A CEO’s Outlook for 2021: 4 Key Predictions for Business Leaders

A person working at a laptop holding a lit lightbulb that serves as the zero in 2021. Before we start discussing what to expect from 2021, I’d like to commend you for making it through 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have spent the better part of the past year grappling with economic uncertainty and high levels of anxiety about the health and safety of ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.

Although we aren’t out of the woods yet in terms of the pandemic, there is cause for optimism as we consider what the coming year has in store for us. Based on my perspective and experience as the CEO of Stratosphere Networks as well as projections from reliable research and advisory firms, I’d like to share my predictions and recommendations for business leaders considering their strategic approach to 2021.

1. Vaccines could make returning to the office safe by the second half of the year.

Pfizer and Moderna have both reported late-stage trial results showing their inoculations are more than 94 percent effective and overall safe, according to The Wall Street Journal. Barring any unwelcome surprises regarding side effects and issues with the approval process, these vaccines will allow us to start to return to “normal” life in the relatively near future.

I’m part of a peer advisory group made up of business owners, and one of the members is a doctor with his own practice. During a recent meeting, he was discussing COVID-19 and offering his analysis. Because many members of the Stratosphere Networks team have been working from home, I shared some concerns I had about bringing people back to the office: Will those who’ve been vaccinated be reluctant to return if some of their coworkers haven’t received the vaccine yet?

The doctor assured me that I shouldn’t worry: These vaccines are effective enough that people who’ve been immunized will not be at serious risk of catching COVID-19, so they shouldn’t be anxious if some of their colleagues haven’t been vaccinated.

Of course, many businesses will likely maintain a hybrid approach – with some employees working from home and others on-site – for some time, as people who aren’t essential workers or considered high-risk probably won’t get access to vaccines until May or June, according to The New York Times.  However, it’s not overly optimistic to think that we might see workers return to the office by the second or third quarter of 2021.

Forrester Research has predicted that remote work will reach 300 percent of its pre-pandemic levels in 2021, but given that we’re social creatures, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people eagerly embrace in-person work once it’s a safe possibility again. In the second half of the year, we can anticipate not only a potential return to in-person teamwork and collaboration but also a possible economic boom in retail, entertainment and travel as people emerge from quarantine and resume their lives. We expect to see the same in the world of technology: While estimated worldwide IT spending understandably declined in 2020, it’s expected to rebound and grow 4 percent in 2021, according to Gartner.

In the meantime, however, there’s no denying that it will be a tough first quarter as the pandemic continues.

2. Cloud solutions will see continued popularity as a way to empower remote workers and lay the groundwork for further digital transformation.

As difficult as the pandemic has been for all of us, it’s been a relief for the Stratosphere Networks team to know that most of our managed IT customers were prepared for remote work with solutions like the Microsoft Office 365 suite and cloud phone systems already in place.

For example, before the pandemic, we helped a Chicago-based client identify and implement an omnichannel Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solution that allowed them to deliver a better customer experience (CX) with real-time and historical data, in addition to making the transition to remote work easy. CX is quickly becoming the primary factor many businesses compete based on, and Forrester predicts that 25 percent of brands will make statistically significant improvements in this realm in 2021.

Overall, Forrester also projects that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow by 35 percent this year, and we anticipate continuing to move our clients to public cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure. As Microsoft continues to expand and update its offerings, we plan to deepen our focus on services and support for solutions like Dynamics, Teams, Power BI and more.

3. Businesses that invest in digital transformation will come out on top.

If you already have some cloud solutions in place to empower remote workers, we recommend exploring how we can help you go further this year in your digital transformation journey with our consulting services. Digital transformation – the process of adopting new technologies to enhance business processes and adapt to changing consumer expectations – has emerged as imperative for businesses that want to not only survive calamities like the pandemic but also stand out in our increasingly virtual world.

“While there have been unique stressors imposed on all industries as the ongoing pandemic unfolds, the enterprises that were already more digital going into the crisis are doing better and will continue to thrive going into 2021,” John-David Lovelock, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said in a press release last fall.

4. Focus on IT security if you want to succeed this year.

Many companies have already prioritized cybersecurity, and we advise those who haven’t already done so to act as soon as possible. Security incidents are an inevitable part of today’s business landscape. For clients that have invested in our full Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) offering, however, we see a significant qualitative reduction in the amount, severity, and overall impact of systems compromises. In fact, many of our MSSP clients have not even had a formal security incident since investing in our MSSP services. For clients that haven’t made the investment in cyber protection, we’ve seen outages lasting days, and impact well into weeks and months – including both revenue loss and the ever-intangible harm to the affected organization’s reputation

If you’d like to discuss cybersecurity, your overall IT strategy or any other issues related to tech support and solutions, the Stratosphere Networks team would be happy to assist you. Ultimately, although we still live in uncertain times, you can rest assured that we’re still fully committed to our mission of empowering our clients through exceptional service. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 877-599-3999 or email sales@stratospherenetworks.com.

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