Google Cloud’s UK MD, Pip White’s 2021 predictions

This year, companies of all sizes have turned to the cloud to meet the needs of newly distributed workforces and maintain operational efficiencies. Gartner predicts this trend will continue into 2021, with public cloud spending expected to grow by 18.4% next year.

Yet, while 2020 saw businesses innovate to keep pace, in 2021 businesses will work harder to differentiate themselves from the competition. To do so, Pip White, Managing Director UK & Ireland at Google Cloud predicts the following:

Cloud will no longer just be an IT infrastructure decision. It will be infused into a company’s culture and drive new operating models.
The unprecedented working environment created by COVID-19 led boards and executives to accelerate their digital transformations. Until now, cloud migration has been an infrastructure decision, promising to change the way business devices and information systems interact with each other. But cloud migration brings another type of transformation too – of a company’s culture – and it’s coming to the forefront of conversations.

As we enter 2021, cloud migration will be increasingly driven by the need to establish a culture of continuous innovation to keep pace with rapid change. Untethering staff from low value, labour-intensive tasks and allowing them to focus on innovation and high-impact projects. Companies will move away from what might have been top-down corporate strategies, to fully infusing transformation and letting every person in an organisation transform. Businesses will also need to embrace an “anywhere operations model”, as coined by Gartner, that allows for business products and services to be accessed, delivered, and enabled anywhere. New ways of working will emerge, as will new ways to create, collaborate and innovate.

2021 will be a move towards a more “open” cloud.
Unsurprisingly, 2021 will see a new and ever-evolving workplace, and businesses will need to remain agile, responsive, and able to adapt to survive. More businesses will opt for an “open” cloud approach to avoid vendor lock-in and foster innovation across environments in the cloud and on-premises faster.  There will be a greater desire by companies to not bring the problems of the on-prem world into the cloud and by not being “open,” businesses will not want to repeat past mistakes.

As businesses continue to stabilise themselves post-pandemic, a renewed focus will be placed on projects that enhance employee and customer experiences, reduce costs, increase operational efficiencies and boost revenue. To enable an “open” cloud, build new environments and modernise old ones, the open-source community will dial-up investment in container and serverless functions, creating a spike in global demand.

Cloud will reach more industries and uncover some less-obvious use cases.
The shift to remote work and business operations has propelled businesses’ digital transformation strategies forward beyond just our usual industries. COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for businesses in every sector to reassess and re-imagine their needs, opening up new, perhaps less obvious cases. For instance, industries like insurance, which are still dominated by legacy systems and old technology systems, are increasingly recognising the cloud’s potential, turning to AI to build real-time risk models. Brit Insurance, a Google Cloud customer, recently collaborated on Ki, a fully digital and algorithmically-driven syndicate, to drive greater efficiency, responsiveness and competitiveness. Elsewhere, in retail, the adoption of cloud-based contact centres that use chatbots and rapid response virtual agents will increase, delivering more immediate, personalised customer support in response to complex customer service issues.

Sustainability will remain top of the agenda next year.
Just four or five years ago, corporate sustainability was a nice-to-have. But thanks to the ‘Attenborough effect’ and the growing awareness of the negative impact of global warming, the 2020s have been named ‘the climate decade’ by the GLOBE Forum. As a result, sustainability has become one of the top priorities for businesses and pressure is increasing from customers, business partners and shareholders who demand positive action.

In 2021 we’ll see more companies make carbon neutral pledges, and those that already have will put their words into action. For instance, Google Cloud recently committed to running its business on carbon-free energy everywhere by 2030. New strategic partnerships will take shape as cloud providers increasingly work with end-user companies to do more for the planet. Google Cloud recently collaborated with Stella McCartney and the WWF to enable the pair’s use of data analytics and machine learning, giving fashion brands a more comprehensive view into the impact of their supply chains. Companies will increasingly leverage similar capabilities to improve the eco-friendliness of operations.

AI and ML will become central to every business strategy.
To emerge successfully from COVID-19, the organisations that will succeed are those who not only put an emphasis on a great user experience, but also predict changing user habits and course-correct, fast. Technologies like AI and ML will be crucial to extracting meaningful insights from data sets. For example, the banking industry has dialled up AI investment to enhance personalisation, deliver financial well-being insights and better manage risk. Even industries who are not already using AI or ML will start to experiment with technology to create tailored experiences, from anywhere.

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