Do Industry executives think our lives will improve in the coming year? Or will it be Groundhog Year?  Again… Again… Again…

In this the first of a multi-part report we look at general thoughts for  life in 2021 before addressing more specific topics in subsequent reports.

This is the question we posed to our panel of experts:

Having endured the weirdest year any of us could have imagined, what will be different in 2021?

Some possible themes – please don’t limit yourself to these – we simply want to make the context as broad as possible.

  • security will get [better / worse]
  • [more / fewer] organisations will move to the cloud
  • mainframes will [resume control of computing / vanish]
  • crypto-currencies will become [more / less] respected
  • SaaS will [take over the world / shrink in popularity]
  • malicious hackers will [get their come-uppance / carry on unabated]
  • there will be [more / fewer] mergers than new enterprises
  • the office is [important / no more]

In his own inimitable fashion, Garrett O’Hara Principal Technical Consultant at Mimecast ANZ sets the scene perfectly. “Let’s hope everything will be different in 2021 because 2020 was the year equivalent of those days when you wake up on the sofa after a big night with a kebab stuck to your face while slowly realising two things: 1) it’s not your sofa and 2) most of the day will be spent wishing it was the next day.”  We might add that it’s difficult to find both pain-killers, and the front door, in a stranger’s house.

And while today’s date is December 20th, we all know that there are still at least two more months until Christmas.

Kicking things off (for real!), Jonathan Knudsen, Senior Security Strategist at Synopsys takes the relatively pessimistic view. “2020 has been a year filled with unpredictability, making predictions for the year ahead seem foolhardy. However, in the world of software application security, several trends are clear.

“Some things will certainly not change in 2021. Massive amounts of valuable data will continue to be placed online in public places with no protections. People will continue to choose easily guessed passwords that they use across multiple accounts and continue to click on sketchy links in emails. Organizations will continue to not keep up to date with software patches and versions.

“Organizations will continue to ignore more than a half-century of accumulated wisdom about defense in depth, least privilege, and all the other lessons about software development that organizations have learned the hard way.”

Sam Deckert Managing Director, Peak Insight adds, “Workplaces are clearly going to take a long time to recover from the current pandemic and when activity does increase things are going to be very different. At the same time shifting employee demands and the need for more flexibility will mean that that the office will become an even more important building block for organisational culture, a place where team members can consume experiences in-person, where lasting connections can form. However, it will be part of a wider hybrid workplace, blending in-office and remote workers, empowered by cloud, security and collaboration technology to choose where they work for the day.”

Deckert continues, “As governments encourage workers to return to CBD offices and companies incentivise workers to return to the traditional workplace, management will be required to put in place ‘Safe Return to the Office’. This will include a touchless and intelligent workplace that enables teams to feel safe as they return. Touchless meeting room controls, voice-activation, room capacity and cleaning notifications will all play a part in safe office practices during the year ahead. It will be important for managers to take the time now to understand the options they have available for changing workplaces and the steps that will be needed to keep staff safe and secure in a post-COVID world.

“This will require a potential review of worker collaboration requirements whereby meetings will now have a high percentage of remote participants, highlighting the importance of high quality audio, video/content and co-creation (whiteboarding) capabilities. This employee experience will be a differentiator for organisations to attract and retain talent, from remote onboarding through to office-based interactions. The right technology will provide equality regardless of team member location. Indeed, AI, sensors and automation will enable users working from home to participate fully and have the same experience as when in-office.

Jim Shanahan, COO, Serverfarm agrees. “Whether by salami-slicing or best of breeding big applications and service tranches onto most-fit-for-purpose platforms, CTOs and CIOs are back in control and embracing the options offered by multiple cloud offerings. In terms of UpStacking, IT organizations will continue to slim down their structure, reskill people to high-value tasks and reduce costs by shifting away from the infrastructure operations and management best left to specialists.
“Success in an all-digital world means rapid time to value for IT projects. In 2021, CIO and CTO success will be measured by management, internal customers and consumers on how quickly they harness emerging technologies to deliver new applications that improve and enhance the customer experience in an increasingly ‘as-a-service’ world.

There’s an interesting concept – “rapid time to value,” expanding as it does, the worth of something to be much more than mere dollars and hours.

Steve Singer, Regional Vice President and Country Manager – Australia and New Zealand, Zscaler sees something similar when he notes, “It became very clear in 2020 that the majority of businesses across all industries needed to adapt to digital or die. Because of this, as we approach 2021 and beyond, IT will play an even more strategic part in influencing business decisions at the board level than ever before, as companies race towards the next generation of industry. Indeed, digital transformation will accelerate and in 2021 we’ll see a consistent new normal workplace where previous five-year transformation plans will now be collapsed in time.”

Further, Chris Marshall, Managing Director, blueAPACHE is in full agreement when he adds, although sounding a warning at the same time… “As teams settle into a new rhythm of flexible working environments, IT will have the time to take a breath and form a view on the application stack for the future. The accelerated deployments of on-demand collaboration tools will be retrospectively evaluated and may drive consolidation in this space. Time to value was the most critical success factor, powering the meteoric rise of tools like Slack and Zoom, but time to value won’t guarantee success in 2021 the way it has this year.”

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