One sector that has weathered the Covid-19 storm remarkably well is technology, which is hardly surprising given the wholesale move to remote working that relied so heavily on digital solutions. But the pandemic has also prompted many businesses to invest in new IT projects and digital transformation as they plan for growth in 2021, according to new research from London-based digital agency Studio Graphene.
The survey of U.K. business leaders found that 70% of companies expect their IT spend to grow this year, with 69% planning to launch new digital projects, tools, or initiatives, and 65% intending to invest in a new field of technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and cybersecurity.
Cloud technologies are also on the radar, where 64% of businesses are planning to invest this year. Similar numbers are looking to enhance their customers’ digital experience (68%), while 67% intend to purchase new collaboration tools for staff.
Almost half (49%) of those surveyed said that Covid-19 had exposed weaknesses within their IT infrastructure, with a similar number (48%) having eliminated software that since the onset of the pandemic was no longer fit for purpose.
Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, says: “2021 is set to be a huge year for digital transformation within businesses and it is heartening to see firms responding positively to the challenges of the past 12 months by making bold commitments to invest in and embrace new technologies as part of their long-term vision for survival and growth.” Tech firms themselves are taking their investment plans to a new level, including simplebuilding, which applies machine learning and automation to the manual processes involved in managing large blocks of apartments.
The company was founded by Sam Taylor, who is also a partner at CMU Insights, a research and insights agency specializing in music copyright and the streaming ecosystem, and who works as a consultant delivering marketing and growth advice to startups. He says, “Although Covid-19 hit our revenues and impacted on some aspects of our business plan it also forced me to adapt quickly, while the drop in work gave us some space to focus on business improvement.”
Investment in technology has been key. Over the past year, Taylor has invested in automation, machine learning, and ‘no-code’ development to simplify and automate more and more parts of his businesses that were previously manual.
He describes the ‘no-code’ or ‘low-code’ development as the real game-changer that has enabled him to build the prototype of simplebuilding.io without hiring a developer or writing more than a few lines of code.
“Even a couple of years ago I would not have been able to build something of this complexity without investing tens of thousands of pounds in software engineers,” he says. Following several small-scale implementations in 2020, he now expects to triple investment in this area across 2021, and has already attracted new consultancy clients as a result.
“I’m using IT to automate and streamline as many things as possible. In an age where there is a vast array of APIs for services it’s now relatively simple to get data from A to B and create sophisticated internal projects, or entirely new businesses, by tying different APIs together.”
Another tech company that will be increasing its tech spend in 2021 is Soffos, an AI-powered, SaaS learning platform for corporations. Founded in January 2018, its corporate knowledgebot provides a solution for professional training and development.
CEO Nikolas Kairinos believes it is vital for employees and employers alike to take advantage of the huge potential offered by sophisticated edtech solutions.
“As such we are continuing to invest heavily in developing novel applications of AI,” he says. “In particular, we are focusing on subsets like natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to help deliver effective and hyper-personalized workplace training as the global remote working experiment continues.”
This year Soffos will be focusing on an emerging concept that is gaining popularity among educational technologists; the ability to quantify intellectual capital, through a new initiative Wisdom Quotient. This will enable organizations to measure their intellectual capital in a similar way to how an individual’s IQ is measured, but with greater reliance on big data and AI to drive the results.
“Complex algorithms will determine the WQ as a performance barometer, which ranges between 50 (poor) and 150 (stellar),” explains Kairinos. “The measure effectively balances the overall amount of knowledge held, accessibility, collective workforce skills, and how this knowledge is transferred between individuals and departments, all of which determine the strength of a company’s WQ. This will enable businesses to assess their progress when it comes to strengthening their internal training and development efforts.” However, while the pandemic has inspired, and in many cases forced, businesses to reorient, adapt, and now make digital transformation a priority, the key to success lies in investment in the right technologies. efforts at the heart of their operations.
Ritam Gandhi says, “From collaborative software for staff to customer-facing platforms, off-the-shelf products to bespoke tools, any digital project needs to be carefully planned and thoroughly researched if companies are to make savvy tech decisions in 2021.”