Five IT Tech & Operations Trends You'll See in 2021

7 min read
Dec 10, 2020 10:03:22 PM


Top 2021 Trends for IT/Operations

We sure didn’t see it coming. And when it hit, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifted the way people work, interact, and live their lives. It transformed every aspect of enterprise operations, from disrupting the global supply chain to placing emphasis on the need to digitize the way we communicate. Simply put, we’re finding ourselves adapting to a new way of operating.

2021 is on the horizon, and if it’s anything like the often unpredictable 2020, IT and operation managers want to get a leg up on what to expect and how to shift with anticipated trends. In their forecasts for the coming year, analysts and experts have mapped out what they see as the top trends for IT. Staying ahead of these trends may help companies realize their IT and operations management goals. Here are five trends we’re seeing:

1)  Anywhere Operations
We’ve all been hearing how the pandemic has forced us to work remotely, and while we’ve resolved most of the short-term hiccups this has raised, we’re now seeing the long-term snags presenting themselves.

Be Flexible sign with clouds and sky background-1

As a result, companies will need to adopt a more flexible business model – including a transition to the cloud. An “anywhere operations” model makes it possible to access, transmit, and share data and processes even outside of the corporate network. This IT operating model is designed to support customers everywhere, enable employees everywhere, and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructures. More than simply working from home or interacting with customers virtually, it delves further into the core areas of secure remote access, collaboration and productivity, and automation to support remote operations.


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Gartner predicts that by the end of 2023, 40% of organizations will adopt a more fluid, hybrid-office model where workers won’t be limited to long commutes or standard 9-5 schedules. This shift creates the need for management solutions that utilize a decentralized network footprint and grant teams visibility to virtually any location from where their workers log on.

This digital-first, location-independent operating model gives employers, customers and business partners reliable and secure access to documents and information from wherever they are. Infrastructure options are expanding to include alternatives such as cloud resources, hyper-converged infrastructure, and computational storage. Anywhere Operations is about keeping things running, and IT departments will be challenged to support applications no matter where they are.


2)  Artificial Intelligence
Already one of the biggest trends, in the year 2021 it will become an even more valuable tool for helping us interpret and comprehend the world we live in. Enterprises will be looking to find ways to safely and creatively apply AI to their engineering and IT strategies.

New applications for professional, personal and business functions are being discovered for AI everyday. AI has become the basis for technological innovations such as face recognition, data processing, speech recognition and more. AI’s relevance will continue to grow steadily in the coming  years, and its impact on software automation will be particularly significant.

For 2021 Forrester predicts: 

  • AI and machine learning (ML) will infiltrate experiences such as holographic meetings for remote work and building simulations in meeting rooms.
  • Workplace AI will boost automation and augmentation needs.
  • 2021 will hold more progress toward trusted data for AI.

3) Edge Computing – an alternative to Cloud Computing
Edge computing is a distributed computing practice of bringing data and computation closer to the location where it’s needed in order to improve response times and save bandwidth, while increasing response times. Basically, rather than relying on a central location that may be thousands of miles away, information is processed closer to the devices where it’s being gathered.


The robust growth of internet-connected devices – the IoT – along with the rise of real-time applications that need processing at the edge, will drive this technology ahead.  A recent Gartner report stated that edge architectures and technologies will be an essential component of innovative products and services.

“The edge will become empowered with sophisticated compute resources and
more data storage. Enterprise architecture and technology innovation
leaders will use
edge computing to respond to technology trends and

to improve resiliency, responsiveness, security and user experiences.”

Features of Edge Computing:

  • Enterprises adopt edge computing in situations where cloud architectures deliver insufficient security or reliability in the event of network failure.
  • Real-time data does not suffer latency issues that can affect an application’s performance.
  • Companies can save money by having the processing done locally which reduces the amount of data that needs to be processed in a cloud-based or centralized location.

The biggest benefit of edge computing is the ability to process and store data faster, enabling for more efficient real-time applications. For example, prior to the edge computing model, a smartphone scanning a person’s face for facial recognition would be required to run the facial recognition algorithm through a cloud-based service, adding a lot of time. With edge computing, the algorithm can run locally on an edge server, or gateway, or even on the smartphone itself.

As time will show, Edge computing is transforming the way data is being handled, processed and delivered from millions of devices around the world.

4) Hyperautomation
Sometimes referred to as Digital Process Automation and Intelligent Process Automation, Hyperautomation has been identified by Gartner as one of 2021’s top 10 strategic technology trends.  Hyperautomation is a business approach where organizations rapidly identify, vet and automate as many approved business and IT processes as possible. It combines the right technologies in order to automate, simplify, discover, design, measure and manage workflows and processes across the enterprise.

Demand for automating recurring manual processes and tasks has picked up in the last year, and is driven by organizations having legacy business processes that are not streamlined, which is proving to be enormously expensive and complex for them.

Simply put, Hyperautomation is an advanced form of automation that seeks to complete tasks and processes more quickly, more efficiently — and with fewer errors. It enables automation for virtually any repetitive task executed by business users. Hyperautomation not only refers to the tasks and processes that can be automated, but also the level of automation – dynamically discovering business processes and creating bots to automate them. It’s often referred to as the next major phase of digital transformation.

“As no single tool can replace humans, hyperautomation today involves a
combination of tools, including robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent business management software (iBPMS), and AI, with a goal of increasingly AI-driven decision making.” 
- Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020

The idea is to automate more and more knowledge work, and engage everyone in an organization to be part of the transformation. The hyperautomation model enables people and robots to automate together, from basic processes to more complex, long-running, end-to-end business processes.

With benefits like improved employee productivity and flexibility in operations, hyperautomation is also predicted to boost revenue and reduce costs. With powerful analytical tools and capabilities, organizations can optimize the deployment of their resources.


5) A Combo: Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM) / The Automation Architect Role
A new term was introduced by Gartner in the year 2020, and continues to be an emerging trend into 2021: Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM).  This emerging trend toward  digital transformation in context of IT operations is defined as a unified management solution for hybrid IT infrastructure systems. HDIM stems from the ongoing decline of on-premises data centers, along with the growth in cloud applications for many organizations.

As technology advances and organizations expand, the need for flexibility and agility from the tailored data centers rises as well. On-premise data centers are costly and arduous to maintain, and many companies are searching for alternate solutions. More frequently they find themselves turning to the cloud. But often the switch from legacy systems to the cloud can be arduous and time consuming. Enter a hybrid period that allows the use of both ecosystems at the same time.

HDIM technology is still in the early stages, though some enterprises are pioneering the way already. Especially for larger organizations that have not yet adopted the cloud, it can take time to get from a fully physical model to one that runs solely on the cloud. But companies are seeing that even partial cloud operation provides numerous benefits. In those cases, HDIM lessens the snags and obstacles that may often accompany the transition and management of multiple infrastructures. To that end, in 2021 Gartner expects 20% of organizations to leverage HDIM technologies to optimize hybrid IT infrastructure operations.

Automation Architects
As companies lean into the implementation of HDIM and other automation in their infrastructure operations, new challenges arise. Notably, since Hybrid IT infrastructure operations are complex and difficult to establish, many organizations are employing a new role: Automation Architects. Gartner predicts that these positions — currently held at 20% — will increase to 90% of enterprises by the year 2025.

“To appoint an automation architect is to recognize that automation has
become its own discipline within the enterprise IT organization.”

Automation architects are being hired in both mid-sized firms and large enterprises (AstraZeneca, HP and ADP, to name a few.) The trend to hire strong automation architects is not only on the far-off horizon, but emerging now.  So what does an automation architect DO?

The automation architect serves as an internal advocate for automation. He/she establishes enterprise-wide best practices and company-wide policies. Since employees and managers alike may feel hesitant to adopt automation (based on fears of job security and distrust towards new technologies), the automation architect may very well play a key role in advancing the benefits of automation.

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