Is America behind technology

2021 brings the human element back into technology

By Pierre Fricke -

Looking ahead to 2021, there is certainly a lot to be said about AI and machine learning, IoT, multicloud, hybrid cloud and cloud native. This time around, however, I'd like to delve into other larger issues that will affect technology companies and their customers, as well as society as a whole, in 2021 and beyond.

Forecast 1: Attitudes without a degree

In the 1950s and 1960s, many programmers did not have a college degree, but were self-taught or apprentices. However, from the 1970s, when computer science experts joined the ranks of engineers, a university degree became “compulsory”.

However, as the costs for technical degrees continue to skyrocket, we are faced with a shortage of qualified software engineers. I predict that this year we will see cloud providers, partners, and application developers start hiring non-college graduates. Amazon and other industry giants will take the lead. Instead, employers will focus on a person's skills, will and drive to expand their talent pool and improve their competitive advantage.

Individuals with a passion for technology can qualify for many of the newest jobs in a fraction of the time and cost it takes to graduate. There are numerous online educational platforms as well as programs from leading providers such as AWS Training and Certification, Microsoft Learn for Azure, Google Cloud Training and VMware Learning, which provide the necessary fundamentals to be successful in these new technical professions. It's about developing, integrating, managing and optimizing in the cloud.

Prediction 2: Increased focus on diversity

I predict that the tech industry will focus more on diversity in 2021. The reason is very simple: diversity brings results. By the time I was with IBM in the 1980s and early 1990s, we understood that leaving people outside is never a good thing. Diversity was therefore the norm. However, the tech industry as a whole did not follow suit. I shudder when I think about the inventions, remedies and new ideas that have been lost as a result.

We are one step closer to creating equitable, diverse workforces thanks to innovative programs such as OneTen, a coalition of senior executives who have come together to “get one million black Americans into living and career advancement jobs over the next 10 years”.

Also, I predict that there will be a shift towards more diversity in product and service development as companies consider more inclusive designs. Today's products and services, many of which have a global target audience, must cater to, or be adaptable to, a large number of people with different cultures, languages, backgrounds and sensitivities. But even on a localized level, we see a dramatic variety of people targeted by these offerings - think of New York City, London, Dubai or Singapore, for example. How many products and services did less well and disappoint customers because they were not tested holistically for such different target markets?

Prediction 3: Automation will redefine low-skilled jobs

From restaurants to retail to office activities, automation technology will change the nature of entry-level positions in 2021. Especially given the proposed minimum wage increase in the US, employers will accelerate automation projects based on robotic process automation (RPA), online experiences and, ultimately, physical robots.

However, this does not necessarily mean that employers will reduce the number of jobs. Instead, employers will take this opportunity to retrain their staff and invest in their human capital. The aim is for these employees to be able to concentrate on higher-value and creative activities relating to personal service and quality. Employees will begin to see their careers as working on the side of automation and adding value to it. Not only do they get paid better, but they also have the potential to be more fulfilling.

Prediction 4: Holistic security solutions will combine AI and the intelligence of experts

Every day we share valuable data about ourselves and our companies with useful online applications and facilities. Our personal online presence and that of our company know no boundaries. The old firewall-based security models based on the moat principle are highly inadequate.

To protect data, organizations try to take a holistic view of security, with dozens of security products in use in a typical organization. But how are these all connected? My prediction is that there will be a strong focus on connecting AI and the intelligence of experts to create a new level of security and ward off innovative threats. The solution combines human experts and proactive intelligent agents in a Security Operations Center (SOC) with a consolidated representation of threat data, security analyzes, alerts and response services. The provision and administration takes place in multi-cloud environments.

But what about the inviolability of your data? How do you know they won't change unnoticed? A wide variety of data management and storage technologies have been invented for pretty much every type of data and use case. One of the most recent data technologies to hit the market is the blockchain. Your main characteristic? An immutable data management system in which data, once recorded, is permanently stored.

The blockchain represents an ideal platform for “zero trust” data. According to Gartner, the blockchain is in the bottom of disillusionment, but will experience an upswing in 2021. The functions and the supporting ecosystem around blockchain-based technologies are still immature, which means that there will still be a lot to learn in 2021. In any case, keep an eye on this sector and its rise from the valley of disillusionment, which begins this year.

Prediction 5: Marketing for business benefits is making a comeback

Since the cloud computing trade shows went online in 2020, I was able to attend more events than usual in the past year. Aside from being very well done, one thing struck me: They all started with technology and product announcements, not stories of business value.

Of course, all providers presented testimonials and stories from customers. But they haven't shown how these technologies can make a real difference to businesses. I believe that in 2021 the marketing pendulum will swing back towards key values, such as: Examples include delivering great customer experiences, unlocking new revenue streams and optimizing profitability, inventing new business models, creating business resilience and agility, and strengthening security and compliance.

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