Reflection on 2020 and a look ahead

As we started 2021 we realised that the year ahead would be difficult and very different. 

New year greetings were done over WhatsApp, Zoom and other platforms as Adjusted Level 3 Lockdown regulations where put in place, with the curfew starting at 9pm to ensure social distancing, this meant that we could not traditionally, celebrate together at midnight.
Technology would have to bridge that divide as we stayed away from loved ones for their own safety and that of ours.

As the first few weeks of January passed, we, as a country faced the startling reality that the second wave of COVID-19 infections and its ramifications were evident. Social media was filled with posts of loved ones lost, funerals and memorials broadcast on Zoom and other streaming platforms, this brought some closure for our bereaved families. Technology would again connect us together in a time of our most tragic moments.

2021 is going to challenge all of us as we navigate our way through the year. With the rapid rise in infections, businesses are opting for a blended approach to keep employees safe. Working from home whether on rotation or totally will be the norm for the foreseeable future and will probably go beyond the pandemic. Technology will be the differentiator for large and small businesses. SOHO (Small office, home office) kits consisting of fibre to the home, seamless high-speed wireless, ink tank printers, headsets, notebooks and UPS’s are the new hotcakes.

Those businesses that have invested and leveraged technology will continue with business as usual. We have seen a dramatic rise in the number of organisations installing secure Firewalls for VPNs to access on-premise resources such as Sage, whilst others have completely shifted their on-premise resources to the cloud by leveraging Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365.

This rise is attributed not only to COVID-19 but the inevitability and uncertainty of load shedding by Eskom. 

By working in the cloud, the dependence of server infrastructure is mitigated by workloads being always online and accessible. Users are able to collaborate and communicate using Microsoft Teams, with documents stored in SharePoint and emails always online.  

Most importantly the Microsoft 365 ecosystem provides built-in security to ensure that digital assets are protected. By using Microsoft Intune we are able to secure endpoints and ensure complete Mobile Device Management and visibility for employers.

Productivity monitoring tools ensure that employee output is measured at a time where businesses must do more with less.

Eskom’s National Grid remains vulnerable and load shedding is and will be an existential challenge for 2021. A recent article published online provided insight that with borders closed in certain countries, specialists were unable to come into South Africa and local contractors infected by COVID-19 would impact and impede planned maintenance and unplanned repairs of ageing coal-fired stations.

The other technology areas that are increasing symbiotically is the shift from traditional on-premise PBXs to hosted cloud voice solutions. With the ability to have your extension on your smartphone or installed on your Notebook as a softphone, you can continue to make or receive calls as usual from the comfort of your home.

Unbelievably there are still businesses who have not made that switch with their staff unreachable over phones and when a cloud solution will probably in most cases realise a cost-saving. These are the businesses that we seek to help most to endeavor through 2021 and beyond.

POPI Act which kicks in, in July will also change the landscape for businesses. To comply with the ability to ensure customer data is safe, secure and private will mean that all businesses will have to tick quite a few security checkboxes. Those that are already in the cloud with Microsoft 365 have started shifting their Data from European Datacenters to South African ones and are poised to take advantage of the GDPR compliance which Microsoft 365 innately offers.

As the outsourced IT department, this shift was proactively initiated over a year ago for our customers. POPI Compliance will definitely be a priority for most businesses in 2021 and those who have already ascertained their current POPI posture will be firmly on the front foot. Is your IT provider POPI ready?

As a country to reach herd immunity it is estimated that about 40 million citizens or 60% of the population would need to be vaccinated. It is anticipated that logistically this will take several months or more and until then there will be waves of infections as Easter holidays, July Holidays and local Government Elections means that people will be transiting the country or coming into close contact with others as schools open.

In essence, the pandemic will be here for most of 2021 which means we will continue to work remotely in a blended fashion in the same vein as infections spike and drop.

Lastly, a lesson from 2020 which we hope to see continue in agile businesses in 2021 is the ability to achieve success at a time when businesses need to be closest to their customers, and that is the adoption of CRM solutions, custom application development and integration that brings products and services to their customers in the most effective and efficient way despite load shedding, the pandemic and the numerous challenges we face at this historical juncture. Taking a product or service online will increase access to new markets and new customers.

All of these points combined with a customer-focused customized IT strategy and an innovative Technology partner comprised of elite specialists that can make IT happen will be the difference between those that thrive and those that survive.

Choose NETCONFIG to deliver on your technology ambitions for 2021 and beyond. If you intend on investing in technology, choosing the right partner with the right solution for your business will determine the difference between an ROI or prodigality.