Every year, Forrester makes bold calls on what will impact different industries and disciplines in the year ahead. These calls provide you with a clear vision on what’s to come so that you can capitalize on forecasted dynamics, gain a competitive edge, and thrive.

Given the chaos of 2020, it has never been more important to be able to anticipate change, build resiliency into your organization, and become customer-obsessed.

This year, as we crafted Forrester’s 30 predictions reports (client access required), a clear theme emerged: technology acceleration. 2021 will be the year that every company — not just the 15% of firms that were already digitally savvy — doubles down on technology-fueled experiences, operations, products, and ecosystems. Yes, that means investing in some new technology. But with the pandemic still a reality and budgets rightfully under scrutiny for 2021, it also means taking advantage of and realizing the value of the technology that you already have — and finally retiring the technical debt holding you back.

Here are just a few of our predictions for 2021:

  • Chief information officers will spend less overall but embrace cloud-first platform strategies for speed and adaptiveness. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Forrester predicts US tech investment will fall 1.5% in 2021 after years of accelerating tech spend — a $135 billion drop from 2019’s spending peak. CIOs will continue to accelerate their spend on cloud, security and risk, networks, and mobility — including struggling firms looking to leapfrog and gain advantage coming out of the pandemic.
  • Chief marketing officers will assert control over the full customer lifecycle. Difficult times will bring on the reckoning we predicted last year — that CMOs would step up to be the driver of customer obsession at their firms, or they will cede that role to a chief customer or experience officer. CMOs will put the customer at the center of everything they do: leadership, strategy, and operations. As a result, spend on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by 30% while spend in other areas slows.
  • Remote work will rise to 300% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Most companies will employ a hybrid work model, with fewer people in the office and more full-time, remote employees. As a major portion of the workforce develops the skills and preference for effective remote work, they will expect work-from-anywhere tech and culture – triggering major changes in talent acquisition (and poaching). 
  • Regulatory and legal activity related to employee privacy infringements will double. The pandemic is igniting employers’ desire to collect, analyze, and share employee personal data. While European regulators are already enforcing privacy rules to protect employees’ personal data, countries such as Brazil, India, and Thailand will soon do the same. And in the US, given the corporate practices and policies that often limit or deny employees a right to privacy, the battle to determine what is a reasonable expectation of workplace privacy will be fought in the courts.
  • Asia Pacific will finally catch up on Zero Trust adoption. Zero Trust adoption in Asia Pacific has lagged its global peers, but the acceleration of cloud adoption and an explosion in remote work, as well as changing regulations and consumer behaviors, make it ripe for change. At least one government in Asia Pacific will embrace a Zero Trust cybersecurity framework in 2021.

Following the sudden and profound disruption in 2020, Forrester’s predictions for 2021 describe where leaders should focus their attention. We know hard-learned lessons in adaptability, creativity, and resilience will continue to serve companies as they navigate ongoing change. At Forrester, we are on and by your side to help you anticipate change and understand what it means for your firm — to guide you on how best to move forward.