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Predictions for the year ahead

The future will be full of surprises. And if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that businesses must be ready for the next wave of disruption and agile enough to rapidly respond—they must be a Kinetic Enterprise™.

A panel of Deloitte specialists shared their predictions for the year ahead, looking across industries, functions and technologies, to discuss the big trends that are taking shape for 2021. From purpose, people and next-generation customer experiences, to redefining the urban core and using consumer-grade technology to solve commercial-grade problems, these are the evolutions and shifts leaders will want to consider as the globe moves into the new year and the new normal.

Renewed focus on people

“As we begin to emerge from the current ways of working, people, relationships, partnerships and empathy will be more important than ever to allow people to feel reconnected and valued,” says Vincent Kruse, senior manager, Deloitte MCS Limited. “People are longing for personal interaction and the opportunity to reconnect and companies and technology can play a role in making that happen.”

Travel might be the first place to start. Living in a travel-free world for almost a year has meant an increase in time spent with family. As we move into the new normal, that will mean business travel – which takes people away from their families and loved ones – will undergo a whole new level of scrutiny:

For Isaac Bowman, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP, that means employees will become key stakeholders in determining the worth, purpose and ROI of any trip. “There will come a time when it moves beyond health and safety,” he says. “What is the right balance between being away from home, loss in productivity, the cost of the trip and the value that I get from the face-to-face interaction? Employees will be able to ask how travel will be tied into compensation or into their personal career aspirations and benefits.”

More consumer technology and solving commercial-grade problems

Paul Khanna discussed the growing opportunity to bring the consumer experience to solve the most complex business issues through the use of consumer innovations we already widely accept. Innovations in consumer technology has enabled businesses to leap and evolve their transformations around better experiences that embrace complexity.

From online shopping to food orders that are dropped off with notifications, a new standard of convenience, contact and speed has been set. That will continue, submits Oren Geshuri, a specialist master at Deloitte Consulting LLP. Consider the travel industry, which was dramatically impacted in 2020: some hotels are exploring the use of robots for room service. “We’re going to see that conflation of high service levels and safe-distancing across different industries with the innovative use of consumer-grade technology.”

Global talent market gets hotter

Geography-agnostic talent will become the norm, predicts Victor Panov, a senior consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Going virtual around the world, almost overnight, made the already hot global talent market that much hotter and Mr. Panov doesn’t see it cooling any time soon. “Individuals can apply for companies and companies can acquire talent from across the globe without needing to have talent at the local level.”

And while borderless hiring means widespread disruption for company guidelines–from policies to procedures to hiring to talent–it also means companies that rapidly shift to meet market demands can quickly hire the talent they need from anywhere.

Experience outpaces standardisation

The move away from seeking process standardisation across the enterprise in pursuit of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, to ensuring enhanced customer experience, will be paramount. “Standardisation is still really important, but it’s no longer the goal we seek,” says Paul Khanna, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Instead, he says, what will matter most are processes that reinforce a positive experience, even if that means doing more complex things to deliver better experiences.

Redefining the urban core

The pandemic forced a real estate reckoning and companies around the world are considering shrinking their footprint. Geshuri sees this as the genesis of redefining urban cores and central business districts to become a much better blend of people, purpose and places. He notes how the city of Los Angeles has closed roads to vehicular traffic, making way for promenades and boulevards people can enjoy and how world-class cities like Paris, Berlin and London are rethinking urban spaces in similar ways. “Residential and business are going to be blended in a way we’ve never seen before. It’s going to be a rebranding of the urban core that is going to be equal parts business, residential, consumer, retail.”

Increase in automation and communications

While automation with robotics isn’t new, Mr. Panov believes the desire for it will increase, as will the emergence of new means of communication and automation tools we use to make it happen. “We will see more artificial intelligence and machine learning coming in to help boost the jobs that we do.” This is especially true as the health and safety of workers continues to be of paramount importance, requiring a whole new layer of vigilance brought about by the pandemic.

He offers a current customer project as an example. In mapping out their entire factory floor, the company is putting in place automation tools that will reduce manual effort, allow employees to do their job more safely and physically distanced. Along with the efficiencies that automation brings, “the individual now can use their creativity to focus on into something of higher value. They can actually shine in the way of putting in work that is now the future of that work.”

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