hand, digital transformation will definitely take precedence in the coming year to accommodate more omnichannel services, better IT security, agile technology and collaborative tools. Businesses will also take steps to be more people-centric, not just toward their customers, but also toward their employees. Employee experience and engagement will be a major area where we will see a change as businesses rethink their digital workplace. – KT Prasad, MD and RVP, India & SAARC, Zendesk
“One of the biggest trends I foresee in the coming year is around building a connected and intelligent world. The emergence of devices that are not only connected but are able to take informed decisions based on data is well underway and this trend will largely be defined by four pillars – i) Connectivity including 5G, which will be driven by convergence of digital and physical technologies such as digital connectivity, cloud and edge-computing, IoT and smart devices, AI, robotics, blockchain, and AR/VR ii) Sensor – While more pixels and more cameras will be enhancing the quality of our pictures, smart sensors will provide more intelligence and will enable us to choose the best shots too. Beyond image sensors, other sensors are also catching up to mimic human capabilities iii) Data – With big data on rise, storage solutions have evolved from core storage to a hybrid multicloud infrastructure and iv) Artificial intelligence will be critical with movement from Cloud based AI to Edge based AI, to enable real time decision making.” – Balajee Sowrirajan, Managing Director, Samsung Semiconductor India R&D Center