Top Business Trends for 2021

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More home working? A beefing up of cybersecurity? These are the trends we see on the near horizon: our predictions for the top business trends of 2021.

Few could have predicted what 2020 would look like for so many of us – but that’s not going to stop us making some predictions for the new year ahead!  This is Business Optimizer’s shortlist of the top business trends we’ll be seeing in 2021.

#1. More working from home

COVID-19 might have made it a necessity, but there are strong signs the working from home trend of 2020 is here to stay.  A UK survey in August found that nine in ten workers would like to continue to work from home after the pandemic is behind us.  The researchers behind “Homeworking in the UK: before and during the 2020 lockdown” also found that productivity remained had stable when compared to output six months before the epidemic.

#2. Digitalization is accelerating

The last six months have produced more digital transformation than the last decade.  This trend is also set to continue, as workers continue to work from home and companies seek to build greater agility and flexibility into their business models and the systems and It infrastructure that support them.

#3. Cybersecurity gains greater focus in 2021

During the pandemic, phishing attempts and other malicious activity increased hugely as hackers sought to use the pandemic, and the new working practices that resulted from it, to exploit organizations. Even our printers can be the entrance point for less ethical individuals with a few hacking skills. Stay tuned as we will let you know more about this topic in the next few months.  

These malicious activities have brought a new focus to cybersecurity of all kinds – from AI and ML tools for monitoring and response, through staff awareness training, to improved endpoint management and everything in between.

#4. New trends in networking

The traditional VPN was already on the decline as organisations switched to more cost-effective direct access for workloads in the cloud datacentres of the major players.  The switch to remote working has exposed a further weakness of the traditional approach: it’s lack of versatility.  SD-WAN and 5G are growing in importance as organisations struggle to bring greater flexibility and agility to their secure networks.

#5. Addressing the skills gap

The skills gap didn’t go away in 2020 – even if we were, for the most part, looking the other way.  While we might have all learnt some new digital skills from necessity, the digital skills gap remains huge and is set to get bigger. Business organizations are predicting that governments need to do much more to reskill their populations.  The expected economic downturn is a good time to do it – but will national and regional governments step up to the plate?

#6. Entrepreneurship will boom

Around the world, young people have been disproportionately affected economically by the coronavirus pandemic.  Unemployment rates amongst young people are higher than in other age groups.  Experts are predicting this will lead to a boom in “survival entrepreneurship” as young people create their own opportunities.  This type of entrepreneurship is more durable than others, so can we expect some of this century’s most successful new brands to emerge from the next few years?

#7. Population movement

Most commentators are expecting to see a move away from cities taking place over the next few years, as the work from home approach continues.  The pandemic lockdowns have taught us all the value of access to outside space.  As workers seek out homes with gardens and a lower cost of living, we can expect smaller regional towns and villages to boom.  Some estate agents are already reporting an exodus from city life.

#8. Diversity networking must address the lack of diverse leadership

A Gartner study looking at the Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2021 highlighted diversity networking as a new imperative that businesses must prioritize.  It highlighted that for many organizations, today’s leadership continues to lack diversity.  Organizations that promote diversity networking are twice as likely to improve organizational inclusion and four times more likely to increase opportunities for talent mobility.

#9. Supply chains will be rethought

At the start of 2020, supply chain innovation was chiefly focused on digitalisation and greater networking.  Today, a huge rethink is required.  Companies are looking to on-shore and near-shore operations after Coronavirus has exposed the full extent of their China dependencies and the business risk to which this exposes them.

#10. Connecting for resilience

Another fallout of the pandemic and its various lockdowns has been the realization of the importance of human networks for collaboration, communication and support.  The onus will be on companies that do decide to continue with remote and home working to ensure these networks are put in place for employees.  Coaching managers on how to manage remote teams, adding new resources for collaboration and team building that work for distributed teams and finding new solutions for virtual training will all be an important part of the puzzle. Gartner predicts it will require a new approach to using technology to form and reform into whatever is required as we emerge from the pandemic throughout 2021 – something it calls “organizational plasticity”.