Technology Trends for 2021: Extending Remote Work Opportunities

January 13, 2021
News, Technology
10 min read

It’s safe to say that 2020 marked a year of digital transformation across the globe. While people long for the days of “normal,” the truth is, some things are forever changed. Many SMBs that scrambled to transition to a remote work setup early on discovered that there wasn’t a need to worry about employee productivity and that their employees could be trusted to do their best, even if employers couldn’t see them.

Forrester Research’s principal analyst David Johnson, says that remote work will permanently increase to 300% of the pre-pandemic levels with the “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” model. More people will work outside the office most of the time.

In other words, this means that with that many people working remotely long-term, companies will need to rethink what that experience is like – not just from a technology and environment perspective but also from leadership, change management, and career-growth perspectives.

Companies that aren’t already planning a digital-first, location independent mindset for 2021 should reevaluate.

As with many previous years, many tech trend lists will continue to list techs such as AI, VR, and 5G. And while those technologies are significant, they are so high level and big picture, they still don’t directly impact many SMBs. Instead, we decided to take a different approach to tech trends for 2021 that focuses on extending remote work opportunities and creating anywhere operations that allow companies to reach customers anywhere, let employees work from anywhere, and deliver business services anywhere.

Trend 1: Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning

Data protection, disaster recovery, and business continuity are not just buzzwords – they are essential to keeping your business running during the most challenging times. This is no longer a “what if” or “it won’t happen to me, and I’ll deal with it if it does” situation – this is now an official need.

Many companies hastily making the transition to a remote work environment at the onset of the pandemic, especially SMBs, were left vulnerable to attacks. From January to April 2020 alone, there was a 238% increase in attacks on banks and a 600% increase in attacks on cloud servers.

Want to know more about the state of ransomware for the SMB in 2021? Check out this report from our friends at Datto.

Companies have been known to take it upon themselves to work directly with the cybercriminals to facilitate payments and pay the ransom to regain their stolen data. Unfortunately, all this does is fund future illicit activities and encourage future demands. Not to mention paying a ransom does not guarantee the victim will regain access to its stolen data. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued an advisory on potential sanctions risks for facilitating ransomware payments to crack down on attacks. Meaning that it is now illegal to be the party who distributes ransomware payments – even to get your own data back.

In light of these government sanctions, a BCDR plan is a set of processes used to help your business recover as quickly as possible in the face of a disaster, like a ransomware attack. This security plan integrates both business continuity and disaster recovery to ensure that all areas of your business are covered and your data is protected.

Business continuity involves designing and creating corporate policies and procedures that ensure your core business functions are available during and after an attack.

Disaster recovery is how your IT department responds during the attack, including server and network restoration, data backups, etc., and is required to keep downtime to a minimum.

Both are imperative to successfully running an operations anywhere company.

Trend 2: Video Communication Tools

Teams, Zoom, WebEx, and a myriad of other video communication companies helped keep businesses moving forward in 2020. There’s no doubt that as companies extend remote work into 2021, these technologies will continue to be at the forefront of day-to-day operations. Organizations such as Microsoft saw the influx of Teams usage as an opportunity to become a more complete solution for companies.

While video meetings are critical, they’re not always the right form of communication. Other features like chat and voice are key features that shouldn’t be overlooked, and video communications companies that provide complete solutions that address a hybrid-office format will not only thrive themselves in 2021, but help businesses thrive as well.

Microsoft: Between Teams, Office 365, Dynamics 365, and others, Microsoft has been leading the charge with cloud-based technologies that enable remote work. Microsoft 365 is a fluid framework across every device. During Microsft’s virtual Ignite conference, they debuted new advancements in Teams with a hybrid workforce at the forefront of their innovations. Their goal is to make people feel more connected no matter where their office might be, including features like seamless collaboration and hand-off between users during meetings, auditorium mode, and shared backgrounds for more immersive video meetings. Employee well-being and a virtual commute are other features rolling out in 2021 because Microsoft acknowledges that what makes a successful employee is about so much more than just total output.

Zoom: Zoom has been around since 2011, but it’s safe to say that 2020 was a big year of growth for the video communications company. Focused on communications, Zoom has always been known for their video meetings platform but used their sudden boost in popularity to enhance their current offerings. With new features, they have built out more offerings that will carry into 2021, such as Zoom Apps for 3rd party integrations, Zoom Rooms, end-to-end encryption offers meetings, webinars, conference rooms, and phone systems.

Google: Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) announced their rebrand in October of 2020 with the goal to simplify remote work tools and create a more integrated experience across communication and collaboration tools. Premium Google Meet features were made available to everyone – including free users and upgrades included adaptive screen-view layouts, noise cancellation, and low-light mode. In addition, they integrated Google meet, voice, and chat directly into Gmail, so users can access all the things they need to communicate and collaborate in one place. Moving into 2021, Google is working toward a more seamless user experience between Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Microsoft’s Office Suite.

Trend 3: Hardware Upgrades

With so many businesses making swift changes to a remote workforce, many employees weren’t well-equipped for remote work. A coordinated and budgeted effort to upgrade employees’ machines to laptops, additional auxiliary screens, etc. will help facilitate the home/office hybrid work environment in a more comfortable fashion resulting in happier and more productive employees in 2021 and beyond.

IDC predicts that by 2023, 75% of Global 2000 companies will provide technical uniformity for their workforce that would be hybrid by intentional design rather than driven by circumstances. This will enable the workforce to be more productive, informed, and collaborative in an operations anywhere environment.

In addition to companies simply upgrading laptops and providing auxiliary screens for home use, Microsoft and Zoom have both rolled out hardware solutions designed specifically for hybrid-remote working on the premise of creating seamless meeting and collaboration environments no matter where employees are located.

Microsoft’s Surface Hub is a digital whiteboard and meetings platform that integrates with Teams allowing in-office employees to seamlessly collaborate with remote employees. The Surface Deo is a new dual-screen mobile device that features 6 different modes, including Teams collaboration and Office 365 on the go.

Zoom for Home – DTEN ME is an all-in-one 27″ personal collaboration device for the home office. It enables interactive whiteboard collaboration, content sharing, and one-touch video meetings. Rolling into 2021, Zoom has also introduced Hardware-as-a-Service to deploy their Zoom Room and Zoom Phone services to their customers.

Trend 4: Online Forums and Conferences

Conferences across all industries have moved to a virtual format, and that trend is here to stay well into 2021. At least through Q1 2021, many tech conferences are sticking with an all-virtual format, and some conferences later in the year are currently being advertised as a hybrid event.

This drastic shift in what is usually a large line-item on a company’s budget is opening the door for other opportunities. Without needing to pay for travel expenses, virtual events are more cost-effective to attend, so businesses can “send” more employees than ever before.

Also, companies can utilize this format to create their own virtual events. Virtual events provide an opportunity to set teams and businesses apart from the competition with virtual content that allows them to stand out as a thought leader and subject matter expert, partner with complementary businesses and create a panel-style discussion, and more.

Trend 5: Infrastructure Migration – On-prem to Hybrid or Cloud

The widespread, sudden disruptions caused by the coronavirus have highlighted the value of having an agile and adaptable cloud infrastructure. Companies worldwide expedited investments in cloud technology to enable faster change as we faced moments of uncertainty and disruption globally.

Any IT resources companies had on their team in 2020 were quickly tied up, trying to keep suddenly-remote employees up and running. Uptime was more important than ever before. Hybrid cloud strategies help companies, especially SMBs, find the right mix for their unique infrastructure needs and can meet the customer where they are at.

Companies extending remote work opportunities into 2021 will benefit from the security and uptime of hosting your data in a data center using high-powered server space with best-in-class tech. It will offer flexible and cost-effective solutions and peace of mind for IT managers and executives who want to ensure the right solutions are in place for an anywhere operations company.

Trend 6: Cybersecurity Mesh

It might seem like a made-up term, which is because, to a certain extent, it is. Cybersecurity Mesh made its way onto Gartner’s “Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021,” and it left people wondering where it came from. Regardless of the origin of this new term, the concept has merit. Cybersecurity mesh enables a modular, scalable, and responsive approach to security for a business.

With a centralized perimeter of protection (i.e. your office) less meaningful in an anywhere operations work environment, the focus shifts to how companies can create security perimeters around individual people or devices, allowing employees secure access to cloud-located digital assets and data from uncontrolled devices. As companies shift to an even more decentralized operation, trust and security comes down to every transaction, not just a device or a network.

How we manage all of that from a cybersecurity standpoint and how it changes the landscape will take shape in 2021.

Trend 7: IT-aaS

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that SMBs can no longer get by with having “Gary from down the hall” that handles procurement, inventory control, and occasionally even collections, haphazardly act as SysAdmin since he’s “the best with a computer.” To not only sustain but continue to grow their new digital capabilities, companies need to enlist the help of trained IT professionals that are the right fit for them. Furthermore, 2020 also taught many SMBs that they don’t need on-prem employees – including IT.
The need for knowledgeable and available IT support is at a premium. Utilizing IT-aaS in 2021 will allow SMBs to get the technical expertise and direction needed at a fraction of a full-time employee’s cost. The ability to leverage new technologies and growth opportunities from a dedicated industry expert will allow companies to improve how they connect and communicate, optimize their systems, and get the most value from their IT infrastructure.

Keep Your Business on Pace in 2021

In 2020, adaptability was what set successful companies apart. Moving into 2021, companies that can harness the power of an anywhere-plus-hybrid workforce will only continue to innovate and grow. With a variety of solutions and services – and as a 100% remote workforce long since before the landscape changed in 2020 – Tigunia is ready to be the right-fit partner you need to help you reach your goals in 2021.

If you’re ready to talk about keeping your business on track for growth and opportunity in 2021, we’re ready to listen. We’ve got experts in every area of business technology, and we can help you make informed decisions that will protect your business and your budgets. Reach out!