Forest for the trees: Some outlandish predictions for 2021

The week between Christmas and New Year is always difficult. Most of us are huddled at home, in hiding and pretending the world has stopped for a week.

For some, this year, with COVID levels continuing to rise, has of course been a little different. NHS and medical workers in particular… not to mentioned the race to finalize to legislate an EU trade for the UK, covering post-Brexit transition period rules.

Yes it has been busy for a few, but the rest of us? Finishing mince pies, the leftover turkey and trying to walk it all off with COVID safe trails has been the order of the day.

With the year now about to start, now is a good time to think about the year ahead. I have always enjoyed new year predictions. Last year these ranged from startlingly accurate to ones that were just plain more fun (those for 2021 are here).

So, with no pretensions of being correct, here are some additional predictions, for 2021. A couple outlandish and couple I hope are wrong already…!

  • COVID pandemic continues: Despite optimism with news vaccines, challenges with supply chains, medical staffing levels, and a constantly evolving virus will mean we do not return to our previous normality this year. Whilst there will be a respite in the summer, our current 2020 reality will largely be our new reality. Our infrastructure, business environment, and social structures will all continue to adapt, meaning we will manage better this year than last, but there will be a fundamental shift to new ways of doing things…. redesign your business for the new reality today (and book a summer holiday)
  • Increasing Unemployment: As the effects from the pandemic become embedded and lengthened, stimulus support will wain and unemployment will rise. Hospitality and travel have been hard hit it the first wave, and they will likely be now quick to adapt and bounce back in modified forms. Financial services, and public sector, largely unscathed to now, will however feel further deeper impacts in 2021, with increased credit losses and spending cuts impacting these businesses… time to think, transformation and reengineering
  • Call Centres, a new dawn: Despite the focus on digital and integration, the need for human contact will never be greater. Human to human contact will be seen to be irreplaceable. We may even see the regulator stepping in with more recommendations, driven by case examples and discussion papers…. optimise blending digital with human interaction, solve for the best customer outcome
  • More political turmoil: With such dramatic change in 2020, seemingly now settled, we would expect a quieter 2021. Not so. The UK will continue to have mini deals with the EU throughout the year. There will be continued points of division and effects from the new deal ripple through the economy. The current UK PM will step down, touting ‘job done’, only being replaced by a candidate that splits the party and results in a new general election. The Vice President could also become President in the USA too. We need to wait until 2022 for things to settle here… keep our heads down, keep up to date on changes and stay ahead
  • Cyber Attack: There has been increasingly cyber fraud and hacking activity visible throughout 2020 (with the SolarWinds compromise causing particular concern). A wide-scale, infrastructure-related, attack is likely forcing another ‘black swan’ event on the global economy (and crashing markets)… grab your tin foil hat and make sure you have a plan for long-tail risks

So, some of these are outlandish, and hopefully some (most) are wrong. They do not seem very optimistic in what we hope is a better year than 2020.

“Plan for the worse, hope for the best” is a good motto here. Most of these are plannable and therefore manageable to mitigate risks. This would be in stark contrast to last year.

On balance 2021 will likely be just fine. With the help of friends, family and colleagues we will be alright. We will learn new skills and fine new enjoyment in unexpected places… this certainly happened in 2020 and there is no reason it cannot happen this year, no matter what happens.

All the best for 2021….