This year has been one of shocks and rapid change, reshaping the way we work and with technology at the forefront of this new normal. For example, the fintech and financial services industries in Hong Kong are now forming new innovation teams to securely enable remote operations, maintain business continuity, and ensure the resilience of their systems in the event of another unforeseen disruption. With Hong Kong experiencing a number of such disruptions in the last year, hiring and retaining IT specialists is also becoming more difficult and costly as specialists eye opportunities in other geographies. Organisations that adjusted quickly were able to weather the storm and come out on top; whereas others have struggled to keep pace with the digital acceleration required to survive. This digital acceleration will continue to shape the tech and business landscape into 2021. To help organisations prepare, here are the top trends that I expect to shape the next 12 months. Strategy implementation will require agility as enterprises and governments cope with scattered return to growth As countries around the region and the world begin to look beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, we will start to see a slow and staggered return to physical workspaces. But this process will be uneven. Moreover, countries and economies are interconnected – even if one country’s recovery is going well, until the major international players return to an even keel, global uncertainty will continue. Cloud computing adoption accelerates in China as economy recovers This will create a scattered return to growth. To deal with this, organisations will need the agility to shift their strategies and spending on a quarter-by-quarter basis to ensure they can react to the macro situation. The appetite for traditional, large capitalised IT spend will be replaced with just-in-time agility. A traditional approach to technology does not allow this agility. Instead, enterprises and governments will look to subscription models over longer-term contracts or lock-ins, to ensure they have the ability to shift and innovate in the face of uncertainty. A pay-as-you-grow model which encourages “fail fast” strategies will balance the imperatives to innovate with the need to reduce exposure. Validation for the CIO as digitisation becomes a top priority across the C-suite Regardless of how far they lagged behind before Covid-19, countries and businesses alike will be pushed to a new level of digitisation in the coming 12 months. Every organisation will have to rethink their model – our environment and peoples’ expectations have changed. To cope, even the most brittle organisations will need to embrace agility. This is being seen already – Japan, for example, has gone so far as to mandate increased digitisation across key government departments. Previously, digitisation was the priority of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) but not given the same level of attention by the CEO or the rest of the C-Suite. This changed rapidly with the onset of the pandemic when finally, the enabling power of digital transformation was recognised across the business. It will remain a top priority throughout 2021, when having the right level of digital ability will continue to be vital for business agility and survival. Alibaba unveils new AI chip aimed at speeding up e-commerce As a result, the CIO will become more prominent in decision-making and leadership, with their tech investments having been validated in a big way. The shift of IT from a cost centre to a key business driver will accelerate. Every business is now a technology business, even if they don’t realise it yet. Climate change will be back on the agenda and tech will play a role in finding solutions If it had not been for Covid-19, climate change would have been the biggest global story of 2020 – expect to see it return in 2021. Politics aside, it is clear that the effects of climate change are real and we need to find a way forward. This is particularly true of industries like resources, transport, and agriculture. As companies continue to embed and accelerate their digital transformation, they need to do this with a view on climate change and its effects. Distributed businesses, for example, will need to increase their resilience. Major weather events will impact supply chains and factories in vulnerable areas. In the face of these concerns, technology can enable better practices. Innovative solutions like edge computing will play a key role in this space – for example, implementing and tracking efficient and sustainable practices on the ground, tweaking and optimising on-the-go to increase yield, decrease emissions, better manage production lines, and so on. Tencent Cloud teams with blockchain firm to get people travelling again Recent political change in the US should also bring America back to the table as a partner and driving force for dealing with climate change, with global reverberations. As cloud awareness and usage matures, CIOs will insist on a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy Many companies in Asia-Pacific that wanted to run head first into the cloud are catching up with their US counterparts, who realised several years ago that many mission critical or legacy applications vital to the running of a business are not right for the cloud. Companies want cloud-like capabilities but need to keep optionality and flexibility. No one wants to be locked into anything. As such, CIOs will begin insisting on hybrid and multi-cloud strategies, or at the very least insist on portability assurances as they become increasingly cloud smart. Globally, we have seen many organisations begin to modernise their applications and shift to a “cloud first” strategy, only to hit a wall when they find that key applications cannot be efficiently migrated to a cloud-friendly model. Instead, a hybrid and multi-cloud strategy will be necessary to balance desire for cloud agility and economics with the reality of sustaining operations. This will also enable the quarter-on-quarter agility businesses will need for the foreseeable future – especially if the world suddenly looks completely different. If there is one thing organisations should take from 2020 and apply to their 2021 strategies, it is this: Disruptive change is inevitable. Flexibility and adaptability need to be core to business thinking. With everything from talent to business models in flux, it is critical that organisations choose technology solutions, partners, and design patterns which enable rather than hinder agility. Towards that end, the trend toward monthly or quarterly subscription services and consumption based products will continue to accelerate. It is time for enterprises to think deeper on where to spend strategically for quick, iterative, high-impact wins, while conserving cash flow. It is not just about technology but also about driving innovation while managing risk.