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Distributed Workforce Solutions Fuel New IT Spending

When, where, and how knowledge workers perform their role continues to evolve, as the COVID-19 pandemic disruption impacts the Global Networked Economy. Now, the Future of Work (FoW) model enables improved employee experiences in an environment unbounded by time or physical space.

According to the latest worldwide market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), FoW spending will be nearly $656 billion in 2021 -- that's an increase of 17.4 percent over 2020.

"Traditional work models do not provide the agility, scalability, and resilience required by the future enterprise. This was, of course, highlighted by the ongoing health crisis. To drive growth and competitive differentiation, organizations will invest in technologies and services," said Holly Muscolino, vice president at IDC.

Future of Work Market Development

To facilitate the transition to a fully distributed workforce, organizations are investing in a wide range of solutions. The largest area of investment in 2021 will be hardware, where companies are expected to purchase $228 billion in endpoint devices, enterprise hardware, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and robotics or drones.

Services, including business, IT, and connectivity services, will be the second-largest area of spending at more than $123 billion. Software applications will see the fastest spending growth with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3 percent over the 2020-2024 forecast period.

This includes investments in enterprise applications, content and collaboration, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), human resources applications, security, and software development and deployment.

Emerging technologies like AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented or virtual reality are changing how work is performed across all industries. Automated decision support and virtual collaborative approaches, plus discrete and process manufacturing, are the two largest growth areas over the forecast period.

Together, discrete and process manufacturing will account for just over one-third of all FoW spending this year. Professional services, retail, and banking will be the next three industries in terms of FoW spend in 2021.

The construction industry will see the fastest growth in FoW spending over the forecast period with a five-year CAGR of 23.7 percent. Media and retail will follow closely with CAGRs of 19.5 percent and 19.3 percent respectively.

The FoW use cases that will benefit from the most IT spending during 2021 include collaborative robotics, operational performance management, and automated customer management.

The FoW use cases that are expected to see the fastest spending growth over the 2020-2024 forecast period are adaptive skill development, interconnected collaborative digital workspaces, and advanced project management.

Outlook for Future of Work Investment Growth

IDC forecasts investment in technologies supporting FoW initiatives to exceed $1 trillion worldwide by 2024 with a robust 17 percent CAGR over the five-year forecast period. According to the IDC assessment, all aspects of how people work are evolving, enabled by new technologies, and accelerated by the global pandemic.

"Indeed 3rd Platform hardware, such as IoT devices, robots and drones, and IaaS, is more than one-third of the total spend, demonstrating the growing importance of the technologies enabling the reimagined workplace," said Karen Massey, research manager at IDC.

Based upon the mounting evidence that an IT and networking 'return to normal' mindset is delusional, I anticipate more CIOs and CTOs will seek the guidance of forward-thinking IT vendors and professional service providers that are experienced in the development of digital business growth strategies.

Furthermore, I expect Line of Business (LoB) leaders will continue their quest for scalable and secure digital workspace platforms that support the rapid and ongoing transition to a distributed workforce. Change management skills will be in high demand, as more organizations free themselves from the productivity-sapping constraints of the past.

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