5 digital business transformation trends that’ll come to the fore in 2021

Increasingly, automation will lie at the core of successfully transforming digital businesses

5 digital business transformation trends that’ll come to the fore in 2021 - CIO&Leader

Prior to COVID-19, most organizations recognized the need to digitally transform, but that there was a significant gap between those who were progressing at pace and those slower off the starting blocks. According to NTT’s 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report, the gap between the laggards and the leaders is only set to widen unless the former takes the right decisions and actions to catch up, fast. 

The most prominent digital business transformation trends which will come to the fore in 2021 are given below.

#1 Proactive and bold digital transformation is imperative, not a choice

In 2021, the link between business value and investment will become amplified. Now, more than ever, IT needs to be willing and able to respond to what the business needs. Moreover, with profitability at an all-time low in many sectors, and budgets stretched to their limits, organizations that hope to successfully persuade their Boards and shareholders to approve new investments will need to demonstrate tangible business value immediately and iteratively by adopting public and private cloud platforms. Organizations will also need to look for creative ways to address the most commonly cited barriers to successful digital innovation and transformation, cited by survey respondents which include a lack of skills (e.g. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital programmers, data analysts and scientists and cybersecurity experts), and as well as siloed behaviors and a lack of fruitful collaboration among discrete functional areas, as opposed to a unified, organization-wide approach.

#2 The ability to leverage public and private clouds to be agile and responsive to changing market requirements, is now essential

Workloads continue to shift to a combination of cloud platforms, with public cloud expected to grow from 24% to 30% and private cloud in a service provider’s data center from 19% to 23%, over the next year.

The only way to tangibly link technology investment to real business value is by embracing digital IT infrastructures that allow for agility and responsiveness – and therein lies the value of public and private clouds. If IT and business leaders attempt to leverage more traditional approaches and technologies, it will take months to set up and deploy new structures – that’s no longer acceptable. In the current reshaped reality, new products and services have to be ‘ready tomorrow’ and there’s an expectation for time-to-market and time-to-value to be realized faster than ever.

It’s no secret that upon the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that were able to be much more responsive and resilient were those that had already made these investments and transitions. Others who hadn’t had to scramble to do so and many are still playing catch-up.

#3 Increasingly, automation will lie at the core of successfully transforming digital businesses

Both B2B and B2C organizations (and their end-customers) are increasingly buying more through digital channels. The automation of processes and tasks that currently rely on manual human intervention will be the common element underpinning the most successful digital transformation initiatives, in the year ahead.

But it’s important to note that this will require businesses to automate everything from the application layer to the cloud layer…and then on to the edge.

Among the many benefits that flow from automation is cost savings. This is because one can redirect people’s time and expertise towards higher-value activities that support the core business. Other advantages include improved efficiencies and swifter time-to-market: the faster one can make changes to their infrastructure, the less time it will take them to launch new products and services.

According to NTT’s recent research, 70.5% of organizations cite improved CX as the top factor driving their digital transformation. There will be greater adoption of chatbots and AI-driven natural language processing bots – which will increasingly undertake businesses’ first- and early-stage interactions with customers.

Automation will also play a critical role in employee experience initiatives. Here, we can expect to see advances in and adoption of robotic process automation, machine learning and AI.

However, automation can present its own challenges when it comes to effective deployment.

This is due to 2 factors:

  • Today, typical enterprise ICT ecosystems comprise a variety of products and technologies from different vendors.
  • The modernization of ICT and the associated automation of previously manual processes require a mindset and skills shift. The focus is now on establishing a DevOps cycle that revolves around cloud and software.

#4 Infrastructure will become the lead generator of data

In years gone by, data was something which was used for intelligence purposes and the infrastructure carried the data. Infrastructure is now a major generator of data.

In both business and consumer environments, every time an individual connects and disconnects to a network, that information is captured, stored and ultimately acted upon to optimize or improve employee or customer experience.

By intelligently blending network data engineering and science, together with AI and machine learning, successfully transforming businesses are set to push the boundaries of what it’s possible to do with data, in ways never before imagined.

#5 Recognition of cybersecurity’s role in a business’ digital enablement will intensify

It’s important to be clear about what one needs to do from a cybersecurity standpoint to enable their digital transformation. The term ‘secure access service edge’ (SASE) is going to influence decision-making over the next 12 months. It’s all about getting the best end-user experience in this increasingly SaaS- and software-defined network paradigm.


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