2021 Year in Review
On this episode, Darren reflects on the expectations and surprises of 2021.
Expectations for 2021
One major expectation for 2021 was that the new vaccine would bring us out of COVID and travel would resume. Darren expected to see his customers face to face rather than via Zoom or web conferencing.
Other expectations were the implementation of hybrid working models, and although remote learning in education was in full swing, there was hope for a return to in-person classrooms. We expected to see an uptick in contactless or frictionless customer service. The gig industry such as UberEats was also kicking off.
In the industry, we were hoping to see a big push for AI and ML as new technologies become available. We also thought we would see an acceleration in industry 4.0 with new automation, as factories still needed to produce even though they had fewer workers.
We had great expectations for 2021, and it didn’t disappoint. There were, however, quite a few surprises.
Surprises in 2021
Although the vaccine helped, it didn’t wipe out COVID. We’ve had four waves, and we’re currently in the middle of the Omicron wave at the beginning of 2022. Not everyone was headed back to work, however, and organizations continue to roll out hybrid workplace plans.
2021 also brought the great resignation, with a large number of people changing jobs, perhaps due to burnout, different opportunities, or just being unsettled about when they would have to go back to the office.
IT became the quiet heroes on business continuity, as they became even more flexible with the ability to turn on a dime to support all the different needs for employees and their customers.
Another big surprise was that major industries outside of high tech were hit with ransomware, such as the meatpacking industry and a pipeline. Security, then, became an important concept.
Intel had a big surprise as well, with the return of Pat Gelsinger as CEO.
COVID is Still Wreaking Havoc Throughout the World
COVID is probably going to be the pivotal or black swan event of the century. The world economies have adjusted to reflect the uncertainty of the four waves of COVID outbreaks, and the peaks and valleys have wreaked havoc with business plans for getting people back into the office.
Hybrid Work Models Created
Organizations have come up with some great hybrid work models, but many are still not utilized as the back-to-work dates have been continually pushed back due to outbreaks, such as the current Omicron wave in January 2022. What we did see is a major culture shift to people settling into remote work and possibly hybrid work. IT organizations have prepared for the back and forth to the office.
Day-to-day work has fundamentally shifted from people storing their work on a machine in the office to storing it in the cloud. Or, things are stored on a portable device and replicated in the cloud. So, we saw a huge shift in cloud-based and SaaS-based offerings like Office 365, as well as in collaboration tools such as Zoom and Teams. In addition, remote onboarding of new employees has become commonplace. All of this has affected people, process, and technology.
Combatting the Great Resignation
To retain employees amidst the great resignation, organizations much first look at the well-being of employees. With the stress and isolation of the pandemic, there has been an uptick of organizations seeking to help employees with mental and emotional health.
Flexibility is another key; with remote work, hours and location can be flexible. Employees can live in another state or keep non-traditional hours. This flexibility and lack of commute have allowed people to engage with and explore their own communities more.
HR organizations are starting to use artificial intelligence to find out why people are leaving, identify trends, and determine which programs will help boost productivity and help employees to feel like part of the team. Organizations are also turning to automation. There has been an uptick in the robotic process automation industry to deal with fewer employees.
Relentless IT Pace has not Slowed Down
IT cannot keep up the heroic pace that was required at the beginning of COVID, so although the crazy hours have been tapering, the demand is being met strategically. We saw a massive movement to SaaS offerings so employees were, for example, no longer managing things that weren’t necessarily their strengths. Instead, they could turn to a cloud service provider, or service providers of HR, sales, or ERP systems. A movement to automation and repeatable processes alleviated some of the pressure of the day-to-day office work. There was also greater investment in DevOps and RPA technology to help streamline and secure product development.
Security, Supply Chain, and Ransomware
Security issues caught most industries off guard. Industries such as meatpacking and oil and gas, hospitals, and supply chain and logistics companies were hit with security breaches. Primarily, this was a problem of having to move so quickly to remote work and setting aside careful security. For example, perhaps organizations didn’t do the proper training of remote workers on how to secure their laptops or data. Among other lessons learned, we will see the emergence of zero trust this year.
Another big problem of this year was supply chain issues, and not just in the silicon supply. Many materials will continue to be in short supply across the board, especially affecting small businesses.
We have to come up with solutions to combat ransomware. Organizations can make process and cultural changes and utilize new technologies to find these solutions.
Intel Got a New CEO
The biggest surprise for Darren, and perhaps for the whole industry, was the return of Pat Gelsinger to Intel, this time as CEO. Everyone at Intel is inspired by the energy he brings. Pat says that he is going to help the industry solve the chip shortage by investing in American manufacturing again. Darren believes he will move Intel back to the top of manufacturing of chip sales and provide wonderful technology for the whole world.
Notices and Disclaimers
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