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As we enter the third year of the pandemic, the technology landscape has changed substantially. As a result, current priorities were upended, and several new challenges needed to be addressed quickly.

At the end of 2021, we surveyed more than 500 senior technology leaders, decision-makers, and influencers. This survey covered technology initiatives that will drive business value, challenges that keep them up at night, focus areas where technology investments will flow, and the tides of opportunity that will ebb and flow through the year. Along with industry-agnostic enterprises, we focused on companies across three primary domains – financial services and wealth management, healthcare and life sciences, and insurance.

Events and conferences

As travel opens again, events and conferences are picking up. The top conferences across industries are,

  1. AWS Reinvent
  2. KubeCon
  3. DevWeek SFO
  4. Gartner Technology conferences
  5. Agile 2022

Apart from these respondents from financial services chose Money 20/20 and T3 Advisory. Respondents from healthcare wish to attend HLTH and AHA Rural conferences. Insurance respondents indicate AHA Rural and ITC Vegas as the key events they will be present at in 2022. The following are four key areas that surfaced as top value drivers and areas that will garner technology investments.

Cloud migration and automation

Cloud migrations and automation remain the top technology trend in 2022. Executives increasingly see the business value and return it delivers. Healthcare respondents indicate cloud migration and automation as the second most crucial value driver right after Cybersecurity. The Cloud has been on everyone’s minds, especially in healthcare. However, existing regulations and laws prevent healthcare providers from leveraging the Cloud to its fullest. Despite that, executives are increasingly leveraging the Cloud by moving non-healthcare-related functions, such as administration, human resources, accounting, and more.

The Cloud’s influence deepens in all industries, with financial services being no different. Lower cost of ownership, improved speed, and agility, innovation by cloud providers, scalability, and reduced risk are some of the critical advantages that motivate financial service providers to move to the Cloud.

Insurance providers face restrictive regulations, rapidly changing customer demographics, rising adoption of digital channels, and ever-increasing pressures to improve operational excellence. Rather than deal with complex business processes that are straining capacity, insurance incumbents need to focus on improving product portfolios, customer experience, and investor value.

Complex system architectures, distributed applications, compliance automation, and other business processes need high computing power – a challenge that cloud migration and automation can alleviate. In addition, the Cloud can help insurance providers scale their delivery rapidly and reduce time to market securely and at an optimal cost. Hence, cloud migration and automation are also top value drivers that insurance respondents indicate.

Data Engineering and AI Operations

Healthcare has vast amounts of data, both structured and unstructured. Clinicians and other healthcare professionals generate non-standardized data such as handwritten notes, diagnostic hints, etc. Making sense of this data is a key priority. Since the pandemic, the use of AI in healthcare has skyrocketed. For example, AI played its part in accelerating the development of the Covid vaccine. It also finds actual use in many other functions, to name a few, such as in radiology to rapidly read scans, assisting doctors in diagnosis, minimizing prescription errors.

While healthcare data and its analysis has come a long way already, the ability to distill and integrate this unstructured data with mainstream healthcare data is a key value driver for patient care. Hence, it is no surprise that this is a top priority for healthcare professionals.

Financial services companies have long been the early adopters of cutting-edge technology. They also have decades of data about their customers and how they use their services. Hence they indicate AI Ops as the most critical value driver. Over the past couple of years, AI has matured. Production environments can now deploy them to deliver actionable insights. As expected, the critical area for all financial services technology investments is using AI and ML to gather actionable insights. Again, this is no surprise, as turning data into an asset is a key value driver for financial service providers.

Insurance companies collect and generate vast amounts of data about their customers. While insurance companies have not operationalized this data, that is gradually changing. This data can be used for optimizing critical business operations such as customer acquisition, delivering personalized services, faster claims resolutions, extracting operational value from functions such as underwriting, and detecting fraud more efficiently. Respondents in this industry indicate that in 2022, data sciences and engineering will be a top value driver, especially as AI and ML come of age.

Beefing up Cybersecurity measures

Value saved is value earned. Healthcare leaders know that any data breaches incur penalties that dent the balance sheets and entail wastage of time and effort. Hence building up infrastructure security to counter cyber threats and securing data exchange with blockchain is now a critical competitive chip.

As with healthcare, cybersecurity measures and securing infrastructure are crucial goals for financial service providers. With the adoption of digital channels, in almost all aspects of banking, skyrocketing (accelerated in no small ways by the pandemic), so has the quantum of attacks on financial infrastructure, data theft attempts, and ransomware. As a result, securing privacy data and ensuring the security of algorithms that deliver value is paramount for financial services providers.

Insurance industry respondents also indicate Cybersecurity and protecting customer information as a top business value driver. As insurance companies adopt more digital channels, cybersecurity attacks have rapidly grown. It is estimated that attackers have stolen personally identifiable information from insurance providers of approximately 100 million Americans.

For apps and integrations with other partners, security needs to be built in rather than patching existing vulnerabilities. In addition, with more than a trillion dollars being written off by insurance companies in the last two years, it is no surprise that insurance providers will take proactive steps to limit exposure to financial liability due to cyberattacks.

Reducing Technical Debt

A common theme across several industries that deploy technology at scale said reducing technical debt would help them become more competitive. Rightfully so, as this frees resources for new initiatives that have clear ROI paths. They can help providers respond better to changing customer needs and wants. However, technical debt has now reached a critical mass where it blocks new product delivery and dents the balance sheet.

In addition, the current staff is reluctant to work on dated products. Technology skills for these are hard to find and expensive. Haphazard implementations of digital transformation done in the past are primary contributors to technical debt. This hinders the implementation of programs that can deliver real value and improve competitiveness. While there is no clear solution, a quarter of our respondents worry deeply about technical debt and its resolution.

Parting thoughts

Respondents, especially decision-makers, recognize the importance of millennials (Gen X, which forms about 22% of the US demographics) and people from generation Z that are coming of age. This group has access to disposable income, is woke, has access to real-time information. They are smart enough to chart a path for their financial independence. As a result, decision-makers now focus on structuring products and services for their needs.

At the ground level, remote working is no longer a thorn in the side for respondents. Over the last two years, everybody has improved at working and managing remotely. However, they found that productivity issues are no different than when people were physically present in offices.

2022 will undoubtedly be the year when technology makes deeper inroads. Even in industries with low exposure to IT and technology advancements.

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