What Does 2021 Hold for Corporate Digital Innovation?

digital tools for 2021

The novel coronavirus outbreak has changed the world as we know it. For businesses specifically, the pandemic has introduced an increased reliance on technology – but unlike the previous gradual progression of technology in the workplace, this has come at an unprecedented pace.

For years, companies have invested in equipment for virtual collaboration, hoping to diminish the impact of distance. Universities dipped their toes in online tools, but the emphasis remained primarily focussed on in-person learning. All this changed with COVID-19, as such solutions suddenly became necessary for anyone hoping to remain connected with the outside world under lockdown.

Physical processes had to be transformed into virtual ones, meaning that any obstacles to internal digital innovation suddenly dissolved. Change that would have otherwise taken years to take place happened in a matter of weeks.

Now that organisations have taken the initiative and begun adopting digital tools, I have noticed a few key developments that will only become more commonplace as we enter into 2021.

Coding made easy

The low-code movement has been slowly gaining momentum over the last decade, as website designers and app developers have slowly simplified the usability of their development kits. Now, tools exist for business executives to design and build their own effective apps, websites and internal business-crucial software; all without in-depth knowledge of coding.

And with 397,135 new business incorporations being recorded between April and September in the UK this year, there’s certainly no shortage of founders seeking cost-effective ways of building key digital components of their business.

Additionally, as these tools become more ubiquitous, more budding entrepreneurs or designers will feel inspired to create their own products. Recent research by Studio Graphene actually uncovered that a third (35%) of British adults who wish to create their own technology product have been deterred by their perceived lack of technical knowledge. With low-code development software, this obstacle is removed; and the barrier to innovation is effectively lifted.

The proliferation of AI  

Conversely, artificial intelligence (AI) development has rapidly gained attention over the past decade, primarily for the sheer variance of its potential applications. Numerous AI developers are currently making it easier and easier to purchase and apply ‘off-the-shelf’ AI solutions, meaning that more firms will be able to implement these revolutionary digital solutions into their operations.

The ability to automate certain digital processes, bolster a company’s operating model though eliminating inefficiencies, or simply personalising a customer’s online experience are all possible through AI. It makes sense, then, that companies the world over are increasingly eager about utilising such technologies.

This increased adoption is evidenced by a recent Gartner survey, which recorded that 79% of organisations are now piloting or exploring AI projects. This trend will undoubtedly continue into 2021, and I’m keen to see how increased AI in our lives will better the consumer, staff, and customer experience for us all.

As COVID-19 forces us to continue working from home, relying on apps, and engage with businesses via websites; AI will be ideal for improving the effectiveness of the digital infrastructure involved. Whether through personalisation, increased processing times, or simply streamlining the customer journey, the potential for what AI can bring to everyday actions are potentially limitless.

A shift in mindset

When looking at how technology has been adopted by companies in 2020, perhaps the greatest development has been the way digital innovation is now approached by firms more generally.

Before COVID-19, internal red tape, financial and time constraints, risk-averse corporate cultures and a love of the status quo all meant that digital innovation was often stifled within businesses, especially large corporates. In fact, a study commissioned by Studio Graphene towards the tail end of 2019 found that a significant 87% of large UK businesses felt there was too much bureaucracy preventing them from putting ideas into action. Meanwhile, over a third (37%) admitted to having tried and failed to implement a new technology in the past year.

But 2020 has seen daring risks being taken by even the safest of businesses. As lockdowns and social distancing meant that customers and consumers were locked inside their homes, organisations now had to pursue innovative, creative ideas in order to reach said clients in the age of the ‘new normal’.

Suddenly, the economy became a ‘sink or swim’ shark tank – with technological adoption one of the only ways to stay afloat. Thankfully, a mass adoption of online offerings has meant that the majority of companies have still been able to serve their customers, reinventing their offerings as they do so.

A change in mindset so drastic is hard to un-do, meaning that this will inevitably lead to a greater emphasis on digital innovation entering into 2021. The need to embrace new solutions and continuously adapt has now been made obvious by COVID-19; and I look forward to seeing what firms will accomplish as a result in the coming months.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Ritam Gandhi, the Founder and Director of Studio Graphene – a London-based company that specialises in the development of blank canvas tech products including apps, websites, AR, IoT and more. The company has completed over 100 projects since first being started in 2014, working with both new entrepreneurs and product development teams within larger companies.

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