This past year has been a rollercoaster for business. From retail to education to nonprofits, not a single industry has been left untouched by the ripple effects caused by a global pandemic.
After a year of tremendous shifts and transitions, many are wondering what additional changes 2021 will bring.
So, what should your company be prepared for?
While there's no cut-and-dry answer, several recent reports offer some valuable insights. To get a sense of what shape business will take in 2021 and beyond, we looked at the latest forecasts from researchers at leading firms such as Forrester, PwC, and Gartner. Here's what they predict is in store for IT, marketing, sales, and human resources.
The biggest 2021 predictions for IT and operations
Among the company divisions most impacted by COVID-19, IT tops the list. The massive shift to remote work and work-from-home policies put digital transformation plans on the fast track. Small businesses and enterprises alike have had to make major changes to how technology is delivered, all in a very short span of time.
Based on the latest forecasts, those transitions are far from over.
According to Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021, “anywhere operations” will continue to be an essential element of success as companies emerge from COVID-19. That means IT departments will need to be prepared to provide access to corporate resources at any location, on virtually any device.
At the same time, organizations that still have legacy business processes in place will begin to turn the tide with “hyper-automation” — the idea that anything that can be automated in an organization should be automated. The reason? The more organizations can streamline workflows, ideally through what’s known as digital agility, the better positioned they’ll be to reduce costs and remove issues.
These moves toward automated, work-from-anywhere business operations will require an increased focus on security. Data encryption, analytics, and other IT security tools will become even more important in 2021 as organizations look to ensure privacy and keep sensitive information secure.
PwC’s 2021 Global Digital Trust Insights survey found that cyber and privacy will be baked into every single business decision for 50% of technology executives. More than one-third say they’re speeding up automation to cut costs, while 29% say doing things faster and more efficiently is the top digital ambition.
Not surprisingly, digital acceleration will continue to be a top priority well into 2021. As the workforce continues to become more fragmented and distributed, streamlining digital processes will be a key component to success.
Did you know? Formstack’s secure workflow automation makes it easy for IT teams to improve tech support, streamline processes, and protect data with encryption, audit trails, and more.
Additional 2021 predictions for marketing, sales, and human resources
If you work in marketing or sales, you’ve likely made a lot of changes to the way you communicate with prospects. For many professionals, an initial loss of new leads in early 2020 caused teams to rethink how and when they communicate with customers. This resulted in a bigger focus on the buyer’s journey and what it takes to make meaningful connections — changes Forrester researchers say could bring marketers and sellers closer to buyers well into 2021.
For example: Many teams began to lean more heavily on video than they had pre-pandemic — a move Forrester says “led to richer buyer engagement in some cases.” Similar tactical and technological changes in 2021 and beyond will help companies continue to create even deeper connections with customers. Throughout each of these transitions, automation will play a big role in freeing sales representatives and marketing professionals from administrative tasks — and could even bring the two departments into closer alignment.
Meanwhile, human resources teams will face their own set of unique challenges. Currently, fewer than one-third of companies conduct employee experience surveys at least quarterly, and only slightly more have employee feedback programs in place. As a result, Forrester says two-thirds of organizations were effectively blind to what their employees were experiencing when the pandemic hit.
Moving forward, organizations with the right human resources processes in place will be able to help keep employees engaged well into 2021. From employee engagement surveys to remote work technologies, successful HR teams will continue to revisit and reinvent how and where work gets done — and how they can support employees to perform their best, no matter where they’re located.
In fact, Forrester states that the future of work will have most companies employing an “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” model, where more people will be spending more time working outside the office. Researchers expect these new business models to magnify the need for specialized HR technology and tools. Specifically, many employees will have an increased need for automation tools to increase productivity and prevent burnout.
Did you know? The Formstack platform provides a wide range of tools that make it easy to automate and streamline important HR processes.
These aren’t the only 2021 predictions being circulated, but they’re some of the most important. Each forecast is a reminder that digital agility and adaptability will continue to separate the organizations that survive and thrive from those that struggle.