Telemedicine, remote everything, AI-as-a-Service, hyper-personalized medicine, total experience strategy, distributed cloud… 2020 was undoubtedly characterized by emerging technology breakthrough, organizational-wide modernization, and industry disruption.

Companies went remote overnight, invented new service offerings to address new demand, flipped their tech stacks in a matter of days, not years. The pace of speed and change was staggering.

But what will 2021 bring on the innovation front? While analysts and industry pundits all over the globe are throwing predictions in the ring, as a Rhode Island-based technology and advisory services firm, we wanted to check in with leaders right in our own backyard to get their predictions.

Check out a few of their predictions below:


Rajani Mahadevan, Chief Operating Officer, The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company

“In any other year, I might have extrapolated prior year trends and added in one or two macro changes to predict the path forward. Well, COVID-19 has pretty much changed EVERYTHING. 2020 has taught us that agility and the flexibility to pivot will be key factors in shaping technology strategies going forward. Digital capabilities will have a higher rate of adoption and increased appetite, especially those that enable virtual collaboration, maximize customer experience, intimacy and engagement. Cybersecurity tools and techniques will need a broader reach across a wider range of vulnerabilities propagated by an expanded work-from-anywhere workforce. Maximum transformation and innovation is expected to occur in technologies associated with core operational processes and growth strategies to adapt to this ‘new norm’ that businesses find themselves in. All in all, COVID-19 can be considered a ‘disruptor’ of a different kind and will shape and modify technology strategies across the globe.”


John Galvin, CEO, AAA Northeast

“As a 119-year-old membership organization, AAA has a long history of evolving and adapting to the world around us, always coming back to our center: the member. Now, more than ever, we’re making even greater efforts to meet members where they are. We’ve created easier and faster ways for members to request roadside assistance digitally; offer virtual events with travel agents; manage the flow of people in our branches with a new online reservation system; and continue to leverage data to make informed decisions. While 2020 reminded us that it’s difficult to predict what’s next, throughout 2021 I expect companies to carry on with remote work options for employees, develop shared experiences for their customers, and, like AAA, continue to drive progress and growth throughout the communities in which we live and work.”



Cortney M. Nicolato, President & CEO, United Way of Rhode Island

“I have been in awe of the incredible ways that technology has enabled our ability to continue to make an impact through this challenging time. Nonprofit organizations pivoted quickly and used technology as a conduit to support clients and expand their programs. That said, we also know that technology has often brought inequities for many of our lower-income community members. We must ensure that everyone has access to quality wifi and devices so that no one is left out. The status quo isn’t working for far too many of our neighbors, so disruption is critical right now. I see Rhode Islanders yearning for change and I am seeing countless leaders coming together to make that change happen. Regarding innovation, COVID has set innovation in the fast lane and I expect that that momentum will continue. COVID showed us the power when a community rolls up its sleeves to tackle the hard stuff. Our community needs all of us, now more than ever.”



Steve Duvel, Sr. Vice President, New England Division, Gilbane Building Company

“While the pandemic presented us with so many challenges, it has provided us with powerful lessons on new ways to move our businesses forward through innovation, virtual collaboration tools, and technology. With increased development and adoption of easy-to-use virtual collaboration platforms like Mural, a multi-user web-based whiteboard, and large group meeting platforms like Remo, our teams were able to collaborate in meaningful and unprecedented ways. While COVID-19 posed real potential threats to congregating in groups, the feasibility of doing our work more safely and remotely became conceivable with the implementation of new technology and the use of robotics in the construction process. Similarly, drones took on a larger role with survey capabilities of construction sites while advancing capabilities with 3D/4D estimating and scheduling programs allowed a deeper understanding of project challenges and opportunities to our clients and project teams. I can’t imagine that we can ever turn back the clock on these innovations, while all of us would like to turn the clock back on COVID.”



Ryan J. Mitchner, Higher Education Director

“In 2021, you are going to see a lot of entities that are really going to be living on the edge. Ideas that were presented 12 months ago that might have been viewed as far-fetched are now going to be well-received and effective. In higher education, in particular, you will see relationships form between small businesses and colleges that you wouldn’t have seen a year ago. Higher education will be able to step in and be a conduit between unemployed and underemployed workers and figure out the next best thing for candidates as we continue to move through the pandemic. On the technology side, we will see a continued increased use and dependency on technology. When COVID-19 first hit, students had to get comfortable with online learning while the educational institution had to get comfortable with delivering online education. This year, we will see an increased level of exposure and comfort with technology, and the result of that is going to be we will continue to find creative ways to deliver education.”



Christina Perfetti, Senior Assistant Vice President in Enterprise Data Solutions, Amica

“Technology evolves quickly. With the pandemic and social distancing continuing, customers have become even more accustomed to things being available at the touch of a button. Yet, they still crave the feeling of personal service. Within our industry, I foresee data-driven personalization achieving both of these objectives. By using cutting-edge technology and knowing what matters most to our customers, we’ll continue to push the envelope to create value for them and make their lives easier than ever before.”





Ross Nelson, Vice President, Cox Business

“Cloud Solutions have been here for a while, but this pandemic has put their adoption into high gear. This brings with it tremendous flexibility, mobility and if implemented correctly, security. As people move further from the work space, I worry about culture. Building culture with new employees and maintaining culture with existing employees. In many cases the corporate culture is the secret sauce to their success. We need to adapt as leaders to increase our “video-presence” to make sure our employees are physically and mentally well. The old phrase “Working from Home” is now ‘Living at Work.'”





Leiyina Tavarez, Vice President, Sales & Service Coach, Webster Bank

“The pandemic totally accelerated emerging technology, collaboration and digital innovation. In banking alone, the digital adoption is said to have moved ahead five years in the first eight weeks of the pandemic. Consumer preferences are changing and having convenient options to service their needs will be more important than ever before. I believe this acceleration curve will only continue in 2021, making the adopted technologies normal options for consumers across the board.”






Tuni Shartner, Executive Director of District Hall & Venture Cafe Providence, VP Ecosystem Development for Innovation Studio

“We have witnessed a fundamental shift in how we work and convene, but through that, the pathways to innovation and creation have opened up even more. At District Hall/Venture Cafe Providence, for example, we have been able to hold over 200 virtual programs and events, connect more with our global affiliates as well as subject matter experts from around the world, and continue to bring programming around the blue/green economy, medtech, robotics, offshore wind, and emerging technology to a much larger audience than was possible pre-pandemic. I have always believed innovation is, and needs to be, for everyone. In 2021, I think we will see more of a democratization of innovation and entrepreneurship in large part thanks to the surge of emerging technologies, powerful tech integrations, and continued education and awareness of the impact technology can have on our businesses and communities. This year, I believe Rhode Island will emerge as an even stronger force in conversations surrounding business modernization and innovation.”



Kathleen Malin, VP of Technology, Rhode Island Foundation

“In philanthropy, any time we can use innovative ideas to streamline what we are doing and save money with efficiencies, we can free up more funding to go directly out to the community and help people. The entire philanthropic technology field is focused on this concept of embracing change for good. There are a lot of things we are looking at including power automate for more efficient tasks and processes, or using natural language AI for answering routine questions. We are in a lot of ways a customer focused business and looking at ways we can improve our service that will allow us to better assist our ultimate customers, generous donors responding to the community’s needs and nonprofits who are facing some unprecedented challenges right now. Like everyone, in 2020 we were forced to change the way we worked very dramatically. There is power in recognizing we had the resources and will to innovate rapidly. What people could once plan to do over years, they were forced to do in just a few months because of the pandemic. We will accelerate moving forward because this gave us confidence in our ability to adapt, change, and innovate.”



Randall Jackvony, Senior Director of IT, Rhode Island Medical Imaging, Inc.

“Many organizations adapted with impressive agility to during the pandemic. But there is still so much uncertainty and many will struggle on how to adapt and when. Smart companies will continue to make IT part of key decisions as they increasingly did in 2020. We also need to cast a critical eye on changes to make permanent and those to abandon. Successful use of technology will balance convenience, efficiency and, when possible, leverage the pent up demand for human interaction. If we fail, staff and customers will vote with their feet.”





How will emerging technology shape 2021? What innovation is headed our way? We would love to know your predictions. Drop me a note here to be included in an upcoming blog or spotlight piece.