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2021: Another year of transformational change for enterprises

In this Technology Untangled episode, business and tech leaders take stock of 2021 and the trends that will define the coming year.

Reflecting on 2021, several challenges come to mind: the ongoing pandemic, major supply chain disruptions, a continuing shift to at-home and hybrid work and learning models, the climate change imperative, and more. But these challenges have also brought opportunities to lay the groundwork for better ways of living and doing business—made possible in large part by technology.

As Antonio Neri, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, notes, "The enterprise of the future will be more edge-centric, cloud-enabled, and data-driven. The enterprise is way more distributed than before, and it's perfectly aligned to the trends we see today."

Please read: Getting the most from your data-driven transformation: 10 key principles

In this episode of Technology Untangled, Neri joins Stuart McLachlan, CEO of Anthesis Group, Gareth Stockdale, CEO of the Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Susie Wolff, principal of the ROKit Venturi Formula E team, and host Michael Bird for a look at those trends and what's ahead in a rapidly changing world.

The push for climate change solutions

When it comes to sustainability efforts, "things have changed dramatically," says Anthesis Group's McLachlan, noting businesses more than ever are responding to evolving customer preferences.

"We're seeing a different sort of consumer base—people who are making purchasing decisions that are more values and purpose based," McLachlan says. With millennial and Gen Z consumers expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, he says, brands are realizing that they need to "get on the right side of the [climate change] crisis and be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem."

Please read: Why is it so difficult to harness energy from the ocean?

"It's not something that is peripheral but something that is going to determine sales growth. It's something that is going to deliver operational efficiency and something that's going to deliver a supply chain resilience," he says. "So these are all mainstream business issues, and over the last two years, that seems to be recognized by organizations that want to bring this subject into the core of what they do."

The great resignation

Action on sustainability and other social issues is also proving to be a competitive advantage as companies vie for talent in today's tight labor market.

"We hear about the great resignation, and people want to join purpose-driven companies," McLachlan says. "They want to scrutinize much more carefully the bodies of the organizations they work for and how those organizations are using their talent to do good or otherwise. They're only going to be able to realize those targets through transformational change."

Tech for good

The ability of business leaders to deliver transformational change will depend on technology innovations that are purpose-driven, the experts agree.

At HPE, the pandemic "reinforced our purpose, [which is] to advance the way people live and work," says Neri. "And I think now that purpose has become more relevant than ever—how we put our technology to work in this accelerated, digital, transformational world and make sure that we don't create a digital divide."

He adds, "As a CEO, you think about not just the business aspect but also how you give back to the community and how you make sure that technology is used the right way."

Please watch: Why digital inclusion is key to a strong digital economy

To help organizations redefine their environments and better compete, HPE is focused on data-driven technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and simulation modeling, Neri says.

"The world now is hyperconnected, and with the advancement of IoT, that's going to continue to create more data, because obviously everything in our life computes," he says. "That creates opportunity for edge computing and integration with 5G."

Other trends Neri points to are blockchain and quantum computing.

"The value is all in the data," he says. "And that's where we, as a company, are focusing, on that data-first modernization."

An emphasis on STEM education

Of course, key to such modernization is STEM education. As such, tech companies and nonprofits like Micro:bit Educational Foundation are stepping up with new ways to advance STEM learning and help students and educators excel in today's changing learning environment.

For example, Micro:bit Educational Foundation's micro:bit is essentially a "coding lab at home," Stockdale explains. He says so far, 6 million micro:bits have been distributed globally through the foundation and partners, enabling students to keep up with STEM learning as they adapt to virtual and hybrid learning models.

Please read: How learning is changing—and why it matters

"A lot of countries and education systems are coming out of the pandemic with a newfound insight into why these skills are important and why they're going to be even more important over coming years," Stockdale says.

"It's driven schools to really join the 21st century and see the value of that blended learning experience even more," he adds. "I think that's been the main trend for me. The focus has gone from 'How do we get through the pandemic?' to 'What does this tell us about the future post-pandemic?'"

Better life-work balance

For the ROKit Venturi Formula E racing team, the pandemic obviously caused disruption in terms of event planning and logistics. But it has also meant reduced travel time and a more flexible work model for team members, helping them strike a better life-work balance.

"At the heart of what we do is performance," Wolff says. "If a team member is in a good place … it adds to performance. It doesn't take away from it."

Please read: Investing in people is key to successful transformation

She adds, "My approach has definitely evolved because I'm a working mother and I see how much better I am at doing my work and how much more efficient I am by not being forced to be in the office every day. I do a lot more of my meetings over video, which I think is a much more efficient way for me to work but also much better for the environment—I'm jumping on a plane far less than I did before."

Listen to other episodes:

Mission to Mars: How edge computing will make it possible

Quantum computing: What is it, and why should you care?

The IoT: Where real-time insights drive real-time action

The edge: Data wherever you need to be

What AI means for you and your business―now and in the future

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.