2021 is set to be the year of data. According to Forrester, analytics budgets continue to increase and 60% of organisations have appointed a Chief Data Officer. Because companies continue to invest in transforming their data into a strategic asset, they acquire the resources needed to extract its value as actionable insights.

With visibility over employee, organisational and technology performance, you’re able to quickly identify any problem areas and have the ability to act fast to resolve them. Couple this insight with transparency over your infrastructure costs, and demonstrating the ROI of any investment is simple.

Data insights really can give you a competitive edge, which research published by Entrepreneur calculated as an 8% increase in profit and 10% reduction in overall cost. Fail to invest and the future looks bleak – 79% of executives agree, “Companies that do not embrace Big Data will lose their competitive position and could face extinction.”

Given the importance of data in our futures, how does that translate into an SME’s technology roadmap?

Focus on delivering remote-first, cloud-first strategy with security by design

The pandemic forced organisations to literally enact new ways of working overnight. At that time, we had no idea how long the restrictions would last, or even that there was a concept of a ‘new normal’. For many the focus was simply on making do with current arrangements, or desperately trying to get their hands on basic necessities, like laptops, until we were allowed to return to the office.

But as the months have gone on, it’s become apparent this is a longer-term, permanent change that now needs to be formalised as a new world of work. This starts with providing access to the tools people need to do their jobs securely:

Fast-track digital initiatives

According to research from IDC, the pandemic saw 2-years of IT digital transformation delivered in just 2-months. For SMEs in particular, the investment priorities are clear, 40% expect to spend more on network infrastructure equipment – a 9% increase on pre-COVID levels – to help underpin their investment in analytics and other tools that increase visibility into applications, users and devices on the network.

While data published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) delves a little deeper. Previously we discussed how organisations were initially responding to the lockdown restrictions before entering a period of recovery, now looking to reimagine their strategies for the future. Check business digitally transform 2021. BCG goes further by mapping specific technology investment priorities onto these three stages:

  • Respond: enable employee home working, strengthen remote security and reduce capital expenditure
  • Recover: secure supply chain continuity, boost data protection and increase visibility into workforce productivity.
  • Reimagine: improve customer-facing apps, use utility-based consumption, embark on cloud migration and look at IT outsourcing.

Prioritise security to protect data

Various reports show that the cybercriminals have been quick to exploit the crisis. But while the majority of business have taken steps to increase staff training (73%) and strengthen cyber security procedures to manage remote access (79%), it’s not enough.

The cybersecurity landscape changes rapidly. Back in March when lockdown commenced, 46% of businesses noted an increase in phishing attacks. And yet a few weeks later cybercriminals had moved on, with security professionals claiming attacks has become more sophisticated as hackers targeted legitimate tools to inflict damage.

In a remote world of work, digital boundaries are stretched to their limits with every endpoint a potential entry point. With nearly three quarters of homeworkers (72%) needing to access, share and receive sensitive customer information to do their job, securing your remote workforce must be the priority.

Gartner agrees. It’s top 3 security priorities for 2021 are:

  1. Securing your remote workforce: understand how users and groups access data and applications.
  2. Risk-based vulnerability management: provide a better view of real organisational risk.
  3. Extended detection and response: collect and correlate data from multiple components to simplify and streamline security.

Create a smart modern workplace

The pandemic will change the way we work forever. And while technology enables us to work remotely, stay connected and collaborate safely, it has the potential to care for employee safety and wellbeing too. Therefore, in the modern workplace, we’ll start to see IoT become more prevalent across a range of use cases.

Create a ‘smart’ office by using IoT devices for lighting, power, energy, environmental monitoring, and sensor-enabled space. Forrester expects 80% of organisations to adopt these technologies within their strategies for the modern workplace. As well as improving resource efficiency, which is naturally going to reduce costs and support your environmental initiatives, it can also enhance the employee experience to make them feel safer at work. When you can identify the high traffic areas, it becomes much simpler to know how to adapt the layout to accommodate social distancing or prioritise cleaning.

Furthermore, through connected machines you can reduce the number of visitors to the office. While regular maintenance is important for securing ‘business-as-usual’, there’s no need for an engineer to perform routine visits to check-in. With connected machines, they’re able to monitor your equipment remotely. And should anything go wrong, they’ll be automatically notified of the fault. Intelligent monitoring by exception also automates much of what is otherwise mundane, but heavy lifting. It frees you up to spend more time on other initiatives which support the business in achieving its strategic objectives.

The value of a partner

Many SMEs realise the value of a technology partner when they embark on their digital transformation. With established vendor relationships, your partner can quickly get their hand on the essential equipment your people need to get on. As well as new technologies you perhaps fancy playing with, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are essential for revealing deeper, richer insights from your data.

But more than that, your partner has the in-depth skills, knowledge and experience to give you confidence that you’re making smart investments, getting the most out of each technology and continually optimising for the best results.

In addition, all Atech clients gain access to our Customer Service Portal, which enables you to:

  • Take full advantage of Microsoft 365 features and other cloud-based applications that give you the data to know how to improve efficiency and productivity.
  • Ensure your team is up-to-date on their training and professional development.
  • Integrate policy monitoring to flag usage, application, compliance or user issues that you want addressed.
  • Acquire greater insights into where your data is stored, how it’s protected, who has access to it and the levels of security protecting it.

Discover all the services Atech offers to help you enhance your IT infrastructure and take advantage of the data-driven world.