What’s the outlook for enterprise businesses and digital transformation in 2022?

17 January 2022

Mike Smith, director, large enterprise and public sector, Virgin Media O2 Business

Mike Smith, director, large enterprise and public sector, Virgin Media O2 Business

After the last two years, you can forgive analysts for not rushing to predict how 2022 might pan out.

The arrival of the Omicron variant has brought back restrictions, mask mandates and working from home guidance.

Yet the challenges of the new year come with some familiarity. Hybrid working models are now universal and continue to be adapted and improved. And investment in digital transformation is likely to continue as organisations look to rebound.

In fact, our recent report with the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicted that the UK’s C-suite will increase their technology investment by 18% in the next year, compared to pre-pandemic levels (2019). This will include a rise in spend on collaboration tools (14%), cloud services (11%), and analytics and insight tools (10%).

The study also found that the larger the company, the faster the pace of change and the more significant the investments.

Let’s dig deeper into what enterprise decision-makers are looking to invest in and why.

Ensuring security as the pandemic continues

Depending on the prevalence of the Omicron variant, and the potential for others to follow, employees will have to either work from home or use devices outside the office in 2022.

At a technological level, leaders will recognise that this brings increased security threats.

48% of IT leaders say their organisation’s cybersecurity isn’t good enough for remote working, according to a recent study in Business Leader. A worrying statistic given the National Cyber Security Centre has reported an increase in all kinds of cyber-attacks since the pandemic began.

So, there will be growing interest in applications and services providing end-to-end encryption and multi-factor user authentication. SD-WAN, a cloud-ready connectivity solution, will grow in importance because of its ability to provide this type of security without jeopardising organisational scalability or flexibility.

SD-WAN will also become increasingly popular because of its inherent compatibility with the cloud. 50% of IT leaders say their organisations prefer investing in off-premise technologies, according to the 2022 TechTarget/Computer Weekly IT Priorities Survey. This will only increase as more business and public sector leaders recognise its importance to flexible and secure employee collaboration.

We’re also likely to see nudges from the government that encourage more secure practices to be embraced.

The UK’s National Cyber Strategy 2022 vows that the state will work with “procurers, financial institutions, investors, auditors and insurers to incentivise good cyber security practices across the economy.”
This includes proposals to improve corporate reporting of resilience to cyber risks, designed to give “investors and shareholders a better insight into how companies are managing material risks to their business.”

Following the spike in ransomware, phishing and other attacks in 2021, there will be an expectation that large enterprises take the steps needed to protect both their revenue streams and customers.

Cloud services and advanced technologies

Richer data - made available through digital technologies - is providing real-time intelligence to decision-makers and already revolutionising several sectors.

In construction, for example, this is helping town planning and building management teams visualise entire areas before they are built.

And within the retail sector, specifically high-volume eCommerce, it is enabling the delivery of services at a rate that has never been seen before.

We estimate that increased implementation of analytics and AI to assist employees will soon impact 5% of jobs. To facilitate this, we will continue to see a shift towards cloud-enabled working in 2022, whether this is migrating information to one cloud location, or multiple ones.

This is because cloud services offer organisations more flexibility and capacity to instantly process the data required for these advanced technologies.

And the cloud revolution is already well underway, accelerated by the pandemic. Just 3% of IT managers reported using just one private or public cloud in 2021, compared with 29% in 2019, according to research from IBM – illustrating the pace of change. Decision-makers won’t take their foot off the pedal in 2022.

We will also see an increase in focus on networking applications and infrastructure.

More leaders will realise that while it’s all well and good having the latest, flashiest technology – whether augmented reality, artificial intelligence or robotics - the technology can only be as effective as the foundational networks they sit upon.

Without the right network infrastructure and applications in place, technology simply won’t function at an optimal level, leading to wasted investment and slower employee collaboration.

Managing employee personas

Over the last two years, people have developed different working preferences. 2022 will see a solidifying of various workplace personas as hybrid models become commonplace.

According to our study, early in the first lockdown around 10% of employees were “Office Cravers”, wanting to work in the office permanently. 16% were “Home Dwellers” who wanted to work from home forever to fit their professional life around hobbies, mental health or family and friends. But most workers, 74%, fell into the “Mixer” category, preferring a balance of office-based and homeworking.

In 2022, businesses will need to take active steps towards preventing division in the workplace. It will be vital for decision-makers to train managers to counteract any office-based bias and make sure the voices of those continuing to work remotely are heard.

They will also need to review inclusion policies in 2022, ensuring that diversity of working arrangement is respected and promoted throughout their organisation.

The future is flexible

Despite the uncertainty that enterprise leaders face, there remains an exciting opportunity to reimagine the way their businesses work.

By bolstering cybersecurity, cloud services and delivering improved diversity and inclusion policies, they can take steps to develop organisations more prepared for the future.

We might all think more carefully these days before making predictions about the year ahead. But focusing on these three areas will stand any business in good stead for 2022 and beyond.