2021 saw many companies and organizations still on the backfoot, making knee-jerk decisions to ensure they could keep operating in the face of a series of increasingly nebulous regulations imposed by governments across the world to stymie the pandemic. As with times of war, extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures which then result in a leap forward in progress. In that spirit, there has, predictably, been much talk of how this event has advanced our approach to (and perception of) how we operate in digital environments as consumers, audiences, and professionals.
The level of disruption we’ve seen has forced us to reflect on the way we work together to solve problems, our understanding of what our businesses are capable of, and what end users expect from us. However, beyond the emergency solutions used in response to the situation, we’re now beginning to see companies fast-tracking their plans for digital transformation to capitalize on the changing norms of how and where we work and live our lives. The winners in the next few years will be those who make moves built on the opportunities created by this disruption, those who leverage new sources of differentiation, such as IP-led platforms and programmatic partnerships, to pivot to cloud, AI and cybersecurity services.
As we look forward to 2022 and try to understand the challenges that await us there, we would do well to factor in drivers and challenges other than those of the pandemic that face companies and organizations in the regions specific to their geography, the nature of their business, and the sectors in which they operate. So, without further ado, here’s a round-up of 3 key trends we’re seeing and how some of the emerging markets Softline operates in (namely, LATAM, APAC, and Russia & the CIS) are responding.
1. Life’s a breach
Reputationally, security breaches can be catastrophic for companies. While traditionally this was especially true for those such as the financial sector who are entrusted with their customers’ assets, people are now starting to side with the view that protecting user data should be held in the same regard. As such, we’re seeing explosive demand for cybersecurity solutions around the world as companies rush to secure themselves against the growing threat of breaches. What’s been of some concern is the scale and audacity of these attacks. LATAM, for instance, recorded in excess of 41 billion incidents in 2020, mainly in the form of phishing, web-based malware, and ransomware – all the usual suspects, albeit armed with a more sophisticated approach. Off the back of this, LATAM’s IT market is now seeing massive growth thanks to the enhanced awareness of cybersecurity risks and increased emphasis on IT investment post-pandemic.
India, on the other hand, is ranked by Google as the 6th most affected country by ransomware, and is now the 2nd most targeted nation after the US for cloud-hacking. The government itself was the most targeted sector in Q2 of 2021, with a 64 percent increase in publicly reported cyber incidents according to McAfee’s 'Advanced Threat Research Report: October 2021’. This, combined with a recent high-profile bank breach, has resulted in a more interventive approach from the government on cybersecurity legislation.
So, there’s a growing awareness in all regions of cybersecurity solutions as a fundamental aspect of any business’s infrastructure, rather than as an afterthought. We fully expect that as an increasing number of organizations shift their focus to a security-first approach, solutions which ensure their uninterrupted operation in the event of a malicious attack will continue to grow in popularity across all markets in 2022.
2. A head in the cloud is now a good thing
The rate of cloud adoption throughout the world has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2021, about 75% of large companies in LATAM are expected to have doubled the speed of their shift to a cloud-centric application infrastructure. Emerging APAC is also seeing rapid public cloud growth, driven in particular by an increase in IaaS and PaaS spending, with the IT markets in the Philippines and Thailand, in particular, set to benefit from the growing number of digital cities and digital parks.
In a recent Vanson Bourne survey of 2,650 IT decision makers worldwide, the majority of respondents (85%) selected hybrid cloud as their ideal IT operating model. And this is reflected in the growing demand for hybrid cloud solutions in infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) models. Another industry forecast for 2022 trends predicts the market for public cloud services will reach US $ 397.4 bn in 2022, and estimates that cloud will serve as the basis for more than 95% of digital initiatives by 2025, compared to less than 40% this year.
So, the signs of hybrid cloud making some serious headway towards becoming the norm are all there. No wonder – hybrid and multi-cloud solutions can help businesses to keep their digital environments secure while offering them complete flexibility over how they scale – all at a lower cost than investing in private digital infrastructure. The challenge for every organization, as they make the shift, is to manage costs associated with scaling – especially if they are moving into a multi-cloud format. We’ve seen a huge spike in demand for Softline’s platform Cloud Master, which provides a clear route through to cost effectiveness by crunching the specifics of an organization’s requirements.
3. AI technologies nascent, but ripe for experimentation
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is something of a catch-all for a wide variety of technologies including machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing to name a few. All of these technologies are now in reach of companies who are looking for ways to take advantage of AI as a way to optimize their systems in everything from data management to retail shopping.
For LATAM, one of the key directions for 2022 appears to be leveraging AI to improve environmental sustainability practices in different industries. Applications powered by artificial intelligence are helping to manage the use of renewable energy through deep learning, predictive capabilities and even AI-powered network systems. If we look to Russia & the CIS, on the other hand, they are projected to see a threefold increase in enterprise spend on digital technologies by 2024, with key disruptive technologies such as big data, AR, and AI all growing rapidly. All of this shows that the appetite for these technologies is growing, but the applications in different areas of business, not to mention sectors, is yet to become apparent. This is an exciting stage of experimentation and we expect great things as the business community begins to adapt the technology available to suit their business goals.
So, what can we learn from looking back on the way we’ve reacted to the pandemic, and reflecting on how we’re adapting to new technology and the changing expectations of employers, their employees and the end users they serve? The reality is that the world today is not the same world in which we once lived. There’s a whole new way of working, of living, and of creating. However, despite the urgency of the situation, change has to be approached thoughtfully. Being a first mover in emergency circumstances doesn’t necessarily leave you with anything beyond a placeholder solution to guarantee future success. Indeed, many companies are still struggling to identify what solutions their teams now need to work more effectively, how to create a seamless experience between offline and online environments, and the opportunities that are out there for the taking.
For those who do embrace change in 2022 – and execute their plans for change successfully – one of the greatest dividends will be the knowledge that they’re providing an infrastructure that reflects the changing needs of all current and future employees when it comes to work. Environments that help them collaborate effectively, automation solutions which free up time for more creative tasks, and security solutions that safeguard the environments in which they work. And on top of that, they will be positioned to build a workforce which is not necessarily bound by the constraints of geography or encumbered by the expense of commercial leases.
And that’s where Softline comes in. Our solutions are built to address the challenges our customers face, and to empower them to take advantage of opportunities in a changing world. As the world continues to accelerate towards cloud, our focus will continue to be on offering hybrid cloud services which meet the growing need for flexible and agile solutions in operations and business processes. We also intend to continue providing customers security solutions that armor them from the ever-growing risk of breaches and failures as they scale up their digital footprint. And finally, to serve as a strategic supplier, equipped with the software and hardware solutions which our customers in emerging markets need.