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Technology in 2021 will be defined by success

This year, tech conversations will shift away from weathering the pandemic to how organisations have evolved.

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The tools, skillsets and processes of yesterday will not produce the necessary results for tomorrow. Only the agile will survive, while organisations that fail to handle shifts in the business landscape will face serious challenges.

These are the central conclusions of the Amdocs team, which has identified nine major technology trends that are expected to characterise 2021. Each trend is unpacked by a member of the team:

A shift in cultural mindsets required

Yariv Hasar, general manager of Amdocs Development, says a shift in cultural mindsets is required. He points out that many enterprises have already implemented solutions to increase their organisations’ agility. “However, as leaders look to ensure organisation-wide agility, we’ll see a new focal point emerge in restructuring and reskilling the workforce to empower a culture of change. But, for this to become a reality, leaders must appreciate that today’s global workforce holds a deep desire to diversify its own skill sets, thanks to the uncertainty in the current job market.”

Organisations will need to embrace more significant roles as enablers and supporters of their employees — providing upskilling programs for self-learning, personal development and fostering a culture of continuous learning. Furthermore, to improve sensing capabilities, leaders will need to cultivate a culture of creativity across the entire organisation, while building up a strong centralised innovation generator to all those creative ideas.

The evolution to ‘experience service providers’

The ongoing pandemic will continue to fuel requests for real-time digital experiences, creating substantial operational challenges for service providers. These requests will not just be made from people-to-machine, but from machine-to-machine. To meet this demand, operators will need to evolve from digital service providers (DSPs) to experience service providers (ESPs).

Amalia Avramov, general manager of Amdocs, says the evolution to ‘experience service providers’ suggests ESPs won’t merely provide a digital business solution or service, but rather a 360-degree execution of a specific experience. “This will be done by combining the micro-experiences and technologies necessary to create seamless, smart outcomes in real-time, while coupling the right vendors, insights, and connectivity to bring the experience to life.

“For example, a school superintendent looking to devise an emergency remote education solution could task an ESP to create one in real-time by automatically selecting the right learning platform and ensuring all correct broadband requirements are in place.”

Cloud and automation will be critical to keeping pace with technology’s rapid evolution, quickly launch new offerings, and move toward an ESP vision. It will also be essential to support complex business operations that come with this territory, and the latest digital experiences consumers expect due to Covid-19’s impact.

Covid-19’s lasting effect on the female workforce

While remote work may have reduced the gender gap in some ways, like the ability for women to do more in a day without commuting, the crisis continues to take a disproportionate toll on female employees.

According to McKinsey, women’s jobs have become 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s due to the weight of unpaid care, as many women are leaving their jobs to balance at-home responsibilities. And this comes at a time where women already comprise a disproportionately small percentage of the industry’s workforce.

Amalia Avramov, general manager of Amdocs, says 2021 will be critical for the evolution in workforce behaviour and the tech industry must lead by example. “Companies should take a closer look at how women’s lifestyles have changed in these unprecedented times and act accordingly.

“And as managers, we need to actively call on our own insights, empathy and personal experiences to show others that they can succeed during these challenging times. Now that we are in a largely online environment that has significantly reduced hierarchy in many organisations (we all exist in the same-size Zoom square), we must embrace this new ecosystem and ensure its impact is here to stay. In addition, we need to ensure those who were forced to leave their roles receive the training and support they need when they can confidently and comfortably return to the workforce.”

A foundational year for 5G

This year, the world started to get a glimpse into what 5G can do, as many providers began to roll out 5G services in urban areas. The iPhone 12 will signal the year of significant adoption, shaping a new growth engine for 5G networks. As the world starts to look toward 5G to lead the digital revolution, use cases beyond speed will be critical. In 2021, service providers should therefore focus on areas that resonate with consumers during Covid-19, like remote work, e-learning, improved streaming and online gaming, which could see the most considerable growth in the short term.

In the area of 5G network slicing, as businesses continue to adjust to flexible work environments by increasing network capacity, we’ll see more service providers using this technology to differentiate between various types of network traffic to prioritise as needed. We’ll also see the rise of private enterprise networks among organisations of all sizes. As a result, edge computing will be considered a necessity to reduce the latency of 5G services, and telecommunications companies will further adopt Outpost, Wavelength and Azure Edge Zones to manage this.

Better management of the multi-cloud

Avishai Sharlin, division president of Amdocs, says the disruption brought about by Covid-19 has seen the acceleration of cloud adoption, with 91% of enterprise IT environments now relying on cloud solutions. “We can expect the popularity of the cloud to continue to grow due to its proven track record with businesses that have successfully used the technology to rapidly respond to issues with targeted solutions.”

As adoption continues to accelerate among enterprises, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments, in particular, will be a critical focus area. These technologies will offer the capacity needed to provide businesses with speed, control and security as they prepare themselves to better work and operate with the cloud.

Kubernetes will also come into focus, serving as the abstraction layer to manage and control multi-cloud together through a “single pane of glass”. Because of this, and despite the pandemic, the implementation of Kubernetes and container adoption will remain high priorities for businesses.

New business models in the OTT space

While 2020 witnessed some consumers trying out new media subscription services, there is no denying the impact Covid-19 has had on disposable income and unemployment rates.

Fortunately, with vaccines now on the horizon and the markets indicating a more bullish 2021, we believe the narrative will continue to shift from the overwhelming options consumers have in the OTT space, to how the industry will adapt. This includes new content offerings, pricing and monetisation strategies, optionality and unique bundling opportunities.

Darcy Antonellis, head of Amdocs Media and CEO of Vubiquity, says in 2021, alliances, consolidation and various partnership structures will continue to grow. “As the consumer-facing environment grows in complexity, tools and platforms that simplify a consumer’s means to manage their digital services (whether for digital or physical goods), subscriptions and commerce activities will be important. Easy-to-use tools integrated across applications, with a holistic customer experience, is one example of how service providers can differentiate.”

Global distribution, localisation and revenue conversion

2021 will have the media and entertainment space evolving due to Covid-19’s lingering effects. With roughly the top eight global content producers slated to spend more than $100-billion on content creation, an accelerated production path to revenue conversion will remain in focus. This urgency will continue the push for increased global release programming strategies, resulting in continued licensing and localisation complexities.

Exponential leap for the broadband experience

Covid-19 has propelled our in-home expectations forward by five years and 2021 will advance how broadband is managed. Amdocs research shows that, during the early part of the pandemic, 30% of consumers experienced remote work and 20% remote learning for the first time. This clearly illustrates two key areas where the broadband experience must immediately evolve.

Gill Rosen, chief marketing officer and division president of Amdocs, says 2021 will see broadband uptake rise even further as heavy usage of high-bandwidth activities such as video conferencing, streaming and gaming, parallel with connected hardware, legacy and IoT devices all battle for the home network’s attention. 

“Meanwhile, our ‘regular’ and ‘work’ lives will continue to mesh into a single environment. Things will only become more complicated moving forward. As the influx of new devices into our lives continues to grow, together with demands for new experiences and changes in network habits, broadband connectivity will evolve to manage connected hardware and related mobile software applications more efficiently. This will be accompanied by better intelligent monitoring, leading to an improved understanding of quality of experience.”

Much like when mobile phones became increasingly complex due to apps, the additions of devices and demands will require home operating systems in 2021. We predict 2021 will see the router finally transcending its traditional roles of connectivity and back-end operations to become a vital part of managing the entire connected home.

We should also keep an eye on new enterprise opportunities, as businesses look at in-home connectivity packages to guarantee the bandwidth, security and functionality employees need to succeed.

Industries will embrace (or for now, avoid) the use of IoT to battle Covid-19

While 2020 wasn’t necessarily the IoT revolution predicted, there is no denying Covid-19 dramatically accelerated its adoption at many companies. While constrained budgets may cause a continued delay in IoT implementation in areas such as travel and retail during 2021, others like healthcare and manufacturing will move toward digitalisation of their physical environments (becoming “digical”) due to necessity. 

Examples include employing 5G-enabled robots to greet and triage people in hospital receptions to minimise physical contact between staff and patients, and manufacturing companies using video monitoring to check product lines remotely rather than sending in people during a pandemic.

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