The current hybrid work environment has made us more reliant on digital technologies. But, while they allow us to connect and collaborate, they’re not always easy or frictionless to use. Given that these new ways of working are likely here to stay both short and long term, how will IT leaders ensure that they’re improving agility and making us more productive, rather than less?
Based on our survey of 100 enterprise CIOs and IT directors, as well as key industry sources, here’s where we think IT will need to focus their efforts in the next year.
The top 5 IT priorities for 2021 – and how they’ll impact the employee experience
1. Productivity will top the list of budget priorities
As adaptations to new ways of working become permanent, companies will seek to leverage them for positive gains, leading to an increased IT focus on productivity. The 2021 State of IT Report from Spicework Ziff Davis revealed that productivity software spending will grow from 10% of the budget to 12%, making it the largest expenditure for 2021. And, according to CIO Dive, “Tech priorities for the year ahead are focused on sustaining operations and advancing productivity.” The publication also states that 80% of businesses expect to maintain or increase their IT budgets next year, and that CIOs are searching for a clear return on investment in their software choices
2. Digitally empowering frontline workers will be more crucial than ever
2020 has given frontline workers a status upgrade, and empowering these newly dubbed essential workers will be a new priority for IT. In IDC’s Worldwide CIO Agenda predictions for 2021, the research consultancy anticipates that “By 2022, 65% of CIOs will digitally empower and enable front-line workers with data, AI, and security to extend their productivity, adaptability, and decision-making in the face of rapid changes.” This aligns with the results of our survey of 100 IT leaders, in which respondents admitted that their frontline workers often lack the same application and systems access as their desk worker colleagues.
3. IT will be more responsible for employee communication and engagement
In that same study, 93% of IT directors and CIOs we interviewed said that employee communications and employee engagement are greater priorities for them since the pandemic began. We predict that the hybrid workforce will cause this trend to continue in 2021—as some jobs become permanently remote, technology will be all that keeps these distributed employees linked to company culture. Maintaining safety and morale among essential workers is also likely to be a key engagement goal, while C-suite leaders will want to ensure the whole workforce is getting critical company news. Technology will be the factor that makes achieving these goals possible.
4. CFOs will drive a greater IT emphasis on analytics
In an effort to maintain IT budgets while staying cost efficient during a pandemic, CFOs will place a greater focus on workforce analytics. Research from Gartner supports this, as their recently published survey lists “advanced data analytics technologies” at the top of CFO priority lists. This priority should cross over to IT as well, as COVID-related belt tightening will mean an even greater need to prove the ROI of their technology investments. Advanced analytics and reporting will be key to showcasing value to financial leadership.
5. Digital noise will create demand for a seamless digital employee experience
Most employees are now using an average of 6-10 different tools just to communicate, and the number is growing along with the distributed workforce. The resulting friction will counteract the productivity gains expected from remote work. This will result in a mandate for IT to create a seamless digital experience that works for every employee role, whether those roles are onsite, in the field, remote or a combination of the three. Expect CIOs to invest in seamless solutions that enable employees to toggle between multiple tools, systems and information types within a single environment.
How SocialChorus will support the IT evolution of the coming year
The SocialChorus FirstUp platform is designed to support IT goals for productivity, utility and a seamless experience. Our technology orchestrates the digital employee experience by delivering personalized tools, resources and systems access to the endpoint or device that each employee prefers. This experience is made even more frictionless by FirstUp Assistant, a built-in chatbot that enables employees to read from and write to any integrated system—all from one interface. FirstUp also lets companies target critical information to specific employees or groups, and ensure that they receive it, which we see as vital capabilities during the pandemic.
We’ve spent 2020 developing many new ways of working. Now IT leaders will need to spend the next year ensuring that they keep working. Learn more about the challenges facing CIOs and IT leaders, and how they plan to address them, in our IT leader survey.