There is a silver lining in COVID-19. It has been a remarkable catalyst for technology adoption in the past eight months. It has changed both the trajectory and the velocity of digital transformation, and will continue to do so well into 2021. With an increasing number of people working and shopping from home, reliable and fast digital connectivity has become an even more critical component of our everyday lives. Businesses are scrambling to adopt technology in order to stay relevant in the post-COVID environment. Companies all over the world are seeking technology-enabled solutions to improve productivity and better engage with customers in a cost-effective manner. For many organizations, this may mean increased investment and addition of new technology, tools and software as companies seek to overhaul and replace outdated legacy systems and processes. Agile, scalable, and dynamic workplaces are needed now more than ever.

The year 2020 alone has seen more investment in digital transformation adoption than the last decade put together. With the current year coming to a close, what can we expect in terms of new digital transformation trends for 2021? What new emerging technologies will we see next year?

Our team of digital strategists at MindsterDX expects core technologies like Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence to continue to feature prominently in the next twelve months. In this article, we explore the 5 digital transformation trends that we believe will be the most significant in 2021.

1. Increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Investment in new technology was already gathering pace in recent years, but the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic this year has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of AI, Data Analytics and Machine Learning. At MindsterDX, we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from organizations seeking to understand the impact and benefits of AI on operational efficiencies. In our view, it is clear that the perceived barriers to AI-adoption are coming down; it is no longer seen as something abstract or belonging to a future trend. Next year, we predict computer power will become even more affordable, thereby enabling smaller sized enterprises greater access to massive cloud computing power. We expect a significant increase in demand for AI solutions as organizations seek to improve operational efficiencies. Our first prediction for 2021 is that AI will be very much ingrained at workplaces as organizations begin to appreciate its immense commercial benefits. Enterprise-wide AI adoption by companies will be more widespread than ever before, thanks to cloud computing power becoming less expensive and more available to businesses around the globe.

2. Our daily lives will be transformed by 5G technology evolution
With work-from-home (WFH), videoconferencing and digital collaboration now an essential part of our daily lives, increased bandwidth and reliable internet connectivity have become critical components for all businesses. Telecommunication firms are building new massive 5G infrastructures to support multi-lane superhighways to meet the increased demand. With internet bandwidth continuing to grow rapidly, 5G deployments will accelerate at the same pace in order to support consumers’ reliance on phones, tablets, and an ever- growing number of IoT sensors. What does this mean for businesses next year? At MindsterDX, we believe 5G network deployments will become increasingly mainstream in 2021. Affordable 5G phones from Tech Giants like Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi will be released in the coming months as they seek to establish dominance and leadership status in smartphone user market share.  We expect to 5G phones to be wildly popular next year as consumers’ appetite for faster broadband speeds and more reliable mobile networks grows exponentially. The proliferation of 5G will not be limited to just handsets, but will also accelerate advancements in smart city, smart vehicle, smart manufacturing, and scores of IoT-intensive technologies. 5G technology evolution will define 2021 as our daily lives will be transformed for the better.

3. Increased investment in Business Intelligence and Customer Data Platforms
Data is growing exponentially, along with analytics platforms, data warehouses and visualization tools. Emerging technologies like Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence) are fuelling the growth in demand in data analytics. Forward-looking organizations are seeking solutions to process large volumes of structured and unstructured data, and algorithms that can identify behavioral patterns of customers.

At MindsterDX, we are witnessing surging demand for Microsoft Power BI and Customer Data Platforms (CDP)-related solutions. Business owners recognize the value of data, but lack the knowledge to leverage it. SMEs are not alone in this struggle in managing data, particularly with the integration of internal and external data. The inability to connect a single customer dataset across devices to enable real-time campaign execution continues to be a key challenge for many businesses. Larger organizations too are experiencing similar difficulties in organizing fragmented data extracted from multiple customer touch-points. The inability of many businesses in managing data in meaningful ways leads to lost revenue and lost customer engagement opportunities. Unmanaged data is the same as bad data; it delivers no value to the organization. In terms of CDP adoption, our prediction for 2021 is that most organizations will make the management of customer data a major business priority next year. An effective CDP solution provides 360-degree view of the customer. It starts with having a smart customer data acquisition strategy through the collection of data from all available sources, and then organizing it, tagging it, and making it usable for everyone in the organization who needs access to it.

As a Microsoft-certified Gold partner for collaboration and content, MindsterDX is equipped to help businesses take advantage of the rise of customer data platforms. We predict CDPs will become increasingly more relevant in 2021 as companies look for smart solutions to better manage and organize data collection across an ever-expanding ecosystem of touchpoints.

4. Ubiquitous Digital Workplace with increased adoption of Power Automation
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enables organizations to automate at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional I.T. solutions. RPA robots are capable of replicating and automating manual, time-consuming human actions. They log into applications, move files and folders, copy and paste data, fill in forms, extract structured and semi-structured data from documents, scrape browsers, and more. Essentially, any high-volume, business-rules-driven, repeatable process qualifies for automation. Increasingly, businesses of all sizes are starting to recognize the value and cost efficiencies of RPA through the reduction in back office effort and the improvement in front office customer service. By automating low-value manual processes, businesses will achieve productivity gains by freeing up headcount to focus on higher value customer-centric and sales-related activities. At MindsterDX, we are seeing growing interest and demand for process automation across companies of all sizes. Our fourth prediction for 2021 is an explosion in RPA investment over the next eighteen months.

5. Advancements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Conversational AI
Natural language processing (NLP) is about developing applications and services that are capable of understanding and processing human languages. Speech recognition tools such as Google voice search provide businesses with numerous advantages. It can be applied by many departments within an organization. Using the Human Resource department as an example, HR recruiters can analyze resumes and predict how well a candidate will fit into the company using NLP. In the area of Advertising, NLP helps advertisers identify new audiences that may be interested in their products making the process of budget allocation and audience targeting more effective.

Conversational AI is the use of messaging apps, speech-based assistants, and chatbots to automate communication and create personalized customer experiences. With these tools, businesses have the ability to carry out highly personalized interactions with a large number of individual customers.

At MindsterDX, we are seeing two major Conversational AI trends developing. The first is in the area of Self-Learning chatbots allowing businesses to better manage consumer data, product details and digital platforms, including social media and email marketing campaigns. The second is in the area of Lead Generation, which is a core element of all business strategy. Advancements in Conversational AI technology will improve the accuracy of natural language processing in real time. This will help businesses capture sales leads, follow-up, respond to customer queries, and schedule meetings automatically and seamlessly. Our final prediction for 2021 is a significant rise in investments in the area of Conversational AI in line with the amazing technology improvements in the next generation of Natural Language Processing in the coming year.

In closing
We believe these five major digital transformation trends will define the trajectory of successful digital transformation programs in 2021. For companies seeking to invest in technology projects for 2021, our recommendation is to look beyond traditional technologies as they may no longer be relevant in the new post-COVID environment. The adoption of new emerging technologies will be a critical factor in the success of your organization.

Do contact us at MindsterDX for a free consultation on the best business and technology solutions for your organization.

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