We’re headed full-steam into 2021 with much uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to bring unpredictable changes to individuals and businesses alike, with fluctuating regulations that can happen at the drop of a hat, based on what happens in the country in terms of infection rates. One thing is for certain, during these challenging times, businesses need to remain flexible, in order to adapt to the ongoing changes quick enough.
In 2020, many businesses were forced to take drastic steps towards digital transformation due to the way COVID changed the work dynamics for all industries in South Africa. In 2021, this will continue as businesses take the necessary steps to move away from old, legacy, on-premise systems and towards more flexible and scalable cloud solutions. In various of the relevant technology sectors, there are many predictions as to what will happen in the industry in 2021 but, they all agree that the cloud is going to be the marriage between businesses and success. For businesses who want to succeed in the changing landscape, as workers, clients, and the world at large becomes comfortable with the new normal.
What COVID-19 has fostered in business is a change that would have happened over a period of many years, to one that has taken a few weeks or months. Many businesses have seen employees opting to remain working from home, which requires a long-term shift in operations. This change will require that businesses implement networks capable of supporting hybrid architectures, which will incorporate on-premise, but will be a push towards cloud and edge computing, which allows for usage-based costs, improved security for geographically-split employees, centralised management and easier privacy compliance with many cloud providers already having built-in compliance tools to assist businesses as POPI comes into full effect this year.
In addition, with this change of remote workers, businesses still stuck with legacy PSTN telephone systems, will need to look at alternative VoIP or GSM-based telephony solution that allows for centralised management of communication, so that managers can better manage their staff no matter where they are located.
Cloud will also open up businesses to IoT and other automation tools, which in turn will help businesses, especially those who may have been hit badly by the pandemic, streamline their processes, retrieve required information quicker and ultimately reduce pressure on what may already be a downscaled version of their initial staff compliment. With ongoing regulations, retail businesses will need to invest in their online customer experiences, utilising AI to improve their pre-and-post sales customer experience through virtual tours and try-ons and even customer service bots. Along with this, businesses that are events driven will need to prepare, if they have not already for more virtual-based events, with even sporting events potentially moving to online platforms where viewers can engage with their favourite sporting event without the associated risks of large gatherings.
With all the uncertainty, businesses will change to solutions that make them more agile, to better navigate the growing uncertainties that 2021 may hold. Businesses that are taking the steps to adapt and be resilient are the ones that will survive the new normal, potentially surpassing their competitors who have not been as reactive in taking the opportunities that have been thrust upon businesses over the last 12 months.