Digital Transformation Trends to Watch In 2021

No one could have predicted how 2020 would take us. The last six months alone have produced more digital transformation than the last decade, with every transformation effort already underway finding itself accelerated, and at scale. While many predictions from a year ago benefited from this shift, others were displaced by more urgent needs: like 24/7 secure and reliable connectivity. What does this mean for 2021? Will core technologies like AI and data analytics still dominate headlines, or will we see newer, previously emerging technologies take the lead? Only time will tell, but here top 5 digital transformation predictions for 2021.

1. 5G Will Finally Go Mainstream

We have been hearing about the benefits of 5G for years now, but it wasn’t until remote work, video-conferencing, and digital collaboration became core parts of our lives this year that the need for reliable connectivity and more bandwidth became a real, concrete benefit that we could all wrap our heads around. Our reliance on phones, tablets, and other devices – including an ever-growing number of IoT sensors – highlights the need for the multi-lane superhighway that telecommunications companies already knew we would need. Today, businesses cannot afford to be disconnected, and 5G deployments have become a vital part of the solution. As we collectively continue to work and manage school from our homes, the value of 5G will become increasingly mainstream in 2021.

Though initially, the pandemic interrupted work on new 5G network deployments earlier this year, these efforts have resumed, and large markets like China are already on target to meet their deployment goals for 2020. Meanwhile, every major handset manufacturer in the world – from Samsung and Apple to Xiaomi and Motorola – is already (or soon to be) releasing 5G phones in virtually every price-point tier, with Qualcomm — arguably the leader in 5G technology — helping make 5G affordable to as many smartphone users as possible next year.

2. CDP Explosion

We have already seen an explosion of Customer Data Platforms (CDP) in the last few months — and with good reason. Fragmented data from multiple sources can be notoriously difficult to organize, which obviously isn’t ideal for companies that rely on timely, well-curated data to operate optimally. IBM estimates that so-called “bad data” already costs businesses in countries like U.S. roughly $3 trillion annually, so addressing this challenge has become a priority for organizations of all sizes. CDPs help solve this problem by collecting data from all available sources, organizing it, tagging it, and making it usable for anyone who needs access to it. Companies like Adobe, SAP, Oracle, Treasure Data, and Microsoft are already heavily invested in providing the market with powerful new CDPs.

Over the past few years, we have seen a lot on the proliferation of analytics and big data and that isn’t stopping. Data is growing exponentially and that won’t stop anytime soon. Analytics platforms, Data Warehouses, and Visualization tools, from Cloudera to Snowflake to SAS won’t lose relevancy, but the rise of the customer data platform is going to catch fire in 2021; and now that business operations have become somewhat more fragmented, in part because of new work-from-home operational models, but also because of the continuing acceleration of data collection across an ever-expanding ecosystem of touch-points, CDPs will become especially relevant in 2021.

3. Hybrid Cloud Declared the Winning Enterprise Architecture

We have known for a while that businesses are increasingly moving toward a hybrid cloud infrastructure. From SaaS applications and on-prem solutions to a mix of public and private clouds, hybrid cloud strategies help organizations strike the right balance for their unique cloud infrastructure needs. Over the past year, we have seen major investments in hybrid from large public cloud providers like AWS, Azure, Google, IBM, and Oracle. We are also seeing OEMs like HPE, Dell (VMware), and Cisco increasing investment in building tools that enable simpler connectivity between on-premises datacenters and cloud. These investments are all about meeting the customer where they are at the moment. Addressing the challenges of exponential data growth, while also being proactive on issues like privacy, security, and compliance. The modernized approach to hybrid cloud is expanding from traditional IT to support industrial applications as well.

Hybrid cloud would have been on the list for 2021 even without the pandemic, but if nothing else, the widespread, sudden disruptions caused by the coronavirus have highlighted the value of having as agile and adaptable a cloud infrastructure as you can—especially as we are seeing companies around the world expedite investments in the cloud to enable faster change in moments of uncertainty and disruption like we faced in 2020.

4. Cybersecurity Gets a Jolt

Despite never losing their importance philosophically, cybersecurity had fallen off my list of critical tech trends last year, but with the pandemic, cybersecurity has become very relevant again. Hackers have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to expand their campaigns of attacks against businesses worldwide. A 238% rise in attacks on banks and a 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers were observed from January to April 2020 alone. With fewer employees working onsite on the same secure network, it is imperative that companies shore up their networks and upgrade their cybersecurity strategies, and expand them to home networks and mobile work-from-home devices.

AI and Machine Learning will be important for this trend as we will see the continued increase in attempted nefarious activities require more sophisticated tools and algorithms to fish out. This will prove to be a big opportunity for the likes of Cisco in areas like firewalls and intrusion detection as well as companies like Splunk and IBM for security identify and event management (SIEM). Microsoft is another company that has poured resources into security in areas like active directory, software, and cloud. There are many companies playing in this space, but I expect software, cloud, and hardware makers to all be amplifying efforts to make their products and services more secure to deal with certain growth in threats that we have seen throughout 2020.

5. Privacy and Confidential Computing Gains Momentum

Another approach to shoring up cybersecurity, particularly when addressing communications and data privacy, is confidential computing. The idea of confidential computing is to encrypt the entire computing process, not just the data, creating additional layers of security around sensitive information. Google, Microsoft, IBM, Alibaba, and VMware are helping to develop new protocols and best practices by way of the Confidential Computing Consortium. The tech is still in a state of relative infancy, but we should begin to see confidential computing slide into the mainstream in 2021.

Watch out for Part two.

Thoughts and ideas according to Daniel Fuzzman, principal analyst and CEO of Broadsuite Media Group.


Will 5G Work in Nigeria?

Last month, there was a lot of celebration (especially within the tech community) around the arrival of 5G in Nigeria, courtesy of MTN. The announcement implied that Nigeria is now on track to launch the 5G network commercially, joining other African countries such as Lesotho and South Africa. But is Nigeria ready for 5G? Before I answer that question, let me tell you a quick story.

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