Balaji's blog

2020 review and 2021 predictions

We have collectively made another trip around the sun. But psychologically New Year is a good time to reset and start things. Given the especially tough year that 2020 was, we all need something that feels like a demarcation line to hopeful future. Taking a look back at the year that was

The enormous suffering and pain brought about by the Pandemic is so horrible. It is a stark reminder for us that in spite of the advancements in medicine, technology and increased wealth, we are so vulnerable and probably more so than we were a century ago. This should give us all impetus to roll up our sleeves and get to work to address the real issues. Beginning this also needs for everyone to get out of their social media introduced bubbles and see the real world and work towards addressing these.

In Business and Technology,

  • Acceleration in Digital Transformation – All businesses and companies had to take their 5 year digital transformation plans and literally do that in a few months. This was truly amazing to watch.
  • Remote Work – The open office space mantras were forced out as everyone (who can) was forced to work from home. The lower and mid level managers struggled a lot here as lot of them did not know how to manage a remote employee. This is a crucial skill gap to address. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, wide spread remote work is here to stay as companies saw the relatively low fall in productivity compared to the large savings in cost.
  • Marching on of Tech Releases – There was very little slow down of new product releases. We continued to see new products being released throughout the year. Any disruptions caused earlier in manufacturing were recovered soon. This was surprising to watch.
  • Increase in surveillance technology – As in previous years, this continued to increase at a worrying rate. I am fully in support of contact tracing apps for the pandemic but do worry that the technology and patterns around that will spill over into more surveillance.
  • Accelerated growth of technology – A few industries (around hospitality and travel) were affected but overall it was a bumper year for technology companies with enormous growth, especially the the big cloud providers and online retailers. This is both good and bad. Growth of tech is good but  the associated consolidations we saw around few companies is not good. 

Now my predictions for 2021

  • AI and ML will be a big focus and area of growth in enterprises. The technology is at a point where real applications are feasible but more importantly, businesses are getting their employees (technical and non-technical) trained in these. We will see enormous growth in this.
  • Re-emergence of the travel / hospitality industry. As the vaccine becomes more available, we will begin to see the industry re-emerge. Any technology companies supporting this are going to re-emerge. This could be mid to later this year though.
  • Infosec challenges. The sophisticated infosec challenges such as the one we saw with Solarwinds supply chain attach show how a less monitored system such as build servers could be successfully exploited to great effects. Lots of focus will come here.
  • Cloud Adoption – The enormous growth of this in 2020 will continue for all enterprise systems including employee workstations. The big cloud providers will continue to grow.
  • Alternate tech capitals – The growth of tech hubs such as Austin has been astounding in 2020. The noise around places such as Miami is surprising though given the possible impacts of climate change, I am not betting long on Miami. To discount Bay Area would be a mistake as the huge concentration is talent and capital will still continue to lead. But the spread and challenge from other areas will continue and is a very good thing.

I am overall very optimistic regarding technology and progress this year. And miles to go and miles to go.