Every year around this time we make our annual digital transformation predictions for the coming year, but this time it’s different as we have not only witnessed a global pandemic disrupting lives and upending industries, but also a wave of digital transformation like never before.

Businesses have fast-tracked their digitisation journey and operations by at least three years.

The digital economy triggered by the pandemic promises to bring in an unprecedented confluence of people, businesses, and things that reconstruct existing business models. There are six key trends that will define the future of the tech and IT industry.

Closing the digital divide

Today the internet has become the core of everything we do and has become nothing less than a lifeline. Unfortunately, not everyone was privileged enough, as the pandemic put a glaring spotlight on the other half for whom access to the internet was a luxury.

In the coming year, the next generation of wireless technologies, including 5G and WiFi6, will help flatten the digital divide, as these will provide bandwidth, speed, and latency, and reach rural areas.

According to PwC, bringing the internet to those who are offline would add $6.7 trillion to the global economy, lifting another 500 million people out of poverty.

Rise of intelligent experiences

There is now need for a modern, agile network that facilitates safe and seamless reintroduction of workers to the premises. Companies need to ensure a safe and productive environment by providing touchless and intelligent experiences to their employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Location technologies, and collaboration platforms like WebEx, will identify underutilised or overcrowded spaces, while monitoring room temperature, humidity, air quality, and light.

App-enabled agility

Business agility, flexibility and resilience have become necessities for organisations, so cloud-based technologies, security, analytics, and automation are all going to be crucial for organisations, to empower their employees, and thrive in the next normal.

The distribution of connectivity and the growth of multi-cloud networking will force many businesses to rethink their networks in favour of SD-WAN technology and secure access server edge (SASE), as it will enable networks to securely access cloud workloads and SaaS applications.

Brand excitement

Businesses today must make every effort to keep pace with the evolving consumer sentiment. For brands, customer experience has always been an important differentiator, but now it’s about delighting the customer with a combination of immersive, intelligence-based personalisation and experience that will trigger a lasting impact on customers’ perception of trust and loyalty.

A passwordless future

With the shift in the way we engage with each other, remote workers distributed across the globe, and cloud deployments, the traditional security perimeter has to be reformed, as the fundamental unit of access, is now identity. Organisations need to prepare for this inevitable shift, where users no longer rely on a traditional password as their primary method of access, instead look at adapting a zero-trust approach, with authentication and strong identity-focused technology.

Tech consumption models

Organisations have long invested in tech solutions where one had to pay for features they might not need. But today with the growing demand for “everything-as-a-service” consumption models, businesses have to rethink their models. Moreover, the flexibility and cost savings that pay-as-you-consume models provide to organisations are simply too good to resist.

Today, technology is becoming core to everything we do and consume, therefore, to emerge stronger out of this crisis, businesses will have to digitally disrupt themselves and push the boundaries of innovation.

As organisations try to pivot their portfolios in preparation for the next normal, the post-Covid world will witness the emergence of disruptive business models.

Shifts in consumer behaviour, new delivery models, and the remote workforce will influence the industry and form the crux of reimagining businesses in the future.

All these changes present a massive opportunity for technology providers and define the next normal.

The writer is Managing Director, Digital Transformation Office, Cisco India and SAARC