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On the Minds of Technology Leaders in 2021

A tumultuous year has finally drawn to a close.

Now, with cautious optimism, we have entered a new year, with new hope.

With that in mind, let’s review last year, look at some new data, and lay the groundwork for a good new year; because even with all of the chaos and strife, 2020 was undoubtedly a year of growth as reported by many technology leaders and their respective organizations.

Explosion of Tech Advancements

The gradual trek towards the future of work and new tech suddenly became an all-out sprint when the pandemic hit. A recent survey conducted by IEEE polled 350 CIOs and CTOs around the world. It noted that IT leaders are embracing cloud computing (55%), 5G (52%), along with AI and machine learning (51%).

Additionally, IT leaders expect cutting edge technology will have the most decisive impact in manufacturing at 19%, healthcare at 18%, financial services at 15%, and education at 13%. Furthermore, other technologies such as IoT, augmented and virtual reality, and video conferencing are expected to maintain or expand the foothold they gained in 2020. However, all of this growth comes alongside the upheaval caused by the sudden shift to remote work.

“2021 will be an unprecedented year in technology advancements. The pandemic accelerated the need and understanding for businesses that hadn’t embraced technology as a competitive advantage. The investments made in people, process, and technology, while focusing on business outcomes, will be the catalyst that drives future growth for most organizations in years to come.”

Hernando Celado, Chief Information Officer – ChenMed

Restructuring the Workplace

This past year has demanded a great deal of flexibility when it comes to work locations and schedules, and it is highly anticipated that this flexibility will need to be carried over into 2021.

When asked the most significant challenge in the new year, over half (52%) of the CIOs and CTOs responded that it would be restructuring their post-pandemic business. 22% are anticipating a hybrid remote and new office work structure, while 17% are returning to the office, and 13% will remain remote workforces.

This openness to remote/hybrid workforces is a dramatic shift from the mentality held just a year ago. Still, other struggles await us in this new year, as noted by the 11% of respondents who said that disruption to IT projects would be the most challenging task of 2021.

Products will need to be developed to adapt to the rapid change in a remote distanced culture. Online/Mobile delivery channels need to be seamless and easy so that even a 7-year-old can click through them. Over the last 10 months, the products at your fingertips have matured and will continue to do so. Even if things return to normal, the retail markets will continue to accelerate in expansion. One of the most expensive aspects to a company is real estate. Company footprints will shrink as less office space is required.

Bill Fortwangler, Chief Information Officer – Dollar Bank

Again, the unpredictable nature of work and schedules as we approach this post-pandemic future will continue to demand flexibility and creative thinking as we work around these problems, not least of these being cybersecurity.

Countering Growing Security Threats

As the global pandemic saw an increase in cybercrime, CIOs and CTOs will be faced with new cybersecurity concerns. This task has been complicated by having a remote workforce. The survey noted concerns with employees working from personal devices (37%) and the struggle to secure the Internet of Things (35%). The exposure level is staggering with 34% stating that only 26-50% of the connected devices were properly managed. Only 20% of respondents were able to secure 51-75% of the connected devices.

As technological advancements increase and remote work continues, keeping security current will be an ongoing challenge in 2021.

“It was a perfect storm. New tech was being rapidly deployed in accelerated transformations while a new work-from-anywhere workforce was being created, both with little time to properly educate, secure, and protect. All while IT and security teams were being furloughed, laid off, or not able to access their critical infrastructure.  It is actually fortunate that more sizable cybersecurity incidents didn’t occur. That being said, re-evaluating and hardening not only cybersecurity postures, but compliance standards as well, must be at the top of every CIO, CTO, and CISO’s list in 2021.”

Fred Brown, Chief Technology Officer – Virtual Procurement Services

It appears as though the adventure will continue in 2021, though on a positive note, more than half of CIOs and CTOs noted the growth that has come from 2020, saying they are more equipped to respond to future problems. Whether human-made or an act of nature, 92% said their organization now has a solid groundwork to respond to these issues should they occur. So as we take these first tentative steps into 2021, let’s raise a toast to the seized opportunities in 2020 and the actions we have taken towards a brighter future, whatever it may hold.

Jacquelyn Adams, TNCR Contributing Writer
Jacquelyn Adams, TNCR Contributing Writer
Jacquelyn Adams is an award-winning engineering leader who focuses on the future of work and reskilling workforces. She is a recognized professional consultant, writer, and speaker for multiple industry-leading institutions.
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