Sabine Ocker, Comtech Services
January 1, 2021


2020 turned out to be a most singular year. We have experienced uncertainty, challenges, and personal and professional stressors. Many aspects of our working lives have shifted and changed in profound ways. Although there’s no way to guess what 2021 will bring, I’ve been contemplating a few of the more impactful changes that have left me wondering what to expect this year.

Projects on hold

In March when the initial pandemic lockdown went into place, many of our clients found their project funding put on hold. Tool purchase projects. Training projects. Taxonomy development projects. Nine months later, some projects are moving forward again, but plenty are not.

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • Will we need to revisit our business case or requirements for these projects when and if the funding is stored because a year will have gone by?
  • Will we need additional criteria for green-lighting projects going forward?
  • What % of projects will ultimately never get their funding restored?
  • Will all short-term band-aids we put into place become permanent?

Inclusion and accessibility

Technology has enabled users of all abilities access to information in many different environments and contexts. Sometimes this access is dependent upon circumstances beyond the user’s control—like working in a public space where internet connectivity is limited, there is a lot of background noise, or it would be disruptive to listen to audio. In 2019, I didn’t hear much about the need for inclusivity, but in 2020, every conference I attended dedicated some portion to a discussion of accessibility and the need for mindfulness around the range of users, their variable abilities, environments, situations, and contexts.

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • Will we continue to evolve our user experience practices focusing more on these areas?
  • Will we change the words we use in our content to eliminate insensitive expressions like master/slave or white hat/black hat hackers?
  • Since more of us are working from home, what will be the long-term impact to accessibility in the products we make, document and use?

Travel cessation

2020 brought travel at Comtech to a grinding halt, and we aren’t the only ones. According to Statista, business travel revenue is down 63% worldwide, and nearly 40% is expected to never bounce back. What does that mean for our community if we can’t connect face-to-face? Zoom works as a means to conduct business, but not so much to build meaningful relationships. Or are we just still adjusting?

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • Will the necessity to replace face-to-face meetings lead to more innovations in virtual meeting platforms?
  • What happens to the soft-benefits frequent travelers get—loyalty programs, hotel upgrades and the like? Does that impact our willingness to travel for business if we no longer have these benefits?
  • Will we feel comfortable traveling by plane for essential engagements? How will we determine what is essential?

Online training and virtual conferences

This one has hit me the hardest of all the changes last year. I love the energy and buzz at a conference. I love being able to adapt in response to a student’s learning style, and I miss being able to jump to the whiteboard to draw a visual illustration. ConVEx, CIDM Best Practices, LavaCon, Confab, and tcworld all shifted to online. One thing is certain, we’ll need to continue to iterate and evolve as we learn more what measures success for a virtual event.

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • If virtual trainings are just as effective, will we ever go back to in-person training again?
  • Can consulting companies prosper from virtual conferences and trainings?
  • What does lead-generation for vendors look like at a virtual conference?

Workforce changes

So many changes. We hear about lay-offs, hires, and new contract workers happening in our client companies nearly every week. It’s been hard to hear of tales of the unintended negative consequences of hiring contract workers, and harder to say good-bye to old friends.

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • Will 2021 bring an avalanche of hiring?
  • What will be the long-term impact on companies who laid off senior personnel and managers?
  • Can we make up for lost ground?

Collaborative tools

Since we’re all remote workers now, the way in which we collaborate on deliverables, projects, and even content creation has had to evolve. I wish I had bought stock in Slack, Trello, or Zoom at the beginning of 2020! I am looking forward to what innovations in existing tools will look like this year.

Questions for the crystal ball:

  • Will the physical distance between us lead to stronger communications and collaborations?
  • Is virtual collaboration harder on introverts?
  • How will changes to the way we work together impact the timelines of our deliverables and processes?


No matter what 2021 will bring, one thing is certain, we will rise to meet the challenges, and embrace the opportunities.