Every autumn at Forrester, we look ahead to predict how we think the world will unfold in the coming year. It’s that time again now.

The art of prediction isn’t new, and as Europeans, we’ve excelled in it for centuries. Millenia even. Kings and queens, chieftains and war leaders would consult the wise, hoping for auguries and portents of success in war, conquest, and negotiation. King Leonidas of Sparta travelled to Delphi, in the shadow of Mount Parnassus, to consult the Pythia — the priestess of Apollo — sealing his fateful, heroic decision to lead the famous 300 Spartans to Thermopylae to defend Greece against Persian invasion.

Thankfully, for all our sakes, our predictions are less martial in nature, and less divine in origin. Much like King Leonidas and his brave, doomed followers, we live in an age of social and economic disruption. If 2020 is anything to go by, 2021 might feel a little like standing in the Spartan battle line after all. Two preexisting trends will accelerate into 2021, impacting European businesses and technology decision-makers. Specifically:

  • The pandemic will continue to drive preexisting digital trends harder and faster than ever.
  • Brexit, technological advances, competitive pressure from US tech giants, and distrust of Asian disruptors will drive legislative tension.

What this will mean in practice is:

  • Digital technologies will top the CIO’s shopping list. Cloud, security and risk, networks, and mobility will be top of CIOs’ shopping lists. Struggling businesses looking to drive digital transformation to leapfrog less wily competitors stand to gain advantage coming out of the pandemic.
  • Work-from-home is here to stay. At least one-third of European information workers will work primarily from home, compared with 4% in 2019. Leadership, employment practices, talent hotspots, remote working tools, and company cultures will see a seismic shift in 2021. Businesses that can’t change fast enough will struggle to retain talent.
  • The ethics of AI will be in the legislative limelight. Far-reaching digital changes like “cookie-less” browsers will outpace proposed changes to European privacy legislation. Instead, AI, and particularly the thorny topic of ethics in AI, will be the focus of attention.
  • GAIA-X won’t displace Amazon, Google, and Microsoft anytime soon. Planned for an initial MVP release in 2021, GAIA-X aims to offer European CIOs peace of mind that their sensitive data is being managed by Europeans, for Europeans. But with many CIOs perfectly happy with their existing hyperscaler cloud providers, GAIA-X will struggle to make a huge impact in 2021.

Before you strap on your metaphorical sandals and sharpen your imaginary sword to face the inevitable onslaught of 2021, take a few minutes to consult our own Pythia and check out more of our 2021 predictions.

To understand the major dynamics that will impact European businesses next year, download Forrester’s complimentary Predictions guide.

To dive even deeper into what we see for the coming year, check out our Predictions 2021 complimentary webinar series and engage directly with the analysts who made the predictions.