2021: Heralding the era of agility and the hybrid cloud

2020 has been an eventful year, and one that has definitely reshaped the way we work and the ways in which technology was used to support the new normal.

In Malaysia, specifically, we’ve seen an acceleration of digital adoption in the pandemic. Organisations across the public and private sector that thought they were safe prior to the crisis have realised they were also susceptible to external risks.

Businesses that adjusted quickly were able to weather the storm and come out on top, while others struggled to keep pace with the transformation journey.

This digital acceleration will continue to shape the tech and business landscape into 2021, especially as we take greater strides toward a developed digital economy.

To help Malaysian organisations prepare, here are my top predictions for trends that will shape the next 12 months:

Agile strategy implementation

As countries around the region and the world begin to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll start to see a slow and staggered return to physical workspaces, but it will be an uneven recovery.

Across Malaysia and the wider ASEAN region, our countries and economies are so interconnected. Even if one country’s recovery is going well, until the major international players return to an even keel, the global uncertainty will continue.

Naturally, this will create a scattered return to growth. To deal with this, organisations will need the agility to shift their strategies and spending.

A traditional approach to technology doesn’t allow this agility. Instead, enterprises and governments will look to subscription models over longer-term contracts or lock-ins.

A pay-as-you-grow model which encourages “fail fast” strategies will balance the imperatives to innovate with the need to reduce exposure.

Due to extended travel limitations, more organiations also need to diversify its resources across offices, instead of consolidating it all in a regional hub.

We will see more regional resources located in Malaysia, along with continued remote work practices — either partially, or fully. This is likely to continue regardless of the timelines for a potential vaccine, as companies learn to diversify geo concentration risk.

As a result, we will see a continued uptick in agile technologies and cloud-based infrastructure.

Validation for the CIO as digitisation becomes a top priority

Regardless of how far they lagged behind pre-COVID-19, countries and businesses alike will be pushed to a new level of digitisation in the coming 12 months.

Every organisation will have to rethink their model – even if we snapped back to how things were (which we won’t), our environment and peoples’ expectations have changed. To cope, even the most brittle organisations will need to embrace agility.

Digitlisation will remain a top priority throughout 2021, when having the right level of digital ability will continue to be vital for business agility and survival.

As a result, the chief information officer (CIO) will become more prominent in business decisioning and leadership, with their tech investments having been validated in a big way.

The shift of IT from a cost center to a key business driver will be accelerated as well. Every business is now a technology business, even if they don’t realise it yet.

Climate change will be back on the agenda

If it hadn’t been for COVID-19, climate change would have been the biggest global story of 2020. However, after being pushed off the global agenda this year, climate change will return to be the dominant conversation of 2021.

It is clear the effects of climate change are real, and governments and businesses will need to find a way forward, especially for industries like resources, transport, and agriculture. They will need to transform with climate change and its effects in mind.

Distributed businesses, for example, will need to increase their resilience. Major weather events will impact supply chains and factories in vulnerable areas.

In the face of these concerns, technology can enable better practices. Innovative solutions like edge computing will play a key role in this space.

For example, implementing and tracking efficient and sustainable practices on the ground, tweaking and optimizing on-the-go to increase yield, decrease emissions, better manage productions lines and so on.

CIOs will insist on a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy

Many Asean companies that wanted to run head first into the cloud are catching up with their US counterparts.

Companies want cloud-like capabilities but need to keep optionality and flexibility. As such, CIOs will begin insisting on hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, or at the very least, insist on portability assurances as they become increasingly cloud smart.

Globally, we have seen many organisations begin to modernise their applications and shift to a “cloud first” strategy, only to hit a wall when they find that key applications cannot be efficiently migrated nor refactored to a cloud-friendly model.

Instead, a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy will be necessary to balance the desire for cloud agility and economics, with the reality of sustaining operations.

For many business leaders, the need to manage their resources without the baggage of contractual lock-ins for operating expenses-based, public cloud expenditure will be a growing consideration.

 Organisations will learn to take the long-term view and avoid being locked into something that next quarter might not work, if the world suddenly looks completely different.

If there’s one thing organisations should take from 2020 and apply to their 2021 strategies, it’s this: Disruptive change is inevitable. Flexibility and adaptability need to be core to business thinking.

By Avinash Gowda (Nutanix) – FOCUS MALAYSIA

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