“COVID wrote the business case — our future is digital.” So said the CIO of a manufacturer last month. 2020 was a year that his and every company will never forget.

The pandemic changed everything. Companies that had laid the foundations of cloud and agility and strategic partnerships were ready to respond with digital solutions. Those that hadn’t scrambled and flailed. Last year, 85% of firms viewed digital as nice to have. In 2020, every company learned that digital is critical to customer and business success.

In 2021, we predict that companies will accelerate their digital transformation with a focus on customers and the products, practices, platforms, partners, and places to sell to and serve them. Here’s a peak at how:

  • Products. Digital products and services are the way you will reinvent your business models and customer relationships. By the end of 2021, we expect 30% of Global 2000 companies to have a significant digital product portfolio and 20% to stand up digital divisions dedicated to launching disruptive products to accelerate their transformation to full ecosystem participation.
  • Practices. In 2021, every new digital division will embrace innovation through ecosystems, and we expect a further 50% of enterprises to make cloud-centric transformation a priority, moving business-critical operational apps and all experience apps into the cloud. Agile practices will infuse every facet of planning and execution, spanning business, operations, and technology teams.
  • Platforms. In 2020, enterprise resource planning became digital operations platforms (DOPs), reconceived as the agile, AI-based backbone of your digital core. In 2021, vendors will tailor DOPs with more industry-specific functionality. Enterprises will also expand their use of bridging systems such as product information management or marketplace platforms to accelerate the digital shift and boost operational excellence.
  • Partners. The pandemic forced an existential decision: What’s the least you could do and the most you could get from partners? In 2021, this innovation through ecosystems, once the exclusive superpower of startups, will become the strategy for every digital initiative. In 2021, service providers will seek to be your co-innovation partner and support value exchange through adopting outcomes-based pricing.
  • Places. In 2021, brands will broaden where they place a “buy” button. For digital leaders, it won’t just be a decision between Shopify+ and custom-coding a headless commerce solution — or Facebook Shops and Amazon Business. It will be about experimenting and unifying all these channels, supported by investments in personalization, digital asset management, and even augmented and virtual reality, which will accelerate as sellers look to stand out on the digital shelf and boost search rankings.

So, yes, your future is digital. 2021 will be the year that digital business leaders (and their helpers) use these 5 Ps to break down big-bang transformation into smaller pieces — to move faster and show results sooner.

Learn more in 2021 Predictions: Digital Business (client access only).