The past year has been full of change. Health concerns, economic turmoil, political unrest in certain parts of the world, and revamping of global supply chains are just a few of the changes that we have had to adjust to in 2020.

Looking forward to 2021, there are a number of predictions and trends that should inform your digital transformation initiatives. Whether you are embarking on an ERP implementation, CRM or HCM software initiative, supply chain transformation, or some other digital or business transformation, these are the top 10 trends that you should be aware of in 2021 and beyond.

10. Remote workforces will become normal

What was seen as a potential interim solution for a post-Covid world appears to be evolving into a longer-term trend. In addition to helping protect employee health, this trend of working remotely is being fueled by the efficiency and productivity gains enabled by remote technologies. Though the pendulum will eventually swing back to a balance between higher efficiency versus the value of face-to-face collaboration, it is likely to permanently change how we view work in the future.

9. Acceleration of cloud adoption

ERP systems and other enterprise technologies were already rapidly moving from on-premise to the cloud, but this trend will accelerate in the coming years. With more remote workers, globally dispersed supply chains, and data distributed among multiple systems, cloud ERP systems are becoming a necessity. Word of warning: many enterprise technology solutions are still making the transition to the cloud, so be sure to thoroughly evaluate and understand the gaps before committing to a long-term contract.

8. Cybersecurity will become more important

Disparate workforces and cloud systems lead to more risk of potential cybersecurity breaches, making cybersecurity more important than ever. Not only do potential outside hackers have more access points to target, but the risk of internal security breaches is higher as well. Organizations will need to tighten the security of their systems and data in order to effectively manage remote workforces and teams of the future.

7. Flexibility will become key

The year 2020 taught us that the future can be impossible to accurately predict. Supply chains required massive overhauls, entire workforces migrated to a remote model, and many employees were furloughed or terminated – and all of this happened in an extremely short period of time. Rigid and inflexible systems of the past won’t cut it in 2021 and beyond, so be sure to implement digital transformation solutions and organizational competencies that provide the flexibility to change your business model as it evolves.

6. Program management will be a high-demand skill

The magnitude of change triggered in 2020 has forced more transformation initiatives on organizations throughout the globe, putting more of a premium on effective program management. Simply project managing a technology implementation as in the past won’t be enough. The most effective organizations will be the ones that can manage entire transformations well, whether those initiatives involve massive organizational changes, operating model enhancements, and/or new technologies.

5. System integrator challenges will continue

At the time I’m writing this, several of the big ERP systems integrators and consulting firms are experiencing mass layoffs as their model of bloated implementations, armies of full-time onsite consultants, and pushing technology for technology sake become obsolete. While these larger firms figure out their roles in this new landscape, their customers need to mitigate against the risk of project team attrition and knowledge drain. Be sure to hedge your bets by building internal competencies and considering alternatives to the traditional systems integrators.

4. Organizations will become more decisive and will take more ownership of their transformations

Our clients demonstrated unprecedented decisiveness following the economic and health fallout of COVID-19. This trend will continue in 2021 and beyond. In order to navigate a rapidly changing world, organizations need decisive leadership and control over their transformation initiatives. Unlike the days of years past, organizations are a lot less likely to simply outsource digital transformations to third parties without accountability, direction, and oversight. Firms that deploy independent transformation quality assurance programs will excel over counterparts that operate with outdated and ineffective governance models.

3. Risk mitigation will become a hot commodity

Speaking of governance – and as a result of this increasing focus on taking control of their transformations – organizations will have better visibility into their technology implementation risks. Rather than asking the fox to guard the henhouse by having your technical implementers self-assess their own risk, more forward-thinking organizations are finding new ways to identify and mitigate risk. This is another area where an independent third-party like Third Stage can help.

2. Digital transformation strategy will be a differentiator

With the unprecedented magnitude of change and a plethora of technology options available, organizations need to define custom digital transformation strategies that best align with their overarching strategy and objective. A good digital strategy should clearly define the people, process, and technology aspects of change. Rather than myopically focusing on selecting and implementing a single enterprise technology (such as one of the top ERP systems or CRM systems), more effective digital strategies provide a clear roadmap for broader transformation.

1. Change management will be more important than ever

As we speak, employees are experiencing change fatigue. The past year has been full of tectonic changes, so while it may be tempting to assume that your employees are used to change – and therefore willing and able to change – it is important to recognize that change management is more important now than it ever has been. Transformations of today are more likely to result in more material operational and organizational changes, which underscores the importance of organizational change management.

Lessons from these digital transformation trends for 2021

If there are two words to describe the state of transformation in 2021, they are change and flexibility. Achieving these two goals will require relentless focus and unwavering control of your transformation initiatives.

Questions about your 2021 digital strategy? Please feel free to contact us to discuss your change management or transformation initiatives. We are happy to help!

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