As the COVID pandemic stretches on, businesses are shifting from short-term reactions to longer-term strategy. As much as people have talked about this being the “new normal,” the general attitude has actually NOT been to view this time period as permanent. Instead, people act as though it is temporary. While parts of our current environment will certainly change, the trajectory of technology is something that businesses should be considering today.
In some ways, this new trajectory is similar to the path we were on before the pandemic. Many people have made the observation that several trends have accelerated over the past several months, so these key trends should look familiar. What’s changed is the priority of each topic and the way they are now being combined to support operations. When considering budget and skills for the year to come, these are the areas that IT leaders should be focused on.
The exact shape of the hype cycle for cloud computing over the past ten years is not clear, but it seems like it’s had more ups and downs than the average trend. For a long time, people were divided on how impactful or innovative cloud computing was. Then as adoption ramped up, many companies focused on migrating existing operations rather than reconfiguring new operations to leverage cloud strengths. While the topic may suffer from fatigue, there has been renewed interest in cloud solutions as the foundation for a flexible and resilient IT architecture. Businesses are not just exploring new cloud options, they are also investing more in the hard work of restructuring workflow, which leads into the next two trends.
On the surface, integration hardly even seems like a trend. It’s simply something that gets done in order to make all the pieces work. But that’s exactly the shift that’s taking place—rather than integration being an afterthought, it is gaining critical importance as a company’s digital footprint is expanding. Businesses are building multi-cloud architectures and digitizing more processes than ever before, which leads to a wide array of solutions from a wide array of vendors. Without prioritizing integration, this variety of tools will actually have a negative effect on productivity. The skills needed for integration include not only the technical know-how for tying everything together but also the behavioral knowledge needed to create efficient workflow.
The ultimate goal for efficient workflow is automation. After all the pieces have been connected, there is the potential to automate routine process steps and allow the workforce to focus on more innovative tasks. Like integration, automation has been around for a long time. However, the current tools for automation are dramatically different than they were even a few years ago. Using cloud systems as a foundation opens the doors for tools tied to cloud platforms. Artificial intelligence and robotic process automation offer tremendous power to IT professionals. And smart contracts of the future may use blockchain to further drive automated procedures. Automation is not a single product or project; it’s the combination of several technologies and disciplines.
One of the common themes from the first weeks of the pandemic was businesses realizing that a remote workforce could get the job done (assuming they had the proper tools for working). As time has passed, the situation has become more complicated. From a technical perspective, there are few hurdles in the way of most employees getting their work done. But working in isolation takes a toll, and collaborating over video calls isn’t the same as collaborating in person. There is certainly a cultural element to this, as managers need to be even more in tune with the preferences and mental well-being of their employees. Then the technology has to support the culture of the organization while also evolving to address the needs of a mostly remote workforce.
This technology trajectory is happening today, and the businesses that capitalize on these trends will be more prepared for whatever the future may hold.
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