Six digital trends to watch for in 2021

In the last decade, digital transformation has certainly been on firms’ agendas. Not so much an urgent item, but a desirable one, the aim was usually quality, productivity and improvements to the bottom line. In the last 12 months, it’s taken a big shift upwards.

Digital trends

With the world upended by Covid, digital transformation has become a critical necessity; the very survival of many organizations is at stake. With the C-suite motivated and aligned to overcome the many challenges presented by lockdowns and the virus, the recent acceleration of digital initiatives has been miraculous. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, during 2020 firms accelerated the digitization of key operations by three to four years1. Businesses have had to identify high-impact actions they can implement swiftly. In manufacturing, most procurement and supply-chain professionals say the main focus will be on the resilience of their supply chain2. More broadly, driving out process inefficiencies to save costs are a key focus

In 2021, agile organizations are more likely to survive ‘in the now’ and also to come out ahead when life returns to near-normal. Longer term too, businesses that have invested in agility (perhaps stimulated by Covid), will be in the best position to deal with future external shocks like further lockdowns, geopolitical or economic instability or the sudden arrival of powerful competitors (‘Ubers’) that disrupt their market.

Six Key Digital Trends

As we progress into 2021, most firms have accommodated remote and safe working. Here are the biggest digital trends we are observing now among our European and US client-base. They all tie back to coping with change and to delivering high-impact benefits very quickly.

1. Enterprise-wide Workflow Automation

Our customers are moving away from data silos and single ERP systems as one-stop-shop solutions for everything. There is a place for ERP, but right now firms are thinking more in terms of automating individual processes with dedicated applications. They are zooming into key processes and examining the fine detail for inefficiencies that can easily be solved via digital means. This might mean automating manual effort or replacing existing but cumbersome digital elements with new flexible apps to improve workflows and deliver quick wins. 

The pursuit of enterprise-wide workflow automation requires app development tools which facilitate integration with many different protocols and technologies.

2. Data Accessibility – The Discoverable Enterprise

Today’s decision makers and automated systems need access to detailed and ever changing information on everything from sales, to stock and materials, production capacity, supply chain data and workforce availability. Access to quality data on every aspect of the enterprise ecosystem at speed has become essential. This data must be in a standard form so that it can easily be integrated, analyzed, contextualized, combined with external data sources and acted upon. 

Building ‘The Discoverable Enterprise’ requires tools which facilitate cross-system data sharing making it available without friction for use in decision making processes, cross-system digital workflows and accessible on demand to users and developers across the organization. Enterprise grade security and governance are essential elements here.

3. Easily Adaptable Processes

When data is readily available, organizations can start to build business processes using reusable building blocks and software applications built using agile principles. This allows organizations to quickly adapt business processes for greater efficiency or when the environment changes and enables organizations to become disrupters themselves, grabbing new opportunities and realizing them quickly. 

Using application templates and technical accelerators as well as reusable application components in combination with intelligent automation tools can speed up the process of creating bespoke applications. These can be specifically tailored to today’s needs yet easily re-molded to accommodate change.

1 How Covid-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point and transformed business forever
2 Industry 4.0 reimagining manufacturing operations after Covid-19

January 25, 2021
Jethro Borsje

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