What to expect in 2021 CEO Insights 02-23-2021 By Jim Steinlage President & Chief Executive Officer Table of Contents Things we will see more of in the future: Remote work, AI, intelligent work spaces, and rapidly changing consumer trends are just a few of the technology movements we can see driving businesses in the future. They all reflect a radical shift in how the workplace and workforce are changing. Everything IT should support the business. Ensuring that IT aligns to business goals and that your IT department has skills to develop a strategic plan to meet IT business demands will prepare your business for the future. As we move ahead in 2021, expect to see the more progressive businesses retooling. Time waits for no one and these businesses will embrace new digital technologies and strategies to help them achieve significant growth versus mere survival. Thriving in 2021 and beyond will require recognition and reaction to the opportunities presented by solutions adopted during the pandemic. Location of independent workers, contingent workforces, contractors, temporary staffing, and Gig (project/task) workers and co-working are all things we can expect to see as part of workforce planning in the future. One thing all of these different types of workers will have in common is expecting and demanding consumer-like work experiences. Things we will see more of in the future: More Voices Drive Innovation The digital skills gap has existed, but now more than ever been exposed. This gap will require HR’s involvement to help improve IT capabilities for adapting to disruptive change. Technology advancements are also increasing the demand for new skillsets. Innovative technology skills along with the understanding of logical-minded simplification of business processes and automating task force efficiencies will be in high demand. While digital technology innovation was part of the reason for the gap, it can also be part of the solution by assisting employees to train faster through the process of simplification of increasingly complex tasks. Digital workflows, real-time analytics, smarter automated interfaces, and other tools will help humans adapt and be more versatile to the changing nature of work. Balancing the Public Cloud with Infrastructure Privacy Organizations looking to improve efficiencies and create better decision-making will need a flexible infrastructure that meets demand while controlling costs. Time to value will be part of the discussion. Challenges IT must meet include an increasingly complex regulatory environment and how to create an end-to-end data encryption process that builds security, trust and confidence. A hybrid cloud infrastructure can be managed by simple, automated software and includes on-premise cloud capabilities that can deliver the solution businesses need and flexibility desired but can switch to and from clouds in hours versus days. In the future think in terms of will we survive when, not if, we are compromised, and what are our plans when it happens. Digital Sustainability Digital technologies like machine learning will drive cost-efficiency and emission reduction initiatives. With changes in government leadership and requirements, expect to see in the future AI, 5G, and the IoT being deployed to create markets to capture carbon waste, automate building infrastructures to avoid energy waste, and reduce operating costs of renewable energy production. Harnessing Machine Learning as a Core Value The growth in unstructured data and improvement in processes is creating enormous potential for machine learning to be a transformational force, particularly in robotic automation. Unfortunately, organizational executive leadership thinking structures may inhibit it because they have hard time thinking outside the traditional box or empowering their team who can. There is an old saying that you don’t know what you don’t know, and it will be important for leaders to inform themselves of the capabilities machine learning can provide for their businesses. Businesses will search for new ways to build processes that tap into machine learning’s full potential. This will translate into new ways of solving problems that people alone can’t design because humans are slower to see flaws in a system and still likely to make errors. To get there, organizations will need sufficient data sources, agile creative capabilities, and effective quality review of business processes. Are We There Yet? After a year of business and personal upheaval, things may slowly return to some sort of normalcy, but they will never be the same. Organizations should be prepared to find new business models that help them thrive in 2021 and beyond. Using digital tools to redesign workspaces, improve cultures, and enhance customer and employee experiences will help them to be successful on this journey. In my next blog I will share about how organizations must focus on employees balance of life not just physical and why it will be important.