Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Predictions 2021: Winning CIOs get future fit

In 2021, future fit technology is the CIO's ticket to success. Seize the day and drive a future filled with promise, not peril, in the face of unprecedented change.

If you looked back to last fall when we declared our 2020 CIO predictions, you would be impressed by our prescience — "Uncertainty in 2020 will create a leadership opportunity for CIOs." Granted, we focused on the immediate uncertainties, such as trade wars, Brexit, and elections, rather than the looming potential of systemic risks. A pandemic certainly wasn't top of mind, but we did foresee the collision of an unprecedented amount of weird stuff about to go down. And our goal at that time was to prepare tech leaders and their teams for the only true constant in our future: mounting and rapid change. 

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With all the uncertainty that the pandemic wrought, how is it that some companies have thrived? Here at Forrester, we think we have an answer. Like previous cathartic events over the past 20 years — the dot-com boom/bust and the financial crisis/recovery — the winning companies have exhibited certain traits used to widen the gulf between the winners themselves and the losers. The pandemic only reaffirms our thinking. 

So what is the secret sauce? First, these companies exhibit an underlying ability to continually adapt to changing conditions and reconfigure their companies to capture new opportunities, even in the most abrupt of circumstances. Second, these companies are resilient. Planning can never prepare you for every problem, but it can build the muscles that help you to react successfully to challenges. And last, they are creative. They combine humans and machines to unlock new opportunities before others see them. At Forrester, we call the combination of adaptive, resilient, and creative a future fit technology strategy. And, we believe, this is how companies will deliver on customer obsession now and win in the future. 

It is natural to look before you leap, so let us examine just a few of our 2021 predictions and see how they align with our vision of future fit technology: 

  • As many as 20% of the Fortune 500 are not going to make it through 2021 whole. The pandemic revealed the flaws in many companies' technology and their lack of adaptivity and resilience. Panicked by the pandemic, these companies and their tech leaders were found mired in Band-Aids like tech modernization, simplification, and consolidation. And, because of it, the end game will not be pretty — for some, their assets will be dissolved or purchased; others will just go out of business. 

  • CIOs taught to think global will act local. The CIO's role has never just been about technology, but the current geopolitical posturing and brinksmanship from the world's biggest economies now make understanding current affairs more vital than ever. Nations are raising barriers and picking sides, increasingly   leaving expectations that companies follow suit or be branded unpatriotic. As a result, 75% of multinational CIOs will disengage from technically sound providers in 2021 for purely political reasons, forcing them to lead new "localized" efforts to deliver on their firms' globe-spanning technology stack. 

  • Resourceful CIOs enabling "work from anywhere" will become beacons for talent in the real and virtual world. Remote work is here to stay — the number of remote workers at the end of 2021 will be 3x pre-pandemic levels. Work culture and employee experience forever changed, whether we like it or not, making those CIOs that enable these new experiences in the real and virtual worlds seamlessly a beacon for talent. CIOs will be more willing to adapt to develop great employee experiences and push the possibilities of technologies such as augmented and virtual reality — if not, employees will walk, or worse, stay and underperform. 

We think the future has some clarity about it. Winners will be adaptive, creative, and resilient. Future fit technology is your ticket to success. Seize the day and drive a future filled with promise, not peril, in the face of unprecedented change. 

You can download Forrester's 2021 Predictions guide here

This post was written by VP, Research Director Matthew Guarini, and it originally appeared here