If there’s one thing we can say about 2020, it’s that the year has been about as unpredictable as it gets. No one foresaw how the past nine months were going to play out, and there’s no telling what the remainder of the year has in store for us.
So, with that in mind, it seems odd to make any kind of predictions about next year and beyond. But if anything, we’ve all become a lot more digitally-focused as a result of the pandemic, so it’s interesting to see how our use of technology might grow as 2020 wraps up and a new year begins. From the move to working from home to new rules about how we meet and interact in public spaces, technological trends could well be a driving force as we settle into a new normal going forward.
And whatever developments are set to take place, it’s not unlikely that the pandemic will accelerate such innovations. As businesses seek to better leverage technology to continue through these strange times, and put themselves in a better position for eventual recovery, new tech may necessitate a quicker adoption by organisations as a result.
So, while there’s no telling where we’ll be in the next few months, we still have a much better view of the state of tech and where that could be heading. Here, we’ll take a look at how the last nine months have shaped technology, and where that could lead for years to come.
IT teams take centre stage operationally
“The Covid-19 pandemic has taken IT as a business unit out of the shadows and pushed it firmly to the forefront of our operations,” says Jean-Sebastien Pelland, Director at Eland Cables. Certainly, the IT teams of many companies have proven how operationally invaluable they are, setting colleagues up with remote working capabilities and overseeing the challenges of remote working.
On this, Jean-Sebastian adds: “Whether it’s familiarisation with video conferencing tools, ensuring secure remote access, or just remotely fixing simple day-to-day PC problems, the IT team has become increasingly more visible to stakeholders and other departments. This means that, while resources and budgets may be being scrutinised more than usual as we navigate the pandemic, the value of IT teams has become more apparent, meaning that they will be better placed to pitch their case for backing in the future.”
Cybersecurity strength gains
The need for cybersecurity is an ever-present necessity for businesses of all kinds, so its appearance on this list might seem superfluous, but the pandemic has once more underscored its importance. Hackers have taken advantage of the current situation, with attacks and threats on the rise as a result. From January to April of this year alone, there was a massive 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers! The reduced numbers of employees working onsite on the same secure network means it’s essential that companies reinforce their network protection and upgrade their security offerings, expanding them to home networks and mobile work-from-home devices.
It’s not unreasonable to expect software, cloud and hardware companies to all be increasing their efforts to make products and services more secure to deal with the growth of cyberattacks that we’ve seen this year.
Work from home continues beyond COVID-19
Greater working flexibility may have come at the expense of a global pandemic, but at the very least, we’ve seen that remote home offices have now become a viable option for many businesses. And with the recent announcement of new restrictions meaning work-from-home looks set to continue, it seems likely that companies will continue this arrangement as an operational option long after COVID has ended.
Pandemic aside, the recent arrangements have been made possible through a number of remote work technologies. Zoom, Webex and Microsoft teams have all flourished as a result, seeing a marked uptick in use and development as software teams seek to make them easier and more secure. But there’s also been growing PC sales and investment in new secure connectivity like SD-WAN as employees set up a home office in the long term.
Mita Patel, Director of Product and Development at Mitrefinch, believes that a permanent move towards flexible remote working could instigate a technological rethink. She says: “One area I predict we will see from businesses is the movement away from servers towards hosted platforms on a more permanent basis to enable work from anywhere long term.
“Hosted systems provide flexibility, reliability and enhanced security, and remove the cost and time of maintaining and updating systems on-premise – benefits which are all hugely important to a remote workforce going forward.”
Deep learning increases
“Before the pandemic there was significant movement towards more of a conversational and interactive experience when it comes to digital assistant technologies,” says Peter Hanlon, CTO of Moneypenny, “this has only been heightened as natural language processing is advancing exponentially.
“We’ve been testing emerging deep learning models such as Bigbird from Google and GPT-3 from OpenAI to help advance our offerings. A subset of AI and machine learning, deep learning mimics the workings of the human brain in processing data for use in detecting objects, recognizing speech, translating languages, and making decisions.
“The models we’ve been testing are achieving state-of-the-art results in many of the language benchmarks, and I believe they will help to drive innovation in this space.”
The As-A-Service revolution spins on
“As-a-service” provisions have made many of the other tech trends that get talked about in the hands of many, making things like AI and robotics a possibility for businesses of all sizes and budgets. Cloud offerings from companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon mean that anyone can make use of cutting-edge tech with very little upfront investment in tools, equipment or specialised people.
The pandemic has shown that companies rely on the cloud to provide scalable solutions as-a-service are doing well. Everyone knows about Zoom now, and this is due to the speed with which was able to add servers and increase its coverage and quality of service. Its cloud-based nature and partnerships with its own service providers made this possible, increasing capacity to readily meets demands.
Greater uptake of smart working
With remote working setting the precedent as the new normal for the time being, it’s been suggested that the next logical development of this arrangement might be the leveraging of smart working. On this, Fernando Angulo, Head of Communications Team at SEMrush, says: “Whilst remote work revolves around flexible working, smart work involves entirely reinventing the way in which we work. At its core, smart working is a model of work that uses the new technologies and the development of existing technologies to improve both performance and job satisfaction.
“For productivity levels to increase, people need to work smarter and embrace new technologies. From optimising a work/life balance, improving quality of life, and increase productivity levels, it can offer numerous advantages that better suit the way we’re currently working.”
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