Tech predictions for 2021
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Tech predictions for 2021

Businesses that built digital muscle quickly during the pandemic are ready for the next step.

Jill Macmurchy, vice-president of customer solutions for Asia Pacific and Japan at New Relic
Jill Macmurchy, vice-president of customer solutions for Asia Pacific and Japan at New Relic

2020 was the year that proved that chief information officers and chief technology officers deserved a more prominent seat at the boardroom table. As a result, 2021 will be the year that innovation and digital prowess driven by agile systems and processes will become more mainstream.

The digital muscle that businesses have built to survive and thrive during the pandemic has set a solid foundation to help accelerate their technology initiatives in 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to pivot in the moment. The first thing they needed to master was the ability of people to work from home, which placed a strain on networks, applications and security -- especially for government departments and financial services businesses.

Businesses needed to rapidly improve access to SaaS (software as a service) platforms, which meant that migration projects that would normally take months had to be expedited at unprecedented speeds. This digital resilience has proved that businesses across any industry can successfully undergo digital transformation by trading in outdated legacy systems for cloud infrastructure and SaaS applications at speed. That's why I believe that we're going to see a lot of these projects continue to gain momentum in 2021.

Cloud and the total customer experience: While the migration of workloads to the public cloud may have been viewed by some as a choice or an aspirational goal pre-Covid, it's now clear that it will become the norm.

According to a study by McKinsey, Covid-19 has intensified the need for the cloud as an enabler of increasingly critical e-commerce, remote sales and flexible cost structures. Businesses that laid the foundations for cloud adoption in 2020 will be able to accelerate their digital initiatives in 2021.

However, the cloud alone isn't enough to meet the high expectations of your customers. The cloud gives businesses scale, resiliency, availability and geographic reach, but what it doesn't provide is an end-to-end view of how they delight customers.

To provide a compelling digital experience, businesses cannot observe their architecture, application programming interfaces and front-end operations in silos. They need to have a total mastery of the end-to-end experience with clear visibility into their entire stack. If the business has a disjointed view, then it doesn't know what's happening with its customers.

Applied Intelligence and augmented SRE: Because the world has shifted its spending online, customer expectations have never been higher. Businesses will need to fight aggressively to keep every customer as the competition is only a click away.

However, with thousands of microservices, hundreds of releases per day and hundreds of thousands of containers, there's bound to be errors that slip between the cracks -- the human eye simply can't cope with that level of complexity.

This is where Applied Intelligence comes in to help augment site reliability teams to make sense of highly complex software architectures. AI is not just nice to have when it comes to proactive detection and incident intelligence, it's about businesses equipping site reliability engineering (SRE) teams with the tools they need to do their job effectively.

Open source, observability and open standards: Open source is everywhere. It's become part of the fabric of the modern developer, but it also comes with its challenges. While employing the latest open-source tech is fantastic for developer morale, CTOs often find themselves with an unruly menagerie of open-source tools, design patterns and architectures, and are left wondering how they can bring some standardisation, efficiency and consistency into the mix.

With a robust observability strategy, engineering teams can use open source with confidence as they have clear visibility across all their tools while maintaining the freedom to move data as they please.

In addition, a move towards open standards will bring rigour to practices because of its template-based approach. I see the standards element of the open world as something that's really important as it improves information transfer and usage, increases innovation through the ability to provide constructive feedback, and facilitates broader adoption by eliminating costs associated with obtaining the standard.

The Observability of Things: The Observability of Things is about extending the reach of what we're observing to get a 360-degree view of our operations. This gives organisations the ability to instrument everything from a petrol pump to a point of sale, to gain a holistic, real-time view of how their business is performing from a technical perspective.

We've seen this work exceptionally well in construction. One of our Japanese customers, Komatsu, has utilised this level of observability to optimise its smart construction sites. Because all of the organisation's devices and technology are so connected, Komatsu is able to instrument everything from digital performance, customer experience and critical business data end-to-end to achieve a much broader view of the end-user experience. This has translated into shorter project timelines and a great end-user experience.

This level of measurement and visibility provides invaluable benefits for businesses, and I think we'll see this come to the fore in 2021.

Jill Macmurchy is vice-president of customer solutions for Asia-Pacific and Japan at New Relic, a San Francisco-based developer of cloud-based software

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