In December every year, some of my colleagues and I jot down our bold predictions for the year to come. I don’t think it will come as any surprise that when we reviewed the 2020 predictions last month, we were batting close to zero! What has become abundantly clear to me is that the global pandemic has accelerated everything in business, both good and bad. Even though after this past year my crystal ball is slightly cracked, I do like using the theme of acceleration to look at upcoming trends for 2021. I chose five areas I believe are worth noting:
1. Ongoing race to get to the lowest cost base. Post-pandemic companies are those with low or cheap debt and low overhead. With many months before normalcy even starts to return, successful companies will continue to cut costs and find or renegotiate beneficial debt positions with a view to capitalize on opportunities.
2. Quicker industry consolidation. If the number of offers in my e-mail inbox is any indication of a wider trend, firms with strong balance sheets are on the hunt for opportunities now more than ever. Acquisitions and consolidations will be fast-tracked in 2021.
3. Increasing pace of technological product innovation. Last year saw some seismic changes in healthcare like the massive shift to telemedicine. For the medical device industry, I think this is the year we start to see an accelerating trend to the development of remote and contactless diagnostics. Also, with new pandemic health and safety protocols increasing costs and slowing patient flow, health care providers will put even more of a premium on solutions that increase their productivity without sacrificing clinical efficacy. Integrating robotics and AI in both business processes and healthcare products and solutions will become even more important for companies.
4. A faster move to stricter privacy requirements. A good example of this in the wider world is Apple’s move to increase privacy in its internet browser and the iPhone late last year. As smart devices and products become more prevalent, the push to secure consumers’ privacy will take on greater importance.
5. The flood towards remote work will slow and then reverse. The pandemic fuelled shift to remote working slowed in the latter part of 2020, and as the vaccine rollout becomes more widespread, it will reverse, and more people will return to their workplaces. Companies will need to adapt to a hybrid-model of remote and in-person work that will become the new normal before the end of the year.
Most companies have already experienced some of all the above to one degree or another. What is undeniable is that the pace of change in the workplace and business world has accelerated and everyone must adapt more quickly to remain relevant. The current crisis has given all of us a rare opportunity to make difficult changes to our organizations. Smart decisions now can help us refocus, retool, and restructure our businesses to meet the challenges ahead.