As we embark on a new year, it’s time to look at the learnings of 2021 and how we can bring them into effect in 2022. If the past two years have proved anything, it is the importance of flexibility and adaptability in this continued period of uncertainty. In 2021 organisations ranging from the NHS, the big banks, those in hospitality, retailers, and many more, have focussed on operational agility more than ever before. To prepare for the challenges that 2022 will bring, including ongoing supply chain issues, the pandemic, cyber crime, and of course, Brexit, here at Telefónica Tech we’ve identified five trends likely to shape digital transformation initiatives in 2022.
The UK Government has committed to digital inclusion and connectivity, which is a vital foundation for a better digital future. As part of these commitments, they have promised that the whole of the UK is going to have better funding and most importantly the infrastructure fit for a modern connected world. However, some challenges still remain in getting all homes connected, especially in rural areas. Throughout 2022 we should see the full-fibre roll out to homes as well as the national roll-out of 5G mobile networks; this will be key to helping businesses adapt to new working practices and flexible ways of working.
In the public sector, we will continue to see the government inject funding into key sectors such as healthcare. Not only will this accelerate the digital revolution further, but it will help public services, to eradicate the technical debt that held them back throughout the challenges of the last 2 years.
Cyber security is a priority
The Government has set out ‘National Cyber Strategy 2022’ to help UK companies operate with confidence. A five-pillar strategy has been pulled together to strengthen the UK cyber ecosystem, investing in people, skills, and our industries. This is going to help build the resilient and prosperous digital UK that we were promised.
To prevent system outages, costly losses, and to maximise the economic benefits from transforming their technology, reducing cyber crime needs to be a major priority this year. Side by side with the focus on cyber security, we will see a rise in spend on AI and automation technologies. Furthermore, to ensure the applications and data held within cloud and data centre solutions are better protected, implementing a zero-trust approach will be high on all business agendas for the next 12 months. That said, with the greater adoption of cloud technologies, continued remote working, and the increasing cost of preventing cyber threats, only organisations who can access external expertise and advanced cyber security solutions will be able to meet these challenges.
Moving towards 5G and the Edge
On the back of strong investment from the UK government, we are set to see the convergence of different technologies driven by digital transformation. There is a large push for 5G, with 6G development in the pipeline, as well as the fusing of the Edge with AI. The Edge is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the source of data. The digital infrastructure required to support this will rely on fast and efficient connectivity that effectively uses IoT and automation.
Once connectivity issues have been resolved, the convergence of these technologies has the potential to drive real value for all of us; the use of data across different areas of healthcare is just one obvious example that could help to transform lives.
Increased cloud spend
Gartner predicts that Global End-User Spending on Public Cloud Services is expected to exceed $480 billion globally next year. 2022 in particular is expected to see an increase in public sector spending on cloud, especially for the NHS. A move to Public Cloud will improve operational efficiency and agility; especially if you consider the supply chain issues causing long wait times for hardware from global vendors – currently at around 8 months. These delays are untenable for organisations with rapidly growing storage needs. The immediacy of cloud as an alternative solution is one reason why we are likely to see even more rapid adoption in 2022.
The greater focus on providing shared care and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) is set to unlock data from proprietary formats across different areas of healthcare. The digitalisation process is going to be long and slow but there is an urgency - the pandemic has caused a significant backlog in elective care. Platforms in the future will be designed around individual patients, this means referrals, results and diagnostic data will all feed into a personalised data stream in a patient’s own cloud. Cloud infrastructure will also be used for data storage for community diagnostic hubs to overcome the problem of siloed patient data. The way the NHS uses cloud in 2022, and beyond, will be an interesting case study, with learnings for the wider public sector looking for effective cloud models.
Throughout 2021 we started to see the big shift of critical enterprise applications to the cloud, even in the most risk-averse of organisations. This trend will continue to accelerate throughout 2022 as more organisations look to modernise their infrastructure. This is coupled with major apps like SAP coming to a critical point where many of its components will become end-of-support in the next three years. Organisations see now as the time to transform to cloud models to future-proof their investments.
Growing focus on meeting sustainability goals
For businesses to meet sustainability goals e.g., the COP26 target for Net Zero by 2050, organisations ultimately need to move away from private data centres. McKinsey research shows that data centres have been known to emit a massive 80 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year. With high carbon emissions, companies will need to reassess their energy consumption to avoid large fines in the future. Hyperscalers such as Amazon and Microsoft can increase their investment in data centres and implement environmentally sustainable strategies due to their scale, and ongoing investment in research and development. For example, Microsoft has been researching a large data centre in the sea in Scotland that runs well on what most land-based data centres consider an unreliable grid. Underwater data centres have proven that fewer parts need changing, and the cool water stops the machinery from overheating. In addition, their grid is supplied by 100% wind and solar energies.
Many smaller organisations will need to take the same sustainable steps next year, which is why a move to Public Cloud and third-party hosted data centres can immediately boost sustainability goals. Some reports suggest migrations to the Cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 59 million tons per year which equates to taking 22 million cars off the road. That said, some organisations will never be able to move everything to Public Cloud, either because it is simply not economically viable, or because certain types of data are too sensitive. For this reason, a hybrid approach will still be key to any cloud strategy for 2022, and beyond.
Looking forward to 2022
The pandemic has brought a tremendous technological shift and transformation across every industry globally. We have seen increased spending on cloud in just about every sector but especially in the public sector, as well as further investment in digital innovation and sustainability. Tech has been harnessed to tackle the response to and recovery from the pandemic, as well as helping us to become more sustainable. In 2022 we will see periods of uncertainty as the pandemic continues and businesses are constantly forced to adapt. One thing we can be certain of, however, is that technology is moving further up the value chain within every business; its ability to drive innovation and support growth has been firmly established over the past couple of years. It is certainly an exciting time to be in the technology sector and we should all look forward to another year of change with plenty of new challenges.
CTO and Vice President, at Telefónica Tech UK&I