Digital transformation
10 min read
24 August 2023

Top 10 Digital Transformation Trends 2021

Kelly van der Horst
digital transformation

The year 2020 is a year we will never forget. In the beginning of 2020 COVID-19 spread all over the world and had a huge global impact. People were forced to work from home and this also had impact on digital transformation. In this blog we look back at digital transformation in 2020 and discuss ten digital transformation trends for 2021.

Before we talk about the digital transformation trends and the impact of digital transformation in 2020, it is important to know what digital transformation is. Digital transformation doesn’t have one specific definition, but multiple organisations have come up with one. Salesforce defines it as:

“Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new – or modify existing – business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”

What about digital transformation in 2020?

In 2020 the effects of COVID-19 had a huge impact and will continue to impact trends in 2021 as well. We discuss the two things that made the most impact in 2020.

Work from home: from contingency to conventional

Due to COVID-19 remote working has increased. According to a survey by Harvey Nash and KPMG among respondents from 83 countries, 86% off their respondents moved from working at the office to remote working. They expect to work from home for a while. In the technology sector, 62% expect to still be working from home after COVID-19.

The study also shows that remote working is becoming the standard, especially in the technology sector. In jobs where the productivity hasn’t decreased by working from home, they will be working less from the office. Jobs where the productivity has decreased will be working from the office again when it’s safe, but still consider to work from home sometimes. Only 6% of the respondents say that no staff will be working from home after the pandemic.

Rising importance of the cloud

More and more organisations are moving their infrastructures to the cloud. Gartner states that the hybrid cloud has been growing, but that the distributed cloud is the next generation of cloud computing. Organisations are investing more and more in cloud computing, this is a rapidly growing percentage. According to Forrester a public cloud infrastructure will grow with 35% in 2021. The pandemic accelerated the acquisition of new technologies and the urgency of digital transformation.

Digital transformation trends for 2021

We discuss 10 digital transformation trends for 2021. What is going to change? Which trends are growing rapidly and which new trends are there?

1. Remote work shifts digital transformation priorities 

While remote work has already been on the rise for several years, this year’s pandemic has drastically changed and accelerated the course of this trend. Gartner states that 74% of the companies will shift more towards remote working. Moreover, a survey by the World Economic Forum shows that 72% of the surveyed companies’ global workforce is currently working remotely, and the amount of employees working permanently from home will double in 2021. This is partially due to the fact that since employees started working remotely, almost half of the surveyed companies reported improved productivity. Also, there’s no telling how long the pandemic will last. This has great implications for organisations’ digital transformation efforts, as they need to invest in making remote working for employees as secure, easy and efficient as possible.

This makes this one of the most important trends of 2021, changing priorities and influencing many other trends in the coming year.

2. Employees at the core

Employees are the centre of the business. In 2021, there will be more initiatives to improve the employee experience, especially remotely. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were forced to work from home, resulting in challenges some had not experienced before. According to a study by The Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policity (KiM), people struggle with the social aspect of their work, loneliness, no work-life balance and a lack of concentration. And seen as remote working is not going anywhere anytime soon, in 2021 there will be extra focus on the (remote) employee experience: making sure that employees not only stay motivated, but connected to the organisation and organisational culture as well. This will become apparent in an increase in for example investments in communication tools – not just for work, but for social purposes as well – and an increase in culture-boosting and teambuilding activities, such as sending gifts and goodies to employees’ homes and having them participate in fun challenges and online events, such as online pub quizzes.

3. Rethinking cybersecurity strategies for remote working

With employees spread out over different locations, it is harder to manage the security of documents and information. The growing number of locations and networks has also increased the number of targets, and hackers have happily taken advantage of this: data breaches have increased all over the world. Needless to say that it is very important for organisations to keep their documents and data safe. That’s why organisations are massively upgrading their security strategies, expanding cybersecurity to home networks and mobile devices. The field of cybersecurity will therefore change in 2021, placing more emphasis on not just cybersecurity tools, policies and measures, but also on educating employees on how to work safely remotely.

4. Accelerated digital transformation efforts

COVID-19 has shook many organisations, bringing the realisation that organisations need to be more agile to respond to changes and survive. Besides the pandemic, which made it clear that huge changes can happen at an instant, in today’s digital world changes succeed each other more rapidly every day. In order to keep up, in 2021 more organisations will accelerate their digital transformation efforts to enable more flexibility and agility. To do so, hyperautomation is on the rise, allowing organisations to automate anything that can be, enabling them to focus on other matters, such as innovation. Also, organisations are expected to invest more in scenario planning and risk assessment tools, to better respond and adapt to changes in the future and (hopefully) never be as caught off-guard again like they were with COVID-19.

5. Contactless tech

In 2021, there will be a bigger need for tech that enables people to not have face-to-face contact or doesn’t require them to be present at a certain location. This goes beyond just online videoconferencing tools. It applies to both internal and external situations, and to contact between people as well as individuals or teams performing tasks. Organisations are for example investing in technology to build entire virtual event floors, or to remotely control certain elements in the office, such as the temperature. This way, people are becoming less and less dependent on their location to execute work or connect to others.

6. 5G goes mainstream

5G has caused quite some commotion in the past year, and it might do so in the year to come as well, because 5G is going mainstream in 2021. If there’s anything the massive increase of remote working in the past year has taught us, it’s the importance of connectivity. Employees need to able to connect with colleagues and other parties to work remotely. From any location and any device they need to be connected and can’t effort not to be. That’s why 5G is more important than ever and be embraced on a wider scale in 2021

7. Guided by data (analytics)

In order to survive as a digital organisation ,you need to have relevant and reliable data. This data can help you improve pretty much every area of your organisation, from customer service and your products and services, as well as both your internal and external communication. Nowadays there is so much data available, that it can be challenging to determine which data is relevant and which data is not. Something that will help your organisation to organise data and make sure that your data is valuable is a Customer Data Platform (CDP). Organisations will invest more in CDPs in 2021, also to focus on the privacy of the data. The focus of data in 2021 will be in collecting relevant data and organising this in such a way it enables organisations to make more data-driven decisions and deliver more value to all stakeholders.

8. Moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure

The COVID-19 pandemic showed organisations that they need to be able to move investments to the cloud, resulting in more organisations moving to a hybrid cloud in 2021. A lot of organisations use SaaS applications as well as on-premises solutions. To keep data safe and available to everyone in the organisation, it is important that organisations use a cloud that is safe and user-friendly. Hybrid clouds are the perfect balance to help organisations with storing data. Large providers such as Azure, Google, IBM and Oracle are already anticipating this increase, and made major investments to make create tools that enable simple connectivity between data centres, cloud and on-premises solutions.

9. Omnichannel experience expands

In these uncertain times, customers can hold the key to an organisation’s success or even survival. Though customers no longer just make their choices based on a good product or service: their experience is and will become an even more important factor in their decision-making. This realisation will increase the focus on the customer experience in 2021. Organisations will put more focus on increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty by optimising their omnichannel experience. This means more time, effort and budget will be dedicated to making sure that all channels a customer can use to interact with an organisation are aligned, offering a seamless and personalised experience, no matter how this interaction happens. Research by PwC even shows that the number of companies investing in the omnichannel experience has already jumped from 20% to 80%, and this will continue to increase in 2021.

10. The digital workspace, from concept to product category

Throughout the years, the digital workspace was seen as a concept. Something that for many vaguely existed from a distance, but wasn’t actually a tangible product you could acquire. However, from our many conversations with customers and partners, we can conclude that the digital workspace is moving from a concept to a product category in the collective mind. This can partially be attributed to for example big organisations like Google and Citrix focusing on this field and offering their own digital workspaces (Google Workspace and Citrix Workspace). Want to try a digital workspace yourself? Try the Workspace 365 demo!

How to respond to the new trends

When responding to trends, it’s essential to first determine if they’re even relevant to your organisation. If they are, you can dive further into this specific trend to discover its drivers and triggers, in order to determine how this trend has come to be. This is crucial information, as it shows you the underlying needs and causes: information you can use to adjust your products, services or even business to attend to these needs. A great tool to help you do this is the Trend Canvas by

An adaptive workspace to support your digital transformation efforts

With Workspace 365, you are able to achieve the technological independency and agility needed to evolve and improve as a digital business. With people focussing less on their IT, they are able to place more focus on their work, as well as giving them more time and mental capacity aimed at creating new concepts, ideas and innovation. Furthermore, Workspace 365 has several ways of supporting other elements of your digital organisation and digital transformation efforts, such as learning, communication, collaboration and adoption.

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