Best Tech Investments for 2021: Where to Focus in the Coming Year

Best Tech Investments for 2021
Best Tech Investments for 2021: Where to Focus in the Coming Year

It’s a new year, so let’s take a look at the technologies that are (or should be) on everyone’s investment list for 2021. As organizations adjust to life in post-pandemic times, where should CIOs and CISOs be turning their focus to realize both short and long-term return on those investments? Below, we share just a few of the “top of mind” technologies for 2021.

Building on a Strategic Plan

It’s a fundamental step to building an effective technology stack, but many organizations jump in without an end goal in mind. Simply put, tech leaders should develop a comprehensive strategy that aligns technology planning with business objectives.

“Look three, five, ten years ahead. Consider the organization’s future goals as money is spent today, because it’s not cheap to build technology that is adaptable to the organization’s ever-evolving needs,” said Greg George, associate director in Protiviti’s Software Services practice. Consider where the organization is in its digital transformation or modernization efforts and adapt the spending strategy that maximizes legacy systems while introducing new technologies.

Consider the priorities colleagues including the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer bring to the table and collaborate to ensure the most effective strategies are executed to benefit the organization.  Consider the talents of the tech team and recognize that those team members, while proficient in legacy systems, may be itching to expand their skillsets with new tech experiences.


All of our experts agree:  every organization should build or strengthen its cloud capabilities in 2021. As Kim Bozzella, managing director of Protiviti’s Technology Strategy and Operations practice said, “We are seeing increased commitment to, and greater adoption of, the proven technologies such as cloud, whether it’s private cloud, public cloud or a hybrid. As CIOs, we’ve known and thought a lot about moving to the cloud and it’s an important part of the strategy, but it’s not always easy.

Kim, who before joining Protiviti, was head of technology risk/CIO of corporate technology for a global banking firm, added, “there are lots of conversations to be had around security, risk management, time, pace, cost or public vs. private and being too focused on one single cloud strategy, which may have prevented some firms from migrating to cloud before now. I think focused execution, making progress against the legacy estate but allowing for more resources to be focused on emerging technologies, will support the changing business needs.” 

“Cloud technologies continue to be important investments,” echoed Managing Director Carol Raimo, who is Protiviti’s global lead for the consumer packaged goods industry and also focuses on improving customer experience for clients. “The whole omni-channel, e-commerce strategy is definitely on the minds of the CIO because they are trying to consolidate CX technologies to lower costs and provide better governance, ultimately improving the customer experience and driving revenue growth,” she added.

Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Other Emerging Technologies

Scott Laliberte, who leads Protiviti’s Emerging Technologies team, pointed to the continuing emergence of these three technologies as a pivot point for 2021.

“We will see a big uptick in the use of connected devices as the continued after-effects of the pandemic move organizations to more contactless interactions with customers and employees. These technologies are great at enhancing additional value and collaboration between remote workers and remote customer interactions, but they also present a whole plethora of challenges around how to manage and update devices, and just manage the whole lifecycle of these new technologies that are being introduced into their environments.

I think we’ll continue to see a big uptick in the use of AI, natural language processing and computer vision. The challenges will include making sure that introducing these technologies does not also introduce vulnerabilities or insecurities into the customers’ environment and that they are functioning as intended.”

From Australia, Managing Director Leslie Howatt added, “we have seen a real shift from several years ago where everybody just needed to buy bots and automate a specific thing. Now, it’s about how to use those bots in concert to drive transformation across the organization. Intelligent automation needs to be maintained and nurtured and adjusted as the tasks of the transactions change.” Tech leaders should understand bots continue to be valuable as “a vehicle for collecting lots of information to drive analytics but are also a mechanism to create efficiency while addressing underlying core system problems and challenges.

Automated Data Discovery

“I think automated data discovery is a huge priority for 2021,” said Manisha Agarwal-Shah, who leads Protiviti’s data privacy practice. Worldwide, consumers are growing more aware of their rights around data visibility and these savvy buyers are requesting insight into how their data is being handled by companies with which they are doing business. “Consumers can actually go to an organization and say, ‘I want to understand the data that you have about me, how you’re sharing it, and if you’re selling it,’ and for organizations to do that manually is extremely cumbersome,” she said. 

One of Protiviti’s partners has just released an automated data discovery module to help fill that gap, and there are several other technologies that are following suit. “In 2021, you’re going to see a lot of organizations pivot to an automated data discovery model to manage privacy compliance.”

Open Source Data Management

Organizations will continue to look for new ways to effectively manage data in the coming year and open source intelligence is becoming a preferred technology for this objective. “As we start to think about next-gen data systems or modern data architecture, we are moving more towards addressing data management issues in real-time or near real-time,” said Peter Mottram, Managing Director and head of Protiviti’s Enterprise Data and Analytics practice. “This is being done through an open-source approach to event-based data architecture.”

Quantum Computing 

Quantum computing is still three years or so away from being practical as far as solving business problems,” said Laliberte. “The quantum side is exciting to me because we are building towards a day where quantum gives us the ability to solve problems that we cannot solve today. Tech leaders need to start laying the foundation for that now so that they don’t get left behind. In three years, there will be a big rush for talent and the resources needed to harness quantum. Those who are not prepared will be out in the cold. That’s why I put in place a three–year plan for Protiviti, to build on our quantum computing capabilities to help our clients take advantage of the benefits that quantum provides but be ready for the risks that it’s going to introduce to the business as well.”


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Our 2021 Tech Priorities series will continue through January. Next week, we will take a 30,000 foot view of what’s ahead in 2021. Other topics in the series will include data security and privacy, customer experience and cloud technologies. To learn more about Protiviti’s Technology Consulting capabilities, contact us