The Top 10, Top 10 Predictions for 2021

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Published December 14, 2020

As each year comes to a close, tech pundits blow the dust off their crystal balls and share their predictions for the coming year. For my annual top tens I’ve (let's generously say) repurposed other, smarter folks’ takes since 2012. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! So here’s my 10th annual curated top 10 predictions for 2021…

Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond – A number of outlets, including TechRepublic and PCMag, have written about Gartner’s list. This year the big takeaway is that businesses need a reset due to the pandemic—and because technological advances will require it. As technology continues to infiltrate every corner of our existence, innovation will come from those companies that pursue nontraditional approaches. Because most technology has hit a wall, keep an eye on the maturing of neuromorphic computing: a computer that thinks and acts like the human brain. Farms and factories will continue to automate; VR experiences will start to rival real, physical places; and by 2025, 75% of conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed. Also, organizations will explore DNA storage to save all the data we’re gathering. This last one really piqued my interest because it means they can now store binary digital data in the double helix, turning that into coding that fits in the human DNA strand. They said, ‘All of human knowledge could be stored in a small amount of synthetic DNA.’ Did not know that.

Forbes Ten Business Predictions For 2021 – Each year, Shep Hyken creates his list based on research and articles he’s read, along with what he’s learned from customers. His number one prediction has been the same for five years running: Customers will continue to get smarter about, and have higher standards for, customer service and experience. In fact, he predicts service and experience will beat price and product in the future. Consumers are also getting used to the notion that they can get whatever they want, Right Now. Look for growing impatience with delivery times, waiting in line, or being on hold (even with muzak), fueled by interactions with those companies that have been innovating in customer experience over the past few years. The pandemic forced brands to find more ways to digitize and automate experiences much sooner than they’d planned as the future arrived in real time. We’ll see more personalization and more improvements in chat-bots; but empathy and human to human interaction will be a winning combo as some companies go overboard with automation.

IDC unveils top 10 IT predictions for 2021 FutureCIO distills IDC’s FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2021 Predictions, which were scoped with the pandemic in mind. The global economy’s “digital destiny” will grab 65% of the Global GDP by 2022, with US$6.8 trillion spent on IT to support the shift as glaring IT issues exposed by the pandemic need remediating. New tech will allow companies to quickly adapt to unforeseen business disruptions. By the end of next year, 80% of enterprises will shift to a cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before. Edge deployments will get a ton of attention to boost digital resilience; a hybrid digital workspace will reflect the remote workforce; and sustainability becomes a key component of strategy and people still matter in this digital realm—especially when it comes to building IT/Sec/DevOps teams with the right skills.

10 tech predictions that could mean huge changes ahead – ZDNet digs into CCS Insights 100 tech predictions for the coming years and like many other prediction lists, it was shaped heavily by the pandemic. Out of the gate, they predict that over half of all office-based workers will still be working from home in 2021. With that, about a third of the larger organizations will cut around 20% of their office space spend in the coming year. Pandemic-driven remote work accelerated the digital transformation, so “home-working last mile” solutions like digital whiteboards are expected to surge in 2021 along with collaboration tools. IT teams will be tasked to provide the same level of service and security posture to remote employees as they do for office workers—which is critically important since self-learning, AI-powered malware will be able to beat their defenses very soon. ZDNet also concurred that cloud migration will continue, with half of large organizations planning to have more than half of their applications in the public cloud by 2023.

Seven cybersecurity predictions for 2021 – Seven, ten, eh—who’s counting? Security Magazine kicks off their list with—you guessed it—remote workers, and how they will be cybercriminals’ chief targets through 2021. If this past year was any indicator, remote machines are a perfect way to infiltrate the corporate IT network, especially if there are gaps or lapses. Nearly 25% of organizations doled out unexpected costs due to being unprepared for the mass stay at home orders, and many surveys indicate that a lot of people will continue working from home. Zero-trust implementations will start to push out some VPN technologies, so users only have access to the smallest set of tools to do their job. The authors predict that CSOs and CISOs will converge their security solutions as the business digitally transforms. Look for more attacks on the financial sector; for healthcare breaches to become deadly; and, as the number of internet users worldwide continues to grow (4.6 billion as of July 2020), for more people to become at risk for data exposure. Online crimes reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center increased four-fold since the pandemic started; 2021 will require supporting the remote workforce and reducing their (and your) risk.

Top 10 Cybersecurity Trends to Watch out for in 2021 – Analytics Insight hits on some of the most basic (but timeless) predictions about the coming year. We’ve heard this stuff a thousand times, but probably need to be reminded of every once in a while. With cloud adoption growing during the pandemic, cloud breaches are sure to follow. There will be holes from IoT devices and threats from malicious insiders. Data privacy such as encryption and cyber risk insurance are business necessities. Although investments in cybersecurity will grow, the talent needed to manage those solutions is in short supply. Automation and integration of AI solutions could help not only with the dev pipeline but also defending the organization against attacks. You may say, “I already know about all these,’ but have you actually mitigated the risk of all these? You’ll find out in 2021!

10 Future Cloud Computing Trends To Watch In 2021 – With all the predictions about cloud taking over in 2021, CRN zeros in on some areas you’ll need to consider both now and over time. Generating, processing, and analyzing data for better business outcomes is what cloud does well; and with new technologies, doing that for a decentralized office will be critical in the coming years. Forrester predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will hit $120 billion, up 35%. On-demand cloud really shone during the pandemic and enterprises will continue to need that agility, even more than they did before COVID-19. SaaS still rules but PaaS and IaaS are expected to see healthy growth also. The Big Three Providers could also see a change, with Alibaba grabbing the third pedestal. As others have noted, Edge will emerge a key component of bridging the gap between centralized cloud and consumers. AI engineering (robots are here! again!); serverless computing; cost challenges; SASE adoption; and automated orchestration and optimization are all focus areas. The good news? Data governance and compliance, particularly encrypting all data, should help with regulatory requirements and controlling who has access to what. Companies must control PII and safeguard privacy, or face hefty fines and fleeing customers.

The Top 10 Workplace Trends For 2021 – Like me, Dan Schawbel has compiled predictions since 2013. I really like that his number one is about workers’ mental health needs. A Workplace Intelligence and Oracle study revealed that workers feel that 2020 was the most stressful year in history, and a separate TELUS survey found that 75% of workers have struggled at work due to anxiety caused by the pandemic. Many organizations offered wellness programs to their employees this year to help reduce the overall stress and the stigma around mental health. With all the societal strife this year, employees are also demanding that their organizations take a stand on social issues and be part of a healing solution. Employees today need more support and flexibility along with learning and development—but from a distance, of course. When it comes to work/life balance, “home-work” is affecting the entire family, young and old; and the work day has forever changed. A dispersed, decentralized, hybrid workforce and workplace is here to stay, and 20% of the workforce have already relocated since they no longer need to go into an office. Diversity, retraining, and reskilling are all hot topics, but unfortunately, women will continue to experience workplace setbacks. As the load on the home increased, it’s been women who’ve sacrificed their careers to handle the high demands of parenthood. Step up, guys!

Experts Predict Top 10 Social Media Trends for 2021 – Social Media Today has this along with 25 Predictions for Social Media Marketing in 2021. As with societal issues, 78% of consumers want brands to help them with their daily lives. COVID-19 content will focus on the 4-Cs: Community, Cleanliness, Contactless, and Compassion. Messaging that speaks to nostalgia will engage the audience, with nostalgia-related mentions increasing 88% during the lockdown. Organizations will need to connect with their audience through real conversations to help drive sales, and old-school digital marketing methods such as podcasts will be the new “new” as 55% of Americans now listen to podcasts. Digital disinformation will need to be contained, as there were 101 million mentions of disinformation leading up to June 2020. (This statistic is not Fake News, I promise.) As in other areas, audiences are more socially conscious, aware of global issues, and want to know how brands are participating. I think this is good, and will force organizations to take a stand against societal and economic injustice.

Nostradamus 2021 Predictions – Where would this list be without the “reality really bites, but fun” entry? Born in Saint Rémy de Provence, France in 1503, Nostradamus wrote 6338 prophecies with many coming true. He went as far forward to the year 3797, so we got a bunch more to look forward to. Yay! Since many of us have already been waiting anxiously for the zombie apocalypse, good news: Nostradamus says it’ll be coming next year. Some believe that the pandemic represents the beginning of a series of unfavorable events that Nostradamus appeared to predict, and which will impact the world’s population. In one quatrain he writes, “In the sky, one sees fire and a long trail of sparks”, which many interpret to mean that a comet or asteroid will either hit earth or come very close, and NASA reports that an asteroid named 2009 JF1 has a one in 3,800 chance (0.026%) of hitting earth on May 6, 2021. There are a couple of articles that say no, it will hit on May 6, 2022; but either way, the universe is coming for us. Nostradamus also said we’ll have solar storms, and just a week ago, the sun fired off it’s biggest flare in 3 years. There will be a great earthquake “Through the Lands of the West,” (California?) when “Mercury in Sagittarius, Saturn fading.” No kidding, the planets Mars and Saturn will be in this position in the sky on November 25th of 2021. Great. That’s just great.

Despite Nostradamus’ predictions of my own destruction by asteroid/earthquake/zombies notwithstanding, I predict I’ll be doing another Top 10, Top 10 next year. In the meantime, you can also explore 20 Long-Predicted Technologies That Are Never Going to Happen. Have fun, stay healthy, and enjoy 2021.

Interested to see if any of the previous year’s prognoses came true?