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With 2020 bringing a year of change to the world and having a big impact on technology and how we use it, what does 2021 hold in store and what are the ones to watch? We asked our team of Chief Technologists their predictions for the next 12 months?
Our infrastructure and applications have been accelerating and increasing in complexity over recent years, cloud has brought a great number of benefits to our organisations, but this can come at a cost if we are not prepared. One primary area that can suffer is the operational efficiency of an IT function when our ecosystems begin to diversify which is compounded by the way services are consumed and delivered. During 2020 many of our roles were performed remotely, this instant shift to a different way of working required us to rethink what it means to monitor, manage, observe, and remediate these complex environments. The infrastructure we operate is no longer confined to a single location, vendor, technology, or architecture. Typically, they will involve multiple sites, a mixture of on-premises and public cloud and even some version of an external service. Within this there will be a whole host of operating systems, storage subsystems, hypervisors, compute layers, data management, connectivity…the list goes on.
Applications and data drive our businesses, we live in the data age. The development and application teams are moving fast and demanding more every day and can’t be slowed down by cumbersome processes and lack of visibility. Knowing the cost of the application, the experience for the end user and being able to track issues from code to infrastructure are more important than ever before.
How do we enable our teams to have the visibility and control across these areas to be able to make informed decisions and remediate issues? There are tools, solutions, and processes to be able to make this daunting task achievable. This can be an area of technology that can make your business more efficient to deliver faster and smarter than your competition.
As we embark on 2021, there is a perfect storm of the art of the possible and the need to do things differently. There will be a large shift on the priority and budget spent on the operational needs within organisations as they begin to address this void as part of their digital shift.
The past 12 months has had an impact on businesses, how they interreact with consumers and how they can deliver on goods and services with the high-streets being out of action. Based on the lessons learnt in business, I see an increased focus on the digital channels and how consumers will interactive using technology. This has been witnessed with many companies pushing to an online presence to keep revenue coming in. Any business who has not transformed its processes and used technology to support their business will have suffered and in some instances some companies will not have the luxury to change such as travel and tourism.
There will be a focus on how the customer experience can be delivered through digital channels and the technology to support this has been around for many years. But to enhance on the experience you need to understand your data. This is the new key for the success and growth of any business. Data will provide you with actionable insights into your customers and enable more targeted marketing. You can expand in this with the use of AI to further understand and map your data and behaviours of your customers. Now you understand your data and how you can use it you can then look at your business processes and how you can use technology to automate some of these to improve on customer experience and standards.
Once you understand your data and have the processes automated, you can then start to improve on the digital channels. 2021 will be a race for competing business to strengthen on its digital offering. This is not just to protect the business from an extended business continuity plan but for the habits that have been gained from long periods of lockdown and no access to the high streets for consumers.
As organisations continue to digitise their organisations through 2021 the importance of providing a secure platform to support this change has never been higher. However, for the majority of organisations this shift towards a digital first strategy hasn’t always been matched with investment in Cyber Security teams. This fallow investment has created a customer demand for more integrated platforms and technologies to allow organisations to do more with less.
Security Ecosystems are groups of technologies that operate together to deliver a shared outcome for a customer. This often utilises shared data between platforms enabling a multiple technologies to better detect, contain or respond to a threat within a customer environment. This approach has traditionally been something unique to vendors who offer their own security platforms with vendors
(some more successful than others) integrating their solutions together via shared management platforms or threat intelligence services.
For organisations who decided to pursue a best of breed approach there was often a missing link between these technologies. This problem was resolved by the security orchestration and response market filled. Providing customers with the ability to integrate different technologies together use playbooks across multiple vendors. These technologies are brilliant and something we use in Softcat’s Security Operations Centre. However, these technologies do require additional investment in the platform but also resources to manage these integrations.
Welcome to the year of the security ecosystem. This year we have seen a real effort from the vendor community to create out of the box integrations that customers can consume without needing an additional piece of technology or the resources to manage it. This is enabling customers to achieve security outcomes that run across a number of technology vendors in their environment all without having to lift a finger. The majority of these integrations are as simple to achieve and can be setup within 5 minutes. For security teams this provides higher levels of efficacy within their environment by sharing threat intelligence and compromise indicators across multiple platforms increasing the pool of known malicious signals significantly, while also increasing the speed in which they can contain threats across multiple parts of their ecosystem.
As organisations start to realise the value of a strong and well maintained security ecosystem I predict organisations will increasingly focus on the enhancing their security portfolio with vendors who share in that belief that they are better together. This means customers will no longer have to choose between best of breed or best of brand and can now have the best of both.
Cloud adoption and consumption models will accelerate and become a standard part of many organisations’ IT strategy decisions in 2021. With the drive towards cloud adoption accelerating, many organisations will be looking to simplify how they procure software as part of their IT and digital transformation plans, and there will be a focus on buying better as part of a wider solution mindset. This will need to ensure technology decisions link to the wider procurement strategy in a managed, monitored, and metered way to support a gradual shift towards consumption and subscription services. This will also involve changing the way many organisations operate to support cloud adoption and will require the development of a cloud centre of excellent strategy to bring disparate parts of a business into a more streamlined operating model.
In addition, many organisations will focus on data and application modernisation as a way of taking advantage of cloud native services. This will include a move towards code-based deployment
methodologies, whereby containerising using Kubernetes will be included as part of the normal operating models. However, this will require many of the technologies that underpin existing operational models to simplify and work across multiple cloud platforms. Therefore, we will see an acceleration to build bridges between Developers and Operational teams as a way of improving collaboration and agile methods. This will include a focus on simplifying observability, connectivity, security, and operational tooling as well as the creation of improved processes to support multiple platform and multiple clouds.
We will also see many organisations focus on a SaaS first approach as more of the legacy ISV companies develop and provide options for cloud-based versions of their software stack. The purchase of this software will also merge towards being able to procure via the cloud marketplaces that already exist and to those that are now evolving.
And finally, as part of full lifecycle services and as cloud adoption accelerates, there will be a requirement to ensure that existing infrastructure and hardware can be efficiently removed and if possible repurposed. This will support sustainability plans, whereby many organisations start to focus on meeting environmental targets to achieve carbon negative or even long term carbon negative strategies.
2021 is the year when workforce activity will become hybrid by design rather than circumstance, and where workflows and the tools that support them will need to competently and consistently deliver for everyone, without prejudice.
It is the year that we lay the deep digital foundations to remove the distance between us even when we are apart.
To harmonise these dynamic and productive work freedoms with our responsibility for IT control, organisations will need to accelerate the adoption of a zero-trust security model with conditional access.
There will be limited budgets to implement big change, so every penny will be scrutinised. Mass vendor consolidation will take place to squeeze the value out of every essential investment. Working capital will be in short supply so the shift from capex to opex procurement models will increase. And organisations will review and offload the remaining non-differentiating IT services to partners who are better positioned to handle the scale of thousands of working locations and to deliver immediate cost savings.
Whilst driving bad costs out of the business, organisations will also need to innovate at pace to remain relevant. The quick wins will be found in the democratisation of information and decision making to the newly distributed workforce; as well as the safe adoption of user-centric automation through low-code and no-code citizen developer platforms.
More of a hope than a prediction, I would love to see organisations take this opportunity to double down on their sustainability goals, to join some frameworks and to make some firm commitments on corporate social responsibility.
The digital workspace is the fabric that connects people to your organisation and to each other. We can do so much to make work accessible to all; to reduce our carbon impact by travelling a little less (than we did in ’19); and to support vendors that manage their supply chains and services admirably through the choices we make.
What do you think are they right? We would love to know your thoughts on what 2021 has in-store for us from a tech perspective?
We would love to hear any comments you have about this article!