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Integration, Automation, and Knowledge Sharing: CEO Predictions for 2021

In 2021, businesses will need to create new efficiencies and democratize technical knowledge. Here are three ways they'll do so.

As organizations look to 2021, their enterprise strategy will continue to be influenced largely by the COVID-19 pandemic. "Return to office" plans for many have been put on hold, with staff expecting to stay remote until at least mid-2021 or even permanently. These factors have accelerated the adoption and implementation of cloud collaboration.

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In fact, those who have not yet adopted cloud technology across their organizations are holding their business back from added efficiencies and productivity. Not to mention, they are creating added stress for their IT departments.

To overcome the challenges of employee technical frustration, data silos, declining IT spending, and rising IT burnout, I expect organizations in 2021 to reevaluate the applications and tools they use and assess whether they are equipped to keep employees connected and productive for the long haul. I also expect there to be an increased focus on employee knowledge-sharing and education.

I've outlined the top three trends I anticipate enterprise leadership will focus on: SaaS application integration, the implementation of business process automation (BPA) backed by artificial intelligence, and reducing the knowledge gap to inspire the rise of the citizen developer.

Trend #1: Adopting SaaS application integration

Removing data siloes across organizations has never been more important, especially with employees dispersed across home offices. Limitations on the applications employees can access at home are unacceptable and can hinder productivity. As such, a smooth operating workflow is key.

An efficient organization is one that enables the free flow of data from one application to the next. When the average business runs approximately 130 business applications, this is often easier said than done. With that in mind, I expect organizations to increase their focus on SaaS application integration in 2021.

To implement the most effective integrations, organizations should examine the applications most used by their employees and determine where the greatest roadblocks exist. An organization might, for instance, consider implementing smart integrations across storage, messenger, and database platforms to streamline the flow of information.

By enabling applications to work more seamlessly together, organizations will, in turn, streamline their employee workflows. Because conference rooms and shared whiteboards are a thing of the past, leadership will examine how they can create more unified, common spaces where employees can easily brainstorm and collaborate on different documents simultaneously across enterprise systems. This will eliminate wasted time and reduce version control issues created by employees hopping back and forth between documents, ultimately empowering them to focus on the strategic elements of their jobs that matter most.

Trend #2: Prioritizing automation across the enterprise

Continuing with the trend of reducing employee fatigue, I expect organizations in 2021 to look for ways they can decrease the amount of manual, mundane tasks on their employee's plates.

This year we've seen a number of companies, including Google and Slack, upgrading their platforms with new features to strengthen productivity. I expect this to continue, with companies putting a larger emphasis on automation to reduce employee mindshare on smaller, more repetitive tasks.

Artificial intelligence, for example, will continue to play a major role across enterprise workflows and processes, helping to predict, analyze, aggregate, and integrate data. Robotic process automation (RPA) will be increasingly used to automate back-office legacy systems and enhance organizational data flow. Automation will increase enterprise resiliency and agility by improving employee performance, especially at a time when it's easy for your workforce to feel overwhelmed.

Trend #3: Reducing the knowledge gap with citizen developers

As corporate IT budgets drop and IT teams remain strapped, I expect organizations in 2021 to look for ways to reduce the burden on these departments. First and foremost, business leaders cannot expect employees to do what they are not trained to do. For instance, leaders cannot expect their employees to thwart a cyberattack if they are unaware of what malicious behavior looks like. Instead, to ensure they act as a human firewall to the organization, leaders must empower them with knowledge about the current cyber landscape.

This idea can also be applied to the larger tech landscape. Not all employees are as tech-savvy as an IT administrator or developer. In fact, an organization would be hard-pressed to find such talent. As a result, employees have become largely reliant on IT departments to create and implement new applications to keep them connected while remote. With IT resources limited, I expect 2021 to be the year when employees themselves are empowered with the necessary knowledge to effectively collaborate.

To start, I expect organizations to reduce the knowledge gap between low and no-code technology and, as a result, begin adopting no-code options at a faster pace. Currently, many individuals believe that these two terms can be used interchangeably. This, however, is incorrect, given that no-code technology is far less IT involved than low-code.

I also expect more organizations to empower their employees to create their own applications, ultimately lightening up IT resources and spending.

A Final Word

No one could have expected what 2020 has brought. With so much still uncertain about the New Year, it's difficult to predict what we may see across the enterprise. One thing is certain -- businesses will look to create new efficiencies and democratize technical knowledge across their organizations.

About the Author

Borya Shakhnovich is the CEO at airSlate. Shakhnovich created the vision for airSlate’s easy-to-use, end-to-end document workflow automation solution. He has 20 years of experience developing and applying algorithms and models to drive business results and academic insights. The author can be contacted on LinkedIn.

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