The industry of software development in Sri Lanka has long since been a hotbed for discerning international companies to conduct quality outsourcing operations at a nominal cost. Likewise, the proliferation of cloud support services on a global level has helped close technological gaps that were otherwise hindrances to collaborating beyond national borders. Of course, this isn’t necessarily breaking news. But the manner and speed at which digital transformation is taking place begs to ask a key question: which trends are driving it all? It was around this time last year that projections were being made for what awaited us in 2020. Little did anyone realize the magnitude of the pandemic we are in the midst of today – which in turn, influenced our digital landscape to do a major overhaul within record time.
As the digital world evolved to accommodate urgent needs, it did so by leaps and bounds. From shifting entire teams to a home-based workspace, to initiating contactless systems, much was abuzz as health became a top priority. Conversely, the change in dynamics created by the pandemic was pretty much a catalyst to the otherwise innate nature of the technology industry to continuously progress towards bigger and better things. As we look back at the year which is almost coming to an end, what transpired is a major influencer for what can be projected onto the coming year. Here we take a look at five such trends, all of which are bound to expand come 2021.
Irrespective of shifting external circumstances, cloud computing remains at the forefront owing to its sheer indispensability. Being a crucial foundational component for establishing working systems on an enterprise level, the cloud has long since branched out to offer services that can further render versatility. Add to this a high level of scalability, which can then offer services on a pay-as-you-use basis. But we’re still just scratching the surface here. Use cases widely vary depending on where the cloud is deployed, and the problems it is meant to solve. As employees collaborate with real-time document sharing on a micro level, entire application development environments are maintained on the cloud on a macro level.
Speaking of which, software development companies that maintain ongoing partnerships with cloud service providers (such as being a dedicated AWS partner) develop applications for their entire clientele over the cloud. But that’s not all. Cloud-based application development even takes care of what happens well after deployment, by constantly monitoring running systems and enabling developers to focus on tasks that require more of their strategic capabilities.
While businesses have consolidated all their working collateral within a centralized cloud environment, it also enhances experiences for users on a consumer level. This is advantageous for customers both new and existing, since accessibility to digital products is faster and easier. Online user engagement was always creating new benchmarks with time, but this past year broke barriers as millions flocked to the web for a multitude of reasons. Whether it was for remaining connected to loved ones, continue work/education or to purchase essential items, the cloud has been paramount at maintaining continuity – and is only assured to do so next year and beyond.
Before the onset of COVID-19, there were two technologies in particular that already presented a more ‘contactless’ way in how they operated. The first one was digital payment platforms (also informally known as fintech) and the other was e-commerce from a more generalized point of view. Although their contactless capabilities weren’t necessarily focused on before COVID-19 (since other benefits were stronger USPs), their ability to conduct contactless operations didn’t take long to be brought to the forefront once lockdowns were initiated.
The rise of fintech.
In the case of digital payment platforms, increased exposure via mobile apps meant that even those who were less tech-savvy had the opportunity to use them with ease. Heightened accessibility accounted for more users now having the means to make payments without exchanging hard cash (or even divulging confidential card details, for that matter). Partnering up with leading retailers for purchasing goods, services and even paying utility bills made fintech providers all the more accessible, thereby further encouraging the use of contactless payment systems at a mass scale.
The increased dependency on e-commerce.
E-commerce, on the other hand, skyrocketed in use on both a consumer and enterprise level. As users flocked to the web to purchase essential goods, retailers (especially those that were still dependent on their brick-and-mortar stores) scrambled to set up shop for maintaining business continuity. While users were able to satisfy their needs, businesses were able to continue operating – all while maintaining relevant social distancing.
As a result, both fintech and e-commerce aren’t due to recede any time soon, and will continue well into 2021 and beyond – probably well after the pandemic itself subsides. This is possibly due to the fact that many who otherwise shopped and paid for goods traditionally have now been able to experience the immense convenience offered by digital applications – and would only want to retain this level of versatility by continuing to shop and pay online.
Remote collaboration and e-learning platforms are on the rise.
Causing significant impact to the software world, the massive global shifts towards remote workspaces impacted which solutions received more demand, as well as how they could be implemented with as little contact as possible. Again, this ties in close with cloud computing, as cloud-based SaaS solutions attracted instant attention due to their web-based services on a subscription basis. Unified communication and collaboration solutions particularly gained more recognition, as companies scrambled to establish transparency and seamlessness within remotely distributed teams. Solution providers were also promptly put to the test, as vendors equally scrambled to bring their systems on par in order to enable easy access, configuration and troubleshooting.
The same also applied to LMS (Learning Management System) providers, as vendors stepped up to increase their offerings. In turn, such shifts in demand also influenced software development trends during the next few months, as vendors both big and small took to integrating collaboration tools within their application offerings.
Unified communications as a Service (UCaaS) for maintaining positive customer experiences.
UCaaS had already been gaining gradual momentum during the past couple of years. However, 2020 caused an explosion in demand, especially as customer requests spiked and businesses needed to construct remote support centres for attending to inquiries. From processing refund requests to logging an uptick in sales, solution providers in the UCaaS space were challenged with developing software that further transcended otherwise holistic and cloud-based communication capabilities.
Similar to fintech and e-commerce, remote work and study options are here to stay on a much grander scale than expected, since those who converted and experienced the benefits (less costs, overheads, rents and equipment to maintain, among other perks such as added flexibility in schedules) may want to continue with the same arrangement. Subsequently, this will also impact enterprise-level software that is developed in the future across all categories – collaboration tools and otherwise.
AI has always been a hot topic for decades, but this time around…
There has been an even bigger emphasis on the technology, as overall dependency on digital applications increases on both a consumer and enterprise level. Incorporating AI has always been an insightful point of discussion in due course of developing any type of software product/service, which has since given it crucial spots in everything from social media to B2B solutions. The ability to capture data, understand it and then reveal predictive results is one that is proving to be extremely useful across a wide range of applications, particularly within the remote customer service scene this year.
AI-powered virtual assistants have been instrumental in providing agents with the support they need for attending to a constant stream of inquiries, thereby giving them the autonomy to tackle tasks that require their immediate attention.
AR is enabling many to see the world in a fresh new light – without getting off the couch.
As online sales have increased manifold due to obvious reasons this year, so has the use of AR-powered applications. AR-based product testers (especially in the beauty and fashion industries) have significantly peaked owing to hygiene concerns when it comes to physically testing items. The retail industry at large offers massive potential to AR technology, as trial options prior to making purchases is an area that many brands are keen to increase engagement on.
IoT gives devices the power to think for themselves.
With less contact and more social distancing, IoT devices, just like AR, will pave the way for creating more autonomy among individuals in due course of their day-to-day lives. With IoT devices increasing in the healthcare industry, telemedicine and remote diagnostics are two specialities which have been prime points of focus in 2020. As a result, software systems that focus on leveraging the healthcare industry at large is bound to be a definite trend next year, especially as patient monitoring continues to take place.
As the digital landscape increases in complexity while also attracting millions of users to stay connected online, so does the probability of cyber breaches and data theft. With many of the world’s greatest corporations severely inflicted by hack attacks and cyber espionage, no business is immune to cyberspace compromises. On top of that, lapses in cybersecurity can increase the likelihood of an attack, thereby causing losses in data, money and even reputation. Year on year, heinous cybercrimes of all kinds, big and small, are reported. As cybersecurity barriers are tested and upgraded round-the-clock based on the latest threats prevalent during any given point of time, malicious individuals are also constantly on the prowl to discover loopholes or orchestrate intricate operations for conducting break-ins.
This was the usual case scenario every year, but this year was intrinsically different. As more users accessed digital products/services and remained connected online, there has been an uptick in cybercrimes – especially scams such as phishing. The cybersecurity industry has always been evolving, by constantly building, upgrading and deploying applications which can help combat threats. A spike in attacks further demand prompt action, as cybersecurity providers, IT specialists and businesses alike pool together to strengthen existing systems, while proactively monitoring activities to mitigate possible damage in the future.
Unlike other enterprise-level software categories, cybersecurity is more expansive, thereby harbouring numerous specialities underneath a larger umbrella. Endpoint Security, Network/IT Infrastructure Management and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are just some out of many, but each of which require their own dedicated expertise to heighten application quality and overall security.
The technology industry has always been abuzz with activities and developments, but the COVID-19 era has invited major overhauls to how digital products are being consumed – and what lies in store for the future. As massive of a factor that this pandemic is, one cannot forget the other factors that are constantly influencing digital technologies day in and day out. A growing number of users and an on-demand consumption culture are two such factors which are still just as viable, thereby heightening the stakes overall for 2021.
So what can one expect next year, from the world of digital and the software that is built to power it? Like always, cloud computing comes to the top of the list as it is a technology that the prevailing digital landscape has placed a deep foothold in, and isn’t able to function without. This branches out towards other aspects such as remote workspace tools, which includes everything from remote collaboration to fully-fledged subscription-based services.
AI, AR and IoT are other high-potential technologies which can leverage otherwise benchmarked applications, offering greater capabilities than previously expected to aid in contactless activities such as online shopping. Last but never the least – cybersecurity. As more people remain connected, cyber attacks have also increased. In turn, this calls for an increase in cybersecurity expertise, to strengthen the applications which help keep our devices and data secure.