In 2020, the future of technology arrived faster than anyone could have predicted. So, as we look to 2021, trends we might have projected for 2024 are accelerating to the near horizon.
Countless technology initiatives and innovations promise big changes in the new year. And as the pandemic revealed, being prepared for the unexpected is critical. That begins with a highly resilient, globally scalable infrastructure — to ensure the security and flexibility that enables organizations to meet any challenge, or opportunity.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, our priority was to help our customers maintain their functional activity. Currently, customers are asking for the same technologies to improve their internal processes. We have also developed several innovative solutions to meet the new requirements on the market, needs generated to a large extent by the pandemic. Following these changes, we have identified six key trends, which we believe will define the IT industry in the near future, ”said Paul Maravei, CEO of Cisco Romania (photo).
Trend 1: Closing the Digital Divide
For those fortunate enough to have internet access, this year, connectivity has become the lifeblood of society and economic activity. But that’s only about half of the global population. The pandemic put a glaring spotlight on the other half. In developing countries, only 35% have internet access, compared to 80% in more advanced economies. And in nearly every country, the digital divide affects rural communities and the poor disproportionately.
Today, connectivity provides the essential foundation for a society and economy in which all citizens can participate, learn, and thrive. That’s why we are so excited about the next generation of wireless technologies, including 5G and WiFi6. These will raise the bar on bandwidth, speed, and latency, and reach areas where fiber is prohibitively expensive. Frontline mobile workers, telehealth, manufacturing, and education will all benefit. And we see pervasive wireless connectivity as the ultimate flattener of the digital divide as these new technologies spur growth and innovation for millions of people.
According to PwC, bringing the internet to those who are offline would add $6.7 trillion to the global economy. This would lift another 500 million people out of poverty, proving that increasing connectivity is an essential pillar to build greater inclusiveness.
“We are at a critical moment in the history. There is so much we can do to seize this moment and create a more inclusive and sustainable world together. I remain hopeful for the future and am optimistic that together we can continue to drive change and leave a lasting impact for generations to come” – Chuck Robbins, Cisco CEO.
Trend 2: Driving experience (and safety) through sensors
Long used for quality assurance and tracking environmental changes, the importance of sensors for both personal and workforce health, safety and wellbeing will take center stage. Patch-like sensors to track health and well-being. Sports sensors to observe concussion. Fatigue sensors to monitor alertness in ruggedized environments.
For those returning to the workplace, data-based insights delivered by sensors will help provide a safer, healthier, and more productive environment. Combined with WiFi, location technologies, and collaboration platforms like Webex, they will identify underutilized or overcrowded spaces, while monitoring room temperature, humidity, air quality, and light.
According to the Cisco Global Workforce Study, 96% of companies can provide better work environments with intelligent workplace technology.
Trend 3: Keys to the future: app-enabled agility and resilience
In the early months of the pandemic, organizations had to adapt quickly to meet highly unpredictable changes. Cloud was the critical enabler of this new agility. For many organizations, it was the only way to gain the capabilities that enabled them to meet the rapidly shifting demands of their customers and employees, regardless of costs.
Ten months later, the applications at the heart of our businesses are highly distributed. Our workforces are more mobile than ever before. And the demands on our systems are unprecedented.
Looking ahead, IT teams will need even greater agility. By using observability solutions, teams can shift from monitoring everything to monitoring the data and insights that matter. And as they continue to scale their ongoing transformations, insights and automation will be essential to future growth, competitiveness, and resilience.
According to Cisco 2021 CIO and ITDM Trends Pulse, 75% of CIOs and IT decision makers want to be able to utilize business insights better.
Trend 4: From customer experience to brand excitement
The explosive growth of mobile and smart devices has transformed our very way of life. Today, mobile apps are available for everything from shopping and banking to learning and wellbeing. More recently, they have become essential tools for tracking contacts during the pandemic. Mobile apps also enable both public and private-sector organizations to connect with users in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. And as we have seen, most business processes also run on applications.
The most advanced applications enable even more personal relationships, along with instantaneous responses. That demands the ability to turn masses of real-time information from the network into actionable insights. And to do it fast. Armed with such capabilities, companies can respond to a customer even before they report an issue. It’s this combination of immersive, intelligence-based personalization and experience that will transform baseline customer satisfaction into deep customer engagement, excitement, and loyalty.
71% of CIOs and IT decision makers agreed that customer experience is about more than just satisfaction—it’s about delighting the customer.
Trend 5: Identity and a passwordless future
Mobility, distributed work, and the growing use of cloud solutions have provided huge benefits in scalability and cost. But with a greatly expanded security perimeter, new challenges arise.
The zero-trust methodology was developed to address these challenges. Stolen or lost credentials continue to be the common cause of breach, a situation that has been exacerbated with the massive shift to remote work. Identity is now truly the new perimeter.
Platforms, industry groups, and security providers are working towards a password-free future as enabling technologies such as biometrics will soon be ubiquitous for both consumers and enterprises. Organizations need to begin preparing for this inevitable shift, where users no longer rely on a traditional password as their primary method of proving who they are.
According to 2020 Duo Trusted Access Report, 80% of mobile devices used for work have biometrics configured, up 12% the past five years.
Trend 6: Consumption models for the tech you actually need
Organizations have long invested in one-size-fits-all tech solutions. That meant paying for features users might never actually demand. Today, software as a service enables organizations to pay for the features and capabilities they currently need, with the option to scale other services with great speed and agility, when needed.
Consumption models will continue to shift, especially as more and more features and capabilities are available via software, whether on site or in the cloud. The flexibility and cost savings that pay-as-you-consume models provide are simply too good to resist.
This shift to pay-as-you-consume spending gives organizations more flexibility and cost predictability to manage their IT spend — something that 85% of CIOs and IT decision makers agreed is important to their business (43% called it very important) in Cisco’s 2021 CIO and IT Decision Makers Trends Pulse.