Trend watching: What next for enterprise technology?

Trend watching: What next for enterprise technology?

This week saw CCS Insight's seasoned analysts share their views on what lies ahead in enterprise tech. Here are a few things I learnt:

There’s good news for the technology industry overall:

  • Two-thirds of C-Suite execs plan to invest more in IT in the year ahead
  • Expectations are that the tech industry will bounce back faster than the economy overall – because it’s the sector that’s enabling change
  • Operators have actually enhanced their reputations during the pandemic – not only have they kept us all connected, but they’ve played an instrumental part in helping hospitals, emergency services and government respond to the crisis

Speed is now of the essence for enterprise customers:

  • “There’s a sense of urgency to cram what they would have done in 2 to 3 years into the next 6 to 12 months,” according to Mitra Azizirad, Corporate VP, Microsoft AI & Innovation
  • Firms are focused on real-world execution: “They’re not talking about the proofs of concept we’ve seen in previous years. Customers want to innovate faster, but it’s now very much anchored in real-world scenarios… around customer engagement, employee productivity and operations management.”
  • As a result, there’s been a dramatic acceleration in adoption of AI, IoT and cloud. According to CCS Insight, ‘By the end of 2021, half of large firms will have more than 50% of their applications in the public cloud.’

The pandemic is set to have a longer lasting impact on the way we work

  • The office will still exist but it will no longer be the primary place of work: ‘In 2022, more than half of office workers will still work from home’
  • Business leaders see there’s an opportunity: to make cost savings by rationalising their physical footprint; to provide employees with greater flexibility in how and where they work; and to even extend their potential to tap into the best talent globally
  • Despite the positives of this new found flexibility, organisations need to be mindful of the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Interest in workplace wellness platforms and analytics, from the likes of WelbotUnmind and Microsoft – is, in response, gathering pace
  • There’s also the big issue not just of enabling collaborative working, but in fostering innovation, creativity and agility in remote settings. Tools such as Miro and Mural are well placed to capitalise on this need
  • Companies are now actively trialling and deploying extended reality technologies in two areas: in field service, so engineers can better support customers remotely; and in remote training. It’s projected that sales of extended reality devices to enterprises will almost double this year and grow 15 fold from this year to 2024

Other interesting developments of note:

  • Look out for the rise of the vertical cloud – addressing the needs of key industries such as FS, healthcare and telcos; an influx of Chinese cloud providers; and continued adoption of multi-clouds
  • 5G Edge is gaining a lot of attention – thanks to collaborations between cloud service providers and mobile operators to put commercial clouds at the network edge. For example, the launch of AWS Wavelength – with Verizon, Vodafone and KDDI. This will enable developers to build low latency applications, with gaming, factory automation and content streamers likely to be key beneficiaries
  • Internet of Things has a big part to play in helping us ‘get back to normal’. We’re already seeing some interesting applications – such as how hospitals are using connected devices to locate ventilators; the use of temperature sensing cameras in offices and shops; and the deployment of deep cleaning UV-C robots to sanitise premises
  • AI is increasingly being used to help protect organisations from cyber-attack, but firms should now be paying attention to the cyber-security of AI and ML deployments themselves – watch out for data poisoning(!) among other things
  • Due to the shortage and cost of skilled developers, more companies will embrace low code platforms that allow a wider spectrum of employees to develop new software services and extend the capabilities of existing apps. Microsoft is well placed, by all accounts, with its Visual Studio Platform and Power Platform
  • The race is on by operators to build smarter, more intelligent networks – with the biggest commercial opportunities coming from the enterprise space. Open RAN is creating a lot of excitement – a technology that lets operators make their networks more virtual and cloud-like to boost flexibility and lower costs
  • Operators are also adapting their offerings to respond to new enterprise and consumer demands. It’s predicted they’ll soon start to offer dedicated working from home packages, bundling connectivity, hardware, apps and support to meet the needs of remote workers

And finally, there’s the big issue of trust

It was evident that trust is now, more than ever, a key criteria in supplier selection:

Customers now place an elevated importance on their trust in their tech suppliers because dependency on technology to improve business resilience has never been higher.” Nick McQuire, CCS Insight

In my view, firms can’t under estimate the need to build trust and confidence to allay perceived risks in the minds of buyers and their stakeholders. There’s a real opportunity for brands to do so in a number of ways:

  • Providing real thought-leadership and guidance to customers during these challenging times
  • Finding ways to deliver value across every marketing and sales interaction
  • Adapting their positioning and propositions to firmly address new buyer needs and preferences
  • Creating content and tools that helps buyers persuade their stakeholders, that demonstrate their credentials, bring to life the benefits through role-based use cases, illustrate potential ROI and strongly build the business case
  • Exploring ways they can remove the friction across every buyer touchpoint – to be faster and more responsive to customer requirements. Speed is of the essence. As CCS Insight advises: “The time window in defining success is much shorter in Covid – before firms had a much longer window pre-Covid. We’ve hit a turning point where companies want to see business value quickly or their project gets shelved.”

Earnest has created a Client Briefing on the event bringing together even more of the insights. Please do get in touch if you’d like to receive a copy.

Finally, thanks to CCS Insight for another great event and the valuable insights.

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Photo by Rhys Kentish on Unsplash

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Paul Hewerdine

Strategy Partner

I head up the Strategy team at Earnest. I helped found Earnest, and I love a tricky brief and an ambitious client – and play my B2B marketing with a twist.