Over the course of two weeks in March 2020, we’ve had the opportunity to discuss with 20+ technology leaders the state of Digital and Technology, especially the impact of the global pandemic on Digital and Technology priorities. Organizations all over the world will be revisiting their priorities and we felt it will be good for us to evaluate the impact and prepare ourselves for the road ahead. In order to do that, every organization in real estate and other industries has to answer the following question: What areas of digital and technology to focus on in the coming two years?
The answer to the above question is the objective of this article. We will dive deeper into what we believe are the top 10 digital and technology focus areas for enterprises and rank priorities. Some feel that digital and tech has been a big help – for business continuity as well as connecting people – during these trying times and some feel that some enterprises will weather through these trying times and emerge stronger.
Before we go further, we’d like to call out a few things. If not anything, this article is a place to collect our thoughts and synthesize the various viewpoints; We do hope some can benefit from the collective experience and viewpoint provided. To remain agnostic, we’ve avoided naming organizations or products.
Top 10 Digital & Technology focus areas for organizations have been identified and listed. It is a tough exercise to keep the list of focus areas to 10 and we had to drop a few areas like regulations and API economy to keep the list to the top 10. The following chart summarizes those focus areas and a gauge of the likely 2020 and 2021 priority – investment and interest – in those areas. The priorities are categorized into low, medium, and high. The priorities are relative to each other in the list. Our take on 2019 priorities is also provided to serve as a baseline.
Top 10 Focus Areas
Let us dig into all of the focus areas as they need an explanation. Some focus areas may be controversial and hence additional commentary for those:
- Business Continuity – #1 High priority in 2020. The first and foremost thing on every executive’s mind will be to ensure that their organization does business (if they can) without any disruption. The organization’s business continuity plans will be thoroughly tested and many weaknesses will arise that organizations will fix as soon as they possibly can.
- Digitalization – High priority in 2020. Digitalization will be a tale of two worlds, with digitalization actually increasing for use cases that support business continuity and mobility vs. digitalization decreasing for use cases with poor business cases and large budgets. Overall, new or existing initiatives to address #1 above will keep digitalization a high priority this year.
- Purpose – Medium priority in 2020. There will be an awakening of sorts and people (and hence organizations) will clamor to incorporate ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance – in their business. Technology will enable businesses to be more purpose-driven, particularly the social impact part (the S in ESG). It remains to be seen what shape or form it will take, but the debates and discussions will happen.
- Customer Experience (CX) – Medium priority in 2020. Organizations can be expected to continue the customer focus, but with two changes. First, there will be less tolerance for big spending on customer acquisition, retention, and CX delivery. Pragmatism will creep in and key tenets of CX – Reliability, Trust, etc. – will be prioritized. Second, expect some significant rethinking on how CX will coexist with social impact i.e #4 above.
- Data, Analytics, and Machine Learning – High priority in 2020. The importance of data will only grow, but the appetite for big data initiatives with big budgets will reduce. Cheap analytics (mostly cloud-based) will lead the way and will get the job done. Expect AI and ML to be bundled along with Analytics or other products/services.
- Cloud – High priority in 2020. Public cloud adoption and the automation of infrastructure and deployment will only accelerate as organizations focus on bottom-line and efficiency. Cloud-native architecture and deployment will see a big uptick. Another factor is that cloud providers have better reliability and security than many organizations and can enable business continuity. Cloud will be a high priority.
- SaaS – Medium priority in 2020. Cross-industry horizontal SaaS (for e.g. human capital management, CRM) are well entrenched in many organizations and that is not going to change. But, expect competitive pricing from nimbler but reliable SaaS providers and a lot of consolidation. Industry-specific SaaS adoption (for e.g. wealth management) will accelerate and consolidate around the leaders.
- Infrastructure & Automation – High priority in 2020. Workloads are increasingly moving to cloud and SaaS, but a significant amount of on-premise infrastructure needs to run smoothly to enable business continuity. Some Automation areas will see an increase (for e.g. CI/CD), whereas some areas may plateau (for e.g. Robotic Process Automation) as it will be difficult to show return on investment.
- Rationalization – Medium priority in 2020. The need for cost-savings and efficiency will result in many organizations streamlining their tech stack and sunsetting software and infrastructure that have been kept around. This effort may go by a new catchy name, but we should expect organizations to undertake this during tough times.
- Cybersecurity – Medium priority in 2020. The importance of cybersecurity will remain, but we should expect more scrutiny of investments and results. Cybersecurity was probably the #1 issue for many organizations in 2019, but survival (i.e. keep business running) will be #1 issue in 2020.
In this article, we looked at the top 10 digital and technology focus areas of organizations across industries. In summary, organizations will prioritize business continuity, cloud, data, and rethink social impact (ESG) in 2020!