The analyst firm Gartner has just released their Top Ten Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond. It’s often a repetitive trope every November and December to see analysts making predictions for the year ahead, but 2020 has been a year like no other. The only comparable pandemic to Covid-19 was the Spanish Flu and that was a century ago.
There are so many questions for business leaders at present. How they might need to accelerate digital transformation to stay relevant in the ‘new normal.’ How they might need to embrace distributed working so some workers can stay at home boosting resilience for the organization. How technologies can be used to create safer working environments. What will happen first?
I’m selecting a few of the Gartner ideas and predictions here, especially those that are more likely to affect the day-to-day operation of most organizations in the short-term. The first trend of importance to my mind is the elevation of the CIO. Gartner suggests that by 2024 a quarter of all large enterprise CIOs will be responsible for operational results because digital acceleration will redefine the organization — therefore the CIO effectively will become the COO.
Some of the other expected changes include:
- At least 75% of all conversations at work being recorded. The aim is to monitor employee experience and satisfaction and drill into conversations to generate new ideas. I have long suspected that this may be an effect of the work-from-home trend and it’s not (always) as invasive as it sounds. I believe the first wave will be to ensure that all meetings and decisions are recorded and made available to everyone, to encourage more transparency in the organization, even with many people outside the office. Handled well, this could be a positive change.
- GigCX explosion. Gartner suggests that by 2025 around 75% of all customer questions will be handled by a freelance customer service expert. We are moving away from the age of the low-paid contact center agent and into the world of freelance experts using cloud-based virtual platforms to be connected to customers.
- Content moderation is essential. At present, we tend to think of content moderation as a process that social media companies use to ensure that their sites are not flooded with pornography or terrorism-related content. Gartner is suggesting that by 2024, content moderation will be an essential process for over 30% of all organizations. If you have any kind of online presence then the management of polarizing content will be essential.
- Farms and factories are automated: this is automation on a grand scale. Gartner suggests that by 2025 the customer will be the first human to touch over 20% of all products we purchase — both food and consumer products.
Many of these changes were in play already. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a push for automation, but now there is an accelerated demand for change. Many companies that were previously just interested in using the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital twins are now pushing ahead with those projects faster than planned because smarter maintenance guided by automated sensors helps to keep employees safer.
Some of these more dramatic changes, like most meetings being recorded, are being driven by the need to restructure how organizations function. A distributed workplace is very different to just seeing everyone work together inside a hub. Meetings, interactions, and especially decisions, need to be approached differently and it will be a combination of technology platforms and new processes that facilitate this evolution.
The underlying theme of the Gartner Strategic Predictions for 2021 is that the organization itself is about to change quite dramatically. This may be a painful experience for those used to wearing a suit and commuting to an office each morning — technology is about to redefine what it means to have a job, how you are contracted to a company, and how organizations function. 2021 is going to be a seismic shift and technology is driving this change.