Tech Trends for 2021 : Remote Working, Cloud and AI Boom, and a Booming Digital Services Gig Economy

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Tech Trends for 2021: Remote Working, Cloud and AI Boom, and a Booming Digital Services Gig Economy

2020 was an unprecedented year on many fronts, primarily due to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result of the pandemic, economies around the world rippled, as did the way that people work and invest their time and money.

Brick-and-mortar businesses shuttered their storefronts and companies that had never considered “going digital” as a part of their business plan reconsidered. Although challenging, these difficulties facing every industry worldwide are also being embraced as a time of immense digital transformation. Leaders in the tech sector are encouraging a focus on this opportunity to learn from how we used to work, what happened, and how the workforce is projected to look as we move forward.

“The most successful companies understand digital transformation is not just about adding technology, but about supporting their people to continuously generate value through deep customer insights and rapid iteration. This doesn’t just apply to tech companies. LinkedIn data shows across the U.S., hiring for engineering roles grew 25% from 2019 to 2020. Digital skills will remain in high-demand – we expect to see 150 million tech or tech-adjacent jobs over the next five years. Topping the list of fastest-growing skills on LinkedIn since the pandemic hit are digital skills including programming and digital marketing.” Amanda Silver, Corporate Vice President of Product, Developer Division of Microsoft.

A few key trends related to the global workforce are worth noting while forecasting for the remainder of 202- specifically, in the tech sector.

Remote work is on the rise.

Quantifying the circumstances with data regarding tech work from home and its trends is tedious because it is multifaceted and, for many industries, still very new. Countless people working from home now never knew that their job could (or would) be done remotely. Until now, many companies had never-before considered a remote workforce as an option.

Image source (https://miro.com/guides/remote-work/statistics)

According to the State of Remote Work report published by OwlLabs, 70% of full-time workers in the United States are telecommuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers are even more significant globally and are expected to continue to grow this year.

The surveys conducted for this report found that employees who telecommute are not only saving money on transportation costs, but 77% of the respondents polled agree that working from home makes them happier. 

Additionally, 75% of respondents reported that they are the same or more productive while working from home. Without question, remote employees who are happier with their work environment are also more likely to produce higher-quality work. 

The ongoing challenge as we continue into 2021 will not be whether or not profitable companies embrace remote work. Instead, it will be how they adapt to the necessity of high-quality remote work to sustain their business.

Cloud computing is still growing.

Private venture capital investment and IPO shareholding in cloud computing services routinely hit “all-time high” benchmarks every year before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, along with a surge in the number of traditional office jobs transforming into digital offices, cloud computing investment has increased. 

According to a recent Garter survey, worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecasted to grow 18.4% in 2021 to total $304.9 billion, up from $257.5 billion in 2020. This is, in part, due to the need for quality, reliable infrastructure that meets the always-on demand required to support the “work from home force.”

Additionally, education about cloud computing services is becoming more mainstream and easily accessible. There are currently numerous online education sites, such as Udemy and Treehouse, that offer affordable courses teaching users how to build and scale their own businesses and web applications in the cloud. These types of classes and the eLearning marketplace industry, on the whole, are expected to grow as demand for education in cloud computing also increases.

AI Investment

In general, automation is not new as a technology trend but is being levelled up as it combines with an increased market-focus on artificial intelligence. Given the current necessity for more efficient tools to manage a digital workforce, many companies are looking to AI technology for streamlining various aspects of their business- from human resources and finance to marketing and efficient software development.

Leading the way in AI technology are the usual giants: Google, Apple, and Facebook- all of whom have already integrated AI-based predictive analytics into their applications to improve user experience. In the coming year, adding cutting-edge AI capabilities to projects and business processes will be critical for these and other companies in the tech sector- particularly for those looking to stand out and be competitive in their field. 

As expected, year-over-year investment in AI tech has followed the need for faster, smarter artificial intelligence and mainstream implementation.

“According to data from the National Venture Capital Association, 285 AI-related companies in the U.S. raised $6.9 billion in the first quarter of 2020. At that pace, AI funding would have easily topped the $19.98 billion raised by 1,509 companies in 2019, according to the Q1 2020 PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. The report adjusted the latter up from its previous report of $18.05 billion for 2019.”

Embracing the Digital Gig Economy.

Due to the widespread loss of full-time non-office jobs, many skilled workers moved into the digital services gig economy in 2020 and are projected to continue to do so in 2021. 

According to recent Monster survey data, 92% of users responded affirmatively when asked if now is a good time to look into the gig economy in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Among those:

  • 57% said they would take some kind of gig job while they’re in-between jobs.
  • 52% said they would like long term contract with flexible hours
  • 39% would want a short-term contract or temp work.

One consequence of freelancers moving into the gig economy via platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer is that new systems for qualifying work and keeping remotely-connected teams of gig-economy workers productive are becoming essential. 

Before the adoption of hiring skilled workers from marketplaces serving the gig-economy sector, it was standard to hire full-time, in-house staff to maintain quality assurance standards. Now, the necessity to assure quality from the contract and remote workers effectively and efficiently has become a key focus for companies considering their ability to hire from the gig economy.

One such tool in the field of software development is BlueOptima. The developer analytics tool measures and benchmarks revision data. By focusing specifically on developer analytics, this tool allows teams of engineers—working remotely or otherwise—to learn from data collected about how their teams are collaborating in codebases. This enables teams to build and maintain efficient, collaborative workflows while simplifying the processes required to maintain a high-quality deliverable work standard.

Overall, the outlook for the tech sector in 2021 is bright. Investments in tech are growing exponentially as the adoption of tech by new sectors increases. Although the above-mentioned trends are likely to fluctuate with time, available data studies point to a confident recommendation of focus on these current trends for decision-makers in businesses of all types.