The 100 People Transforming Business series showcases leaders driving innovation in enterprise technology

  • Digital transformation has long been the goal for companies wanting to stay competitive, particularly as applications of artificial intelligence (AI) have proliferated. 
  • Enterprise technology entered a whole new phase unexpectedly with the global pandemic, leading to a proliferation of working-from-home solutions.
  • AI continues to underpin enterprise technology transformation, in everything from semiconductors to collaboration tools. 
  • 100 People Transforming Business is an annual list and series highlighting those across industries who are changing the way the world does business. Check out the full list for 2020.

For years digital transformation has been one of the most consistent themes of enterprise tech, as companies across every industry begin the long slog toward modernizing their IT and their businesses.

When the coronavirus crisis upended the world, that plodding transition revved to warp speed. Companies that barely had an online presence had to shift their operations online nearly overnight.

“We will see five years of growth during 2020,” says Diya Jolly, chief product officer of identity-management company Okta, and one of Business Insider’s people transforming the enterprise technology business in 2020.

The enterprise tech trends of 2020 may be similar to what they’ve been for years, but now they’re progressing much faster than anyone could have predicted. With companies forced to adapt to widespread remote work and closed storefronts, there’s enormous movement toward cloud computing, digital-collaboration software, and relying on big data and artificial intelligence to shape business decisions.

This year’s enterprise tech transformers list celebrates the people leading the charge in these areas. As other industries have suffered from widespread layoffs and lost business, enterprise tech companies have, by and large, thrived. 

Enabling the new workplace — anywhere you are

Three startups led by execs featured on this list, Figma, Notion, and Canva, managed to raise hundreds of millions in fresh funding at multibillion-dollar valuations during the height of the crisis. Unsurprisingly, all three sell tools that help customers keep their employees productive even when everyone’s working remotely. 

Videoconferencing platform Zoom became a lifeline for corporate workers and regular consumers alike, and, as employees suddenly have less oversight than, cybersecurity firms like Okta, Cloudflare, and Red Points have never been more critical to helping companies protect sensitive data and keep their sites running.

“The true heroes are the first responders of medicine, but the internet may be a trusty sidekick,” Cloudflare COO and cofounder Michelle Zatlyn said. “If that’s where we can help, we’re on it.”

But this year’s list isn’t all about software. The Asia and Europe lists focus on hardware, including a slew of companies focused on semiconductors — such as Graphcore, ASML, and Arm — that all had banner years. 

While each has its specialty, there’s one current that runs through them: They’re working on technology that’s tailor-made for artificial-intelligence applications. A host of companies on this list will benefit from their eventual improvements as well. AI is one of the No. 1 priorities for startups like Celonis and tech giants like Amazon alike.

The pandemic has fueled an entirely new enterprise-tech category: Microsoft and Salesforce have both launched a suite of tools to help businesses return to the office. As Salesforce COO Bret Taylor explains it, the company endeavored to “help every community and every business reopen safely.”

In the same way that Taylor sees Salesforce being in a position to help mold this “all-digital, work anywhere economy,” all the people on this list are at the forefront of that sea change and have the opportunity to radically reimagine what the future of work could look like. 

As the pandemic has proved that companies don’t necessarily need their employees to commute into a physical office, the idea of a hybrid workforce has gained steam, bringing increased demand for all the many tools that make it possible.

Activism and tech purpose

But the paradigm shifters on this list are doing more than just rethinking business tools. One of this year’s Transformers, Jacinta Gonzalez, of the immigrant-rights organization Mijente, says that even in the pandemic, tech workers have sustained a level of political activism and willingness to stand up for their beliefs that gives her hope for a more self-aware Silicon Valley and tech industry.

“We are at a critical time where people are asking a lot of questions around how tech is being used,” she said.

While more scrutiny of powerful tech platforms won’t bring anyone gobs of revenue in the same way that new cloud software may, the societal ripples could be the most transformative change of all.

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