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Four pillars – not predictions – for 2021

(Image credit: Shutterstock / whiteMocca)

Foresight. A game plan for when life and business continue to surprise us. However, as leaders reflect on this past year, it seems as though the only sure thing is that the next year will still be very uncertain. Did 2020 kill the annual prediction? Perhaps. It definitely changed how business and IT leaders approach long-term planning. Business strategy, budget, investments, releases – these core considerations are now accompanied by another impending variable: improving responsiveness to the next disruption. 

Predicting trends for 2021 is still important. However, preparing for continuous change can no longer take a backseat to identifying business opportunities, or come as an afterthought. The pandemic exposed several problems that had existed within organizations and their IT infrastructures for years – but they had gone unaddressed because responsiveness and resilience couldn’t rise high enough on many company’s priority list. 

As 2021 begins, companies should swap predictions for pillars – strengthening and modernizing their technology infrastructures so they are ready to pivot when the next disruption inevitably happens. As leaders work to become nimbler, these four pillars will reinforce their IT ecosystems for resilience and responsiveness in a year, and a future, where it will undoubtedly be needed.

1. Embrace a hybrid cloud approach.

Cloud adoption saw incredible growth in 2020. As the pandemic accelerated remote work, more companies – and their employees – did not feel comfortable working in-person at offices and data centers. As a result, many organizations started rapidly moving their workloads and applications to the cloud. Cloud provides remote access, which is critical in creating today’s agile, composable businesses. Cloud is also scalable and flexible, so companies can easily increase or decrease resources as demand continuously fluctuates in 2021.

That said, not every organization needs to – or should – move entirely to the cloud. Firms still have mission-critical processes and sensitive information they may choose to manage on-premises while cloud solutions continue to mature. This drives many enterprises to adopt a hybrid approach that leverages the best of all worlds – including on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services and a public cloud. According to the Flexera 2020 State of the Cloud Report, 93 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, and 87 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy. Organizations that deploy a hybrid model also have a lower total cost of ownership than their all-cloud counterparts – and any savings are valuable in a resilience-oriented world.

2. The C in CIO must also help spell “change.”

Let’s start with your people. Overlook your people and any transformation effort stands an increased risk to fail. The CIO can no longer be a tech-focused role. CIOs are leaders of people, and that demands them to be leaders of change. 

The pandemic accelerated digital transformations at many companies, and we’ve yet to see if these transformations are sustainable. Remote work is new to the majority of the workforce. That work has added more complexity to IT infrastructures and operations, and its upended work/life balances of employees. 

CIOs used to have the goal of ensuring alignment of IT with business needs and demands. That alignment demand still remains, but achieving it will now push CIOs to both evangelize and coach the organization through change. Employees need to understand what’s changing and why, and more importantly they need to understand “what’s in it for them.” CIOs that can arm the organization to answer those questions for their employees will accelerate their firm’s path to become a responsive business. 

3. Embrace composability. 

2020 asked mostly every company to adapt in some way, and 2021 will be no different. Evolving into a composable business will help ensure adaptability this year and in years to come. What does it mean to be composable? Gartner says an intelligent, composable business can reorganize itself to fit specific needs and scenarios.

Some companies had a head start on composability in 2021, taking remote work as a prominent example. Companies who already had a partially remote workforce – whether that meant employees in a different country or who had flexible work-from-home benefits – already had the infrastructure in place, which meant they were able to scale quickly when the pandemic escalated. Not only did they scale, but they did so without hurting productivity, communication or, ideally, business outcomes. Applying this concept of composability across the entire organization isn’t a simple feat, but companies can start by making business modular and digital, with emphasis on the latter. Part of adaptability is enabling leaders to quickly make data-driven decisions. Providing access to data, as well as data democratization, makes sure data gets into the hands of leaders when they need it.

4. Mainframe must get the DevOps treatment. 

DevOps adoption has been on the rise for several years, but it’s still far from reaching its full potential. The reputation of DevOps has been closely tied to digital native companies or hot startups – many of which are not investing in the mainframe – but that sells the DevOps approach short. DevOps can and should be applied to the mainframe as a critical pillar for resilience. The mainframe’s role in supporting mission-critical business applications in recent years has only grown for firms in financial services, insurance, and public sectors. Ignore those mission-critical business applications and you put the organization at increased risk of failing to respond to the next big change. 

For CIOs and IT leaders, DevOps will help reshape your culture, processes and technology to support a responsive business. Mainframe can’t be an afterthought in your DevOps and digital transformation journey. 

With these four pillars, enterprises can build an organization and an IT infrastructure for resilience. Heading into 2021, the planning process is less focused on predicting the next “big thing,” and more about establishing stability and responsiveness so that enterprises are ready to react – or take advantage – when that next thing arrives.

Kyle McNabb, SVP of Product Marketing, ASG Technologies

Kyle McNabb, SVP of Product Marketing at ASG Technologies, has over 25 years of experience in customer focused products and service innovation lifecycles, developing compelling content and implementing growth strategies.