Heinz Stephan

By Heinz Stephan, Velocity Director Westcon-Comstor Sub Saharan Africa Services and Renewals

Change is a constant especially when it comes to the ICT sector. And yet, things have accelerated rapidly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year with digital transformation becoming a priority on every corporate agenda.

But even in these extremely challenging times, local channel operators can draw inspiration from the technology developments in the pipeline.

Cloud everywhere

As we look towards 2022, the cloud will become even more entrenched. Most of the computing workloads of organisations regardless of industry sector will be run in the cloud. And on top of that, additional consumption-based services will start becoming commonplace.

The cloud will become less of something to consider and more of a business fundamental. With a hybrid workforce at play, no business can afford not to have a degree of cloud operations whether that is through a private, public, or hybrid model. Furthermore, multi-cloud setups will be part of standard operating procedure as decision-makers realise the importance of leveraging the respective strengths of different cloud service providers.

Data boost

As part of this shift to the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) will know no bounds. Wireless technology has become so affordable and pervasive that it has contributed to more smart homes and cities. Sensors will soon be installed on virtually everything to drive a more connected society that uses technology to automate much of the menial activities, so the focus can turn towards human resources for more strategic value.

Having said that, privacy and security concerns will escalate as consumers and businesses look towards protecting their data more. The regulatory environment has certainly contributed to this. No business wants to risk the significant financial penalties and reputational damage that will come from non-compliance.

Logically, this will give renewed impetus to big data, analytics, and machine learning. More businesses will become data-driven to identify opportunities to provide customers with more personalised services. It could be something as straightforward as providing personalised search results in online stores or as complex as delivering in-store specials based on previous buying behaviour.

The possibilities on an application-level are limitless. This will provide business with the means to differentiate themselves while profoundly reinventing the customer experience. For channel operators, it becomes critical to have access to the technologies that can facilitate this as securely as possible.

Joining virtual hands

One of the most important lessons of 2021 was that hybrid working has become a relatively easy undertaking. Thanks to the scalability of the solutions available to business and technology leaders, the foundation for this environment has been set.

And as we head into the new year, this digital collaboration will progress to the next level. While it might not become mainstream in 2022, the coming months will see virtual reality increasingly being used in the corporate environment.

Decision-makers are always looking to harness the potential of new and agile ways of collaborating. If anything, virtual reality could also provide the basis on which to develop mixed and augmented reality tools. Solutions like the Microsoft HoloLens 2 will see more industrial use cases that will spill over to other segments of the market.

Skills development

As part of this, continued reskilling and upskilling of employees will be front and centre. The past two years have shown just how critical it is to provide people with opportunities to improve themselves and gain a better understanding of using the technology and tools available to them.

This will result in online training and education becoming even more pervasive. While specialised courses will likely remain instructor-led in virtual environments, general skills training can take place through Massively Online Open Courses. This also has the potential to transform high education in South Africa and cause positive disruption to how training is consumed.

Even though there are sill many uncertainties around the pandemic and subsequent waves of infection, it has become normalised to an extent. And with this comes the opportunity for organisations to plan better for the months and years ahead than they were able to this time last year. If they consider these technology trends, they will be in a much stronger position to hit the ground running come January.

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