Digitalization Trends 2021
Munich, December 7, 2020: The new study results from the digitalization specialist valantic (www.valantic.com) and Lünendonk provide some important insights about German companies’ technology expertise. In many cases, companies are lacking specialized knowledge and expertise, especially with regard to artificial intelligence, process optimization, and automation. Starting with the study results, valantic has identified and evaluated seven trends that companies should have on their radar in 2021 since these will play a big role in digitalization in the year to come.
1. Hybrid multi-cloud architectures
Scalability, flexibility, and cost efficiency are just three of many reasons why companies have come to rely increasingly on cloud solutions, including ERP and CRM systems, e-commerce solutions, and online data storage, in recent years. Current customer projects and expert opinions indicate that this dynamic will accelerate in 2021 and that the trend at companies will be increasingly toward hybrid multi-cloud architectures. With this approach, different cloud solutions are coupled to form a large application and data cloud.
Thomas Latajka, Managing Director of the valantic Competence Center ERP in Langenfeld, assesses the situation this way: “In particular the low costs, faster deployment, and greater flexibility of hybrid multi-cloud architectures offer companies true benefits. On the other hand, the topics of IT security and data integrity pose significant challenges for operators, for the various systems and databases operated on distributed servers not only have to be protected against unauthorized access, they also have to be networked securely with one another so that they can function as a homogeneous system. With increasing complexity and networking of solutions, this problem will persist in the coming year.”
2. IT sustainability and sustainability thanks to IT
Sustainability topics were at the top of companies’ agendas even before the “Fridays for Future“ movement became so visible. In 2021, these topics will also be a major focus for many IT managers and CIOs. Here, it’s not just important to consider how IT can become Green IT by reducing its use of energy and resources, keeping devices longer, and recycling more. The question of what role new software and IT solutions can play with regard to sustainability will also be more of a concern for decision-makers.
Martin Hofer, Managing Director of the valantic Competence Center Supply Chain Excellence in Munich emphasizes: “At many companies, 2021 will be the year in which they start implementing more efficient sustainability strategies by using innovative IT systems or expanding these massively. This is how intelligent software can help reduce material usage at manufacturing companies thanks to sustainability-oriented production planning and control. The focus will be on how to make supply chains and logistics processes more efficient and thus significantly reduce the resources required for production , storage, and transport. The design of production and supply networks will be aligned increasingly according to sustainability criteria. We estimate that companies can reduce their CO2 emissions between 10 and 35% simply by optimizing logistics, which can also save companies a lot of money,” says Hofer. Green IT would then be the logical consequence. To sum things up, “green” digitalization would reduce companies’ ecological footprint considerably.
3. Multi-experience management
User experience – that is, the way people operate and interact with technology and software systems – has been an important topic in IT and software development for many years.
Reto Rutz, Managing Director of valantic CEC in St. Gallen (Switzerland), which specializes in digital commerce solutions, is certain of one thing: “In 2021, thanks to the increasing popularity of new experiential worlds such as virtual and augmented reality, voice and gesture control, and smarter AI-supported assistants, the interaction between people and digital systems will change again. We are currently developing prototypes to give customers a completely different, expanded shopping experience with augmented reality. This way, for example, additional information such as product variants, prices, and customer ratings will be added to the product virtually via mobile devices. At the same time, the online and offline shopping experiences are merging with one another. In stores, which provide 24/7 access, shopping, in-store navigation, and pick-ups. And of course the use of voice assistants, artificial intelligence, and multi-sensory interfaces such as wearables will also be a factor here,” says the digital experience specialist Rutz.
4. Hyperautomation and robotic process automation
According to analyses by Gartner, hyperautomation was already one of the most important strategic trends this year. Hyperautomation includes the possibility of the complete automation of steps, among other things by using machine learning and AI.
Rüdiger Hoffmann, Managing Director and digitalization specialist at the valantic subsidiary Linkit says, “surely we will still be a few years’ development away from ‘real’ artificial intelligence in 2021. However, many companies are already using AI predecessors such as RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to automate simple workflows that are still handled manually based on algorithms and rules.” Hyperautomation may be the next development on many CIOs’ plan, according to Hoffmann, in order to implement the continuous automation of complex business processes.
5. Smart workplaces with virtual assistance and conversational artificial intelligence
A consequence of the coronavirus and working from home offices is the insight that workplaces have to get smarter. IT access has to be possible from anywhere. Increasingly, employees receive support for their daily work from technologies such as virtual assistance and conversational AI.
Andreas Winter, Business Unit Manager Enterprise Software Engineering and Conversational AI expert at valantic, also predicts this: “Smart workplaces where all data and tools are accessible regardless of location and time, and without media disruptions, will become a central digital work platform in 2021. In the era of voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, voice-controlled tools can give companies a big advantage. With voicebots, chatbots, and virtual assistants, conversational AI takes care of administrative tasks, simplifies communication, and leads to even more process automation,” says Winter.
6. Data literacy, real-time intelligence, and predictive analytics
According to analyses by the German Internet provider DE-CIX, the quantity of data transferred by the largest German Internet node in Frankfurt increased due to the pandemic to an unbelievable 10 terabits per second and has thus almost doubled in five years. For companies, this gigantic increase doesn’t just mean that they have to invest in expanding their data networks. The question of which conclusions and what knowledge you can draw from this data is becoming ever more important.
Anastasios Christodoulou, Managing Director of the Competence Center valantic Business Analytics in Hamburg, knows that the topic of data literacy – that is, the ability to manage, interpret, and apply data competently – will become a critical core competency in 2021. “Real-time intelligence processes, which analyze data in real time, and predictive analytics, which enables the making of predictions about the future based on existing data, will become decisive competitive advantages in 2021,” says the business analytics expert. “It’s precisely our customers in the insurance and health insurance world who are relying increasingly on these trending technologies in order to expand their data-based knowledge of their customers,” continues Christodoulou.
7. 5G enables Internet of Things and Industry 4.0
The Internet of Things (IoT) will become standard at networked companies in 2021. The 5G mobile phone standard is an important requirement for Industry 4.0. Faster transmission and less latency time promise new applications that could revolutionize logistics. The entire supply chain can be controlled by IoT sensors in real time. Falk von Falkenhausen, Managing Director at the valantic Competence Center Supply Chain Excellence, emphasizes: “5G technology enables real-time IT scenarios in which automation and the linking of complex systems will be realized. However, in 2021, there still won’t be universal 5G coverage in Germany. That’s why there will be a heterogeneous mix of data communication technologies in parallel to 5G for a while yet. It will be a while until 5G has established itself in industry,” says von Falkenhausen.