In 2020 there was a substantial digital change in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has made it clear to us that technology can and must drive something good.
The central role of technology has become apparent from the development and distribution of life-saving vaccines to help companies switch to remote working, combating climate change and increasing social justice with the help of online learning opportunities.
Even if I cannot foresee the future, one thing is sure at the beginning of 2021: technology will continue to change the way we live and work, and the pace will continue to increase.
Here are the top ten tech trends that I believe will shape the year ahead:
The Digital Workplace Will Continue To Exist
The rapid adoption of virtual collaboration tools in response to lockdown and social distancing has enabled companies to continue serving their customers and maintaining business relationships. At KPMG, we introduced Microsoft Teams for more than 260,000 employees across the organization two years ahead of schedule and have held almost 300 million virtual meetings since March last year. The change in employee needs and declining demand for office space will make hybrid teams the rule. Since new functionalities are constantly being added, companies must further develop the digital workplace at a new pace and always offer their employees the most modern user experience.
The Cloud Transformation Is Accelerated
A significant part of our lives has shifted to the internet. The increase in remote work, the exploding e-commerce and unlimited streaming have pushed the adoption and use of cloud infrastructures and led to double-digit growth rates. Although many companies are still in the early stages of this transformation, increasing digitalization will accelerate the transition to cloud infrastructures and help companies improve their productivity and efficiency and implement innovations on a large scale and at high speed.
Cyber Security Continues To Have Top Priority
Fraudulent emails and text messages usually pile up after world events. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is no exception in this regard: The Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO survey 2020 shows that 41 percent of companies have recorded an increase in incidents, in particular through spear-phishing and malware attacks targeting employees in the home office. Securing the digital infrastructure in company networks continues to have top priority and goes hand in hand with educating the workforce about cyber risks.
Companies Cultivate Their Alliance Partnerships
In a pandemic, unilateral measures will not get you very far. The same applies to all significant challenges that – to put it – can be better solved together. KPMG has built a strong network of alliances with some of the world’s leading technology, data, and service companies. Jens Rassloff, Global Head of Strategic Relations & Investments at KPMG, presents some impressive projects. KPMG experts work with our alliance partners, customers, and the public sector. Like KPMG, numerous companies have recognized their ecosystems as a critical success factor and want to expand them.
The Democratization Of Technology Will Lead To “Citizen Developers”
The requirements of digital transformation exceed central IT resources, and the lack of professional developers is increasing. Innovative and intuitive low-code / no-code development platforms enable specialist employees from all company areas to create their applications, optimize company processes and intensify customer loyalty quickly and cost-effectively, which results in actual democratization of technology and the transformation gap is closed.
Intelligent Automation (IA) And Artificial Intelligence (AI) Are Used On A Large Scale
All around us, we perceive rapid automation and digitization made possible by advanced machines based on artificial intelligence. Chatbots, for example, are integrated into business processes and perform tasks based on data and machine learning so that employees can concentrate on value-adding activities. As the underlying technologies become more accessible via the cloud, intelligent automation and artificial intelligence move from the experimental phase to large-scale deployment. This is reflected in increased discussions about ethics, regulation, oversight, and other related news topics.
Technology As A Driver For Sustainability
The KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook shows that executives see ESG issues not only as a global challenge or regulatory matter but as an opportunity to transform their company in such a way that a sustainable economy can be promoted, competitive advantages can be created, more influence can be exercised on buyer decisions, and skilled workers can be recruited. 71 percent of respondents said they want to stick to the achievements on climate change achieved during the pandemic. Technology acts as a catalyst because technology enables us to analyze and forecast our impact on the environment. It creates transparency and contributes to increased efficiency within our value chain. It also optimizes processes and systems to reduce waste, save energy and change our daily behavior for the better.
COVID-19 has become a catalyst for long-overdue changes in healthcare. Health systems worldwide have used digital technologies to deliver care through new channels and enable viral disease monitoring and contact tracking. In this “New Reality”, further digital transformation will be required to create more resilient and connected health systems that enable patient-centered, holistic care, support informed physician decision-making, and promote innovation, including advances in operational and support functions.
A 12-year-old recently told me that he was “bored with online classes”. Well, I have bad news for him. E-learning will continue to exist not only for children but also for adults. The type of provision of the learning offer will change, away from the (virtual) classroom towards a continuous, self-determined learning model with compressed, individualized learning units (so-called knowledge nuggets) integrated into processes and offered in a context-related manner. For example, we support our KPMG audit experts with context-related guidance embedded in our KPMG-Clara workflow to enable both continuous and real-time learning.
Trust Is Paramount
With the outbreak of COVID-19, companies have adopted new technologies at a record pace. In many cases, these software launches have been successful and have helped address the challenges of the pandemic. At the same time, however, they have often heightened existing concerns about trust and raised questions about cybersecurity and risk management practices. Companies should integrate faith, technology, and governance into the organizational structures and the holistic corporate strategy for long-term success.
Even without looking into the crystal ball, it can be seen that digital transformation and its implementation are no longer just optional – they are necessary for business operations. They can make the decisive difference between a successful future and the failure of a company.
The COVID-19 crisis has given the technology a new meaning. It has the potential to turn important social, ecological, and economic issues for the better and to make our lives safer, healthier, more sustainable, and happier. It is now up to us to ensure that everyone benefits equally from this technological progress and that we successfully counteract the digital divide in society.