A CEO's view of 2021

For most of us, 2020 was a year like no other, defined by the most disruptive and defining event of the past 100 years. As surreal as it felt to have our regular lives screech to a halt, the pandemic served to wake us up in many ways, too. It pushed us to dig deep, take stock, and come together as human beings, citizens, partners, and colleagues.

We learned the power of forging alliances to overcome adversity versus pointing fingers and creating more problems. That only by stepping up and coming together as individuals, companies, and nations do we all benefit, survive, and win.

Dealing with crisis on a worldwide scale forced us to rethink every aspect of how we live and do business. We saw massive amounts of financial support provided by governments around the world in attempts to keep the global economy afloat. The U.S. alone invested nearly $6T causing fiscal debt to balloon to 105 percent of our GDP (vs. a 30-50 percent average for the past four decades).

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The pandemic shone light on some intrinsic social and economic inequities, like the fact that 10 percent of the U.S. population owns nearly 90 percent of its total equity value, and that stock market exuberance has little to do with the fundamentals of the economy itself.

The "year like no other" also brought technology and its role in the world front and center. Technology held the world together, but 2020 made it clear that we’ve just begun to scratch the surface. We thought of ourselves as "connected" before, but came to see new stratospheres of potential connectedness, even as we stay separate a bit longer.

Within the industry, we learned how lucky we were to be able to work from home (or anywhere else) while front-line responders, restauranteurs, retail and delivery professionals did not enjoy that same luxury -- huge kudos and heartfelt thanks to each and every one of them! We redefined "resilience," "distributed," and "business continuity" for ourselves and began evolving to new, post-pandemic standards.

Perhaps most important, we’ve seen that a massive digital divide still exists, even in the U.S., between have’s and have not’s. We saw that, while technology is woven into the fabric of life and business, we’ve never relied on it to conduct life and business as we did in 2020 and will continue to do going forward.

So, what happens next?

In 2021, the implications of drastic economic intervention will hit us hard, but from a "glass half full" perspective, we’ll get the chance to rethink, rebuild, and eventually scale a better, stronger new economy as we recover. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us, and we must be prepared to be prudent, practical, and willing to ride out the uncertainties.

Technology will play an even greater role, mobilizing the healthcare industry around contact tracing and distribution of vaccines developed in record time while keeping our privacy intact. And to some extent, we’ll keep using applications and services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to attend family reunions, yoga classes and virtual trade shows without leaving our homes. To consult with doctors and lawyers face to face from our kitchen tables and order food for curbside pickup.

But only to a point. Isolation has us yearning for socialization, to return to normal in our personal lives as much and as quickly as possible.

In business, however, some permanent shifts must and will happen. Every industry must now view its technology infrastructure as vital to the core of the business. Company leadership must stop viewing IT as a necessary evil, or cost center, and make sure CTOs, CIOs, and CISOs have a seat at the table.

Investments in digital transformation must be viewed as -- and actually be -- strategic and outcome-driven, backed by detailed data and analytics. If done right, we’ll see 5G and virtual reality become part of the mainstream, changing the way we live and work with near-real live, remote collaboration anywhere in the world. Only then can we fully leverage the transformational power of technology to create a more solid and equitable world and economy.

Photo credit: Zatevahins / Shutterstock

Raju Chekuri founded Netenrich in 2004 after a successful IT career as an entrepreneur, visionary, and business leader in the Silicon Valley. He has led the company’s growth as SaaS for digital operations while innovating for AIOps and cybersecurity solutions. Raju is currently the Chairman of the board at OpsRamp, a spin-off from Netenrich. Previously, he founded Velio Communications, Inc., and led it to its acquisition by LSI Logic and Rambus in 2003.

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