3 keys to making 2021 your comeback year

Someone sits at a desk while on a BlueJeans meeting.

This articleoriginally appeared on CIO.com.

A little over a decade ago, the tech world embarked on a “mobile first” transformation. Whereas digital experiences were once built for the desktop and adapted to mobile, that dynamic switched when the smartphone hit its stride.

Now, we’re in the midst of a “digital first” transformation, accelerated greatly by COVID-19. Work processes were once built for the in-person office and then replicated in digital tools. But in 2021 and beyond, everything from whiteboard ideation to capturing user stories and rolling them into backlogs, to reviewing and approving work, to creating marketing campaigns, to executing on the work itself—it all has to be thought of, and executed, in a digital-first way.

Tech leaders who embrace this digital-first mindset and want to position their organizations for a comeback year (or even a comeback decade) must understand and embrace three key trends:

1. Agility matters more than ever.

Companies in 2020 learned the importance of anticipating and adapting quickly to change. As we emerge from the wreckage of this seminal year, we can’t leave our newfound agility behind, treating it as a temporary crisis response (never waste a crisis, right?). The ability to pivot and adapt will be vital in order to move forward and proactively leverage opportunities we see in the market. Can we treat our high-level iterative planning with the same kind of urgency as we treated our pandemic response? I think we need to.

2. Integration will drive automation.

Gartner predicted that, through 2020,integration work would account for 50% of the time and cost of building a digital platform. We went through a worldwide consolidation exercise due to COVID-19, and now we need to make sure all of the platforms that made the cut are able to talk to each other.

As essential as integration is, I think work automation is the even bigger story, which requires a connected tech ecosystem that has the ability to surface insights. Not the kind of automation that replaces knowledge workers—the kind that helps them recapture some of the hours they spend (57% of the average work week, according to our annual State of Work report) on everything but the core responsibilities of their jobs. I’m talking about the kind of work you don’t need a human to do, and that, in fact, the human who’s doing it now wishes they didn’t have to do.

3. The digital work experience is king.

In a digital-first world of work where 34% of managers, directors, and executives have turned down a job because of poor internal technology, it’s essential to create collaborative, responsive, rich digital experiences for employees as well as customers.

Organizations that empower team members to use their favorite tools to do their best work—from anywhere—will find that they are: more adaptive, less siloed, more empowered, better to their people and customers, and have a higher sense of societal stewardship.

Now more than ever, IT leaders have a central role to play in ensuring businesses remain competitive in a radically disrupted marketplace. Those who prioritize agility, integration, automation, and the overall digital work experience, with an operational system of record as the enabling technology, will be better positioned to ride out the unseen crises and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.