Technology Demand in 2020 - A 360 degree year: From progression to survival and back again
Similar to many industries, technology demand in Unified Communications took a huge shift in 2020. Previous to the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses were pushing the boundaries of new technologies, trialling new ways of operating with what appeared to be a firm view of the future. We now know this wasn’t the case.
In March 2020, the world stood still as the Coronavirus pandemic took over. Businesses laid a firm hand on the panic button and halted all-but essential spending, slowing the wheel of technology innovation down for the first time in many years.
There are still some key trends in technology demand that we should expect to continue as a result of the pandemic, and some trends that will return as we strive to get back on the pre-pandemic innovation track.
The shift from progressive tech to simple survival
In the early parts of 2020, technology demand was booming. Additional funds were being poured into new technologies, automating the business world and developing new and more functional ways of operating. However, the Coronavirus pandemic dampened this boom altogether, and almost overnight businesses turned to total survival mode. Any additional spending was cut, all but essential services were stopped, and businesses looked to only pile their resources into areas that were totally operationally necessary - a category UC&C doesn’t typically fall into. The affluent year of 2019 turned into a technological dogfight in 2020 - a survival of the fittest.
Technologies that suffered due to the pandemic
A number of technologies in the realm of Unified Communications & Collaboration have suffered major setbacks due to the pandemic. The course of 2019 was showing progression in automation, AI and AV technologies. However, our latest market research showed the pandemic caused a total rethink of focuses and investment areas. Communication software hit a spike (39% plan to invest in this over the next six months - the joint highest areas in the report), benefiting from workforces migrating to home-based working environments, as well as collaboration tools.
Over the next six months, there is expected to be a continuation of what we have seen in 2020, but for different reasons. It’s fair to say that collaboration tools will continue to see huge demand for their services. However, it appears now that businesses have found the balance point in terms of survival, and are now slowly loosening the purse strings on more forward-looking tech. They are looking at progressive technologies that are easier to use, easier to implement, and get the job done in a more straightforward way. This is exemplified by the rising budgets for UC&C over the next 12 months, showing that businesses have invested in their survival, and are now looking to increase their investments in non-essentials and better versions of existing software and hardware in order to streamline their working processes.
Businesses have largely weathered the storm of COVID-19, and whilst many are still feeling the effects, they are not finding themselves in perilous situations, and can begin to look to reinvest and look to the future.
It is not surprising that security has continued to take a backseat in terms of investment. As demonstrated by a decline in the report, much of the security protocols are now integrated into new hardware and software, with many new products already having built-in cybersecurity features. As we enter a prolonged period of hybrid working, split between an office and home, we may see some pickup in security spending, but it isn’t expected to be a long-term trend.
Employees are utilising more of their own devices, so businesses are having to invest in security to ensure home devices are safe to connect, but it should still be considered a declining or plateauing trend investing in security.
The next six months - where will the boom hit?
The investment areas predicted for the next six months are largely similar to the report we produced in early 2020. However, the key is not what areas businesses are investing in, but why? Businesses are investing in the same technology areas, but are investing in different ways in order to achieve their UC&C goals. Now that many of these tools are fully embedded in businesses, the focus is specifically on tools that are easiest to use and implement, returning to a focus of making the job easier.
The three big hotspots expected to be the main investment areas over the next six months are: cloud communications, collaboration systems, and hardware for hybrid work.
These are not unexpected. Previous to the pandemic, they were still the biggest investment areas in UC&C technology. However, a year ago, businesses were investing in these areas in order to expand, grow, and streamline their working procedures.
The investment in these areas is born out of a necessity to connect an almost entirely virtual workforce. The almost overnight shift from office based to home working led to a huge spike in the mid part of 2020 for collaborative and communication based systems, and a massive investment in hardware. The hardware investment was a total shift to giving employees the necessary tools to do the job well from a remote location. We would expect to see investment in better ways to work from home to continue in the long-term, as many businesses look to improve employee experiences and remain productive in a more permanent hybrid setting.
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