Five Predictions for 2021: Data Protection Should Support Digital Pursuits

December 9, 2020
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This year, the pandemic pushed workforces to do their jobs from home and consumers to buy even more goods and services online than they previously had—increasing a reliance on cloud technologies and furthering the sharing of data. Even if vaccines take hold this coming year, and life regains some normalcy, organizations will only continue to rely on cloud, pursue AI-driven initiatives, and seek value from data.  

All of this only stresses the need to secure data. When organizations can effectively protect the sensitive data of their customers and employees, the sky’s the limit for cloud-centered digital transformation. Prediction 1: Expect data security to underline key business initiatives this year and beyond. Here are the rest of my predictions for 2021:  

Data Sharing Will Reach New Levels of Sophistication

Data is powerful, but to truly unleash its full value, companies need access to data sets that are outside of their own network. In 2021, we’ll see more data sharing and data collaboration across industries and in non-traditional environments.

Cross-industry players will emerge and start sharing more information in ways we can only imagine. Think: healthcare organizations safely sharing data with online retailers. Although non-traditional, to say the least, this approach lends itself as a viable option for organizations that have different and unrelated business objectives. Companies who take on this strategy will see this as a new opportunity to innovate within their own industry with the potential to open up to new market opportunities. However, organizations will also need to implement strong methods of anonymization and data protection to achieve these milestones without compromising their customers’ sensitive data.

Secure AI Will Usher in New Privacy Regulations

In the coming year, we can expect to see more data privacy standards and regulations emerge, by industry and by geography. We’re already beginning to see more interest from governments into how enterprises are operating within their borders so they can better preserve the privacy of their constituents. At the industry level, insurance, healthcare, and financial services will continue to see highly regulated mandates.

Because of the pandemic, we’ve witnessed the world move to a new reality of digital purchasing and procurement. Although it won’t be at the size, scale, or completeness of an industry such as financial services, I foresee businesses in online retail and online service procurement quickly stepping into a much more regulated space than they have experienced historically.

Cloud Providers Will Loosen the Reins on Multi-Cloud Interoperability

As the saying goes, history repeats itself. Today, we’re seeing the start of a modern-day version of what occurred in technology in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If you remember the explosion of software during the internet era, then you might remember software companies battling with questions about how to make their software available. For example, should this software provide support for only one particular operating system, or should it be more widely available?

Now, we’re seeing similar questions when it comes to SaaS providers, such as Snowflake, across the major cloud providers. In the coming year, we can expect more competition between cloud providers, offering interoperability services to command an exceptional user experience. This multi-cloud interoperability will mark the providers’ commitment to innovation—and their desire to out-innovate other cloud providers to create value for the SaaS ecosystem.

Expect More Technology IPOs and M&A  

While markets such as the hospitality and travel hit economic lows during the pandemic, other industries, including the technology sector, have maintained steady momentum. I predict this trend will continue over the course of 2021, with more innovation, more IPOs, and more consolidation in the next year. VCs will continue to invest in successful technology sectors, leading to new, innovative startups and pushing established players to keep their lead by acquiring some of the newer players.

Data Security Will be Critical on the Enterprise Path To AI

For many companies, the COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked digital transformation, AI, and machine-learning timelines, well beyond the level of innovation that would have happened under normal circumstances. For the coming year, companies will continue on their path to AI, likely encountering the age-old balance between the freedom to innovate and the control required by the business. As a result, having an enterprise-wide data-security strategy will become even more critical. And with the rise of hybrid cloud and multi cloud, companies will need to adopt a comprehensive data-security strategy that accounts for data wherever it resides—whether at rest, in motion, or in use.

The fun about prognostications in blog posts is that even if they’re off the mark, there’s no harm. But failing to protect data can cause irreparable harm to organizations. Their customers, employees, and partners expect them to make data security a top priority. Hopefully, security is at the top of your list in 2021 as you further pursue digital innovation.