Cloud forecast 2021: Planning, focus and agility remain keys to success

After an extraordinary year, businesses around the world are anxious to embrace 2021 as a year of renewed focus and a return to normalcy. But businesses must continue to focus on best practices and investments that will enable them to navigate the path ahead.

Much uncertainty remains in the coming year as the impacts of the global pandemic linger. Many of the workplace changes we adopted in 2020 will, by necessity, continue this year.

Lasting Impacts of COVID

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Companies must make their plans for 2021 knowing the pandemic will continue to impact business for most, if not all, of the year. Despite the promising news of vaccine approvals and the initial rollout of a large-scale vaccination campaign, widespread vaccination isn’t expected to occur until the third quarter of 2021. Focusing on a conservative approach, reducing expenses and increasing productivity where possible remains key to ensuring a strong fiscal year. Smart business leaders will pay attention to other countries that are ahead of the U.S. in dealing with the pandemic fallout. This will help inform decisions around remote work policies and address how to manage employees who choose not to vaccinate. The good news is that the practices we put in place now will be long lasting even after the pandemic is over.

Reimagined Workplace

As large-scale, in-office work becomes safer, businesses will look for ways to reimagine their workspaces to make them more conducive to social distancing and accommodating for ongoing remote work. These changes might include more open space for cooperative work, like a WeWork-style collaboration space. There will be fewer individual desks and more large conference rooms with space to spread out while gathering. While businesses will open their doors to in-person work, many will also continue to offer a remote option, as WFH productivity improvements and employee preferences will likely dictate more flexibility. Organizations should expect a large percentage of their workforce to work remotely either from home or relocate to more cost-effective cities to do their jobs. Regardless, this will result in excess office space that is now unoccupied.

Continued Rise of the Cloud

Essential cloud software will continue to see high adoption rates as the use of collaboration software, such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Workspace, continues to play an important role in maintaining employee productivity and effectiveness. Most companies recognize the many benefits of the cloud and will continue to migrate more of their operations and workloads there.

As a result, businesses will seek productivity gains and cost savings by increasing their IT investment in areas such as infrastructure management, assessment and reporting, and cost analysis. IT automation software will play an important role to help reduce costly manual labor on routine IT tasks – and shift the focus of skilled MSPs and IT teams to other value-added work.

Importance of Change Management and Training

Businesses will recognize that investing in new software and embracing the cloud can only reduce costs and improve productivity if accompanied by training, so that employees can fully leverage the tools available to them. Businesses that invest in change management programs designed to drive the cultural shifts within their company are more likely to fully realize the benefits of software investments.

On the back end, automation software will help IT assess how the software is being used by employees. This will help businesses effectively identify needs for additional training or even identify non-essential SaaS applications that could be scaled down or discontinued to cut costs. Invest in software that can assess security, usage and cost. This will help to ensure your organization maximizes the ROI of software purchases.

Reining in Sprawl

IT teams will begin to focus on reining in technology sprawl as companies invest in collaboration software to improve productivity of a hybrid or remote workforce. Sprawl can result from the creation of new collaboration channels as projects evolve, without properly archiving old channels, for example. IT housekeeping and software management will be important for keeping a handle on the overall cloud footprint and associated costs, as well as for proper data governance.

Business operations will likely change in some fundamental ways forever. With proper planning, businesses will continue to meet the challenges of the coming year. And perhaps, they may come out stronger, having been forced to exhibit the necessary agility to survive the disruption brought on by the pandemic.

Photo Credit: charnsitr/Shutterstock

Geeman Yip is the founder and CEO of BitTitan, a SaaS-based cloud enablement provider based in Bellevue, Washington. Geeman founded BitTitan in 2007 to help IT service providers and businesses assess, deploy and manage technology solutions in a rapidly changing cloud world. Prior to BitTitan, Geeman was a Program Manager for Microsoft Exchange, architecting what would become the foundation for today’s Office 365 suite. He has over two decades’ worth of experience in the software and IT spaces.

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