2020 has been full of changes. Global health challenges, economic turmoil, political unrest in parts of the world and the modernization of global supply chains are just some of the changes we have had to adapt to this year.

Looking ahead to 2021, there are a number of predictions and trends that should inform your digital transformation initiatives. Eric Kimberling, a recognized independent expert on ERP systems, offers a look at 10 key trends that you should be aware of in 2021 and beyond if you are embarking on an ERP implementation, CRM or HCM software initiative, supply chain transformation or any other digital transformation or business transformation.

  1. Change management will be more important than ever

While we are talking, employees feel tired of the changes. This year has been full of tectonic changes, so while it might be tempting to assume that your employees are used to change—and therefore willing and able to change—it’s important to recognize that change management is more important now than ever. Today’s transformations are more likely to result in more significant operational and organizational changes, highlighting their critical importance.

  1. Digital transformation strategy will become a differentiator

Given the unprecedented scale of change and the multitude of technologies available, organizations will need to define their own digital transformation strategies that best fit their overall strategy and goals. A good digital strategy should clearly define the people, process and technology aspects of change. Instead of a shortsighted focus on selecting and implementing a single enterprise technology (such as one of the best ERP or CRM systems), better digital strategies provide a clear roadmap for broader transformation.

  1. Risk mitigation will become a hot commodity

Speaking of governance — and as a result of this growing focus on controlling their transformations — organizations will gain greater visibility into the risks associated with adopting technology. Instead of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop, forcing your tech executives to assess their own risks, more forward-thinking organizations are finding new ways to identify and mitigate them. This is another area where an independent third party can help.

  1. Organizations will become more determined and take greater responsibility for their transformations

To navigate a changing world, organizations need strong leadership and control over their transformation initiatives. Unlike in the past, organizations are much less likely to simply outsource digital transformation to third parties without accountability, guidance, and oversight. Companies that implement independent transformation quality assurance programs will outperform companies that use outdated and inefficient management models.

  1. System Integrator Problems Will Continue

At the time of this writing, several major systems integrators and consulting firms are experiencing mass layoffs as their model of bloated implementations, armies of in-house consultants, and pushing technology for technology’s sake is outdated. As large firms figure out their roles in the new landscape, their clients need to reduce the risk of project team loss and knowledge leakage. Be sure to hedge your risks by building in-house expertise and considering alternatives to traditional system integrators.

  1. Program management will become an in-demand skill

The scale of the changes that began in 2020 has forced organizations around the world to undertake more transformation initiatives that would improve program management. Simply managing the implementation of technologies within the project, as before, will not be enough. The most effective organizations will be those that can manage all change well, whether those initiatives involve large-scale organizational changes, operating model improvements, and/or new technologies.

  1. Flexibility will be key

2020 has taught us that the future cannot be accurately predicted. Supply chains were in need of an overhaul, all staff moved to a remote model, many employees were placed on leave or laid off — all in a very short period of time. The rigid and inflexible systems of the past will become unusable in 2021 and beyond, so be sure to implement digital transformation solutions and organizational competencies that provide the flexibility to change your business model as it evolves.

  1. Cyber security will become more important

Scattered workforce and cloud systems increase the risk of potential cybersecurity breaches, making it more important than ever. Not only would potential external hackers have more points to target, but the risk of breaching internal security would also increase. Organizations need to strengthen the security of their systems and data in order to effectively manage remote workers and teams in the future.

  1. Accelerate Cloud Adoption

Accelerating the adoption of cloud technologies ERP-systems and many other enterprise technologies quickly moved from on-premise to the cloud, but this trend will intensify even more in the coming years. With increasing numbers of remote workers, globally dispersed supply chains, and spreading data across multiple systems, cloud-based ERP systems are becoming a necessity.

  1. Remote workforce will become the norm

What was seen as a potential temporary solution for the post-coronavirus world seems to be turning into a long-term trend. The telecommuting trend is not only helping to protect the health of employees, but is also supported by increased efficiency and productivity thanks to remote technologies. While the pendulum will eventually return to a balance between higher efficiency and the value of face-to-face collaboration, it will likely change the way we look at work forever in the future.

Trend Lessons

If only two words can be used to describe the state of transformation in 2021, it is change and flexibility. Achieving these two goals will require relentless focus and unwavering control over your transformational initiatives.