When Covid-19 took hold at the beginning of 2020, it’s fair to say that very few had anticipated the impact it would have on the world. Practically overnight, governments issued orders and lockdowns that limited large gatherings, restricted indoor business operations and encouraged people to work from home where they could.
Since then, software companies have needed to find, implement and adapt to new ways of working that would enable them to continue operations remotely – and technology has been at the forefront.
But how exactly has Covid changed the technology landscape, and what can we expect to see in the future?
Greater digital adoption
The emergence of Covid-19 has brought about years of change in the way we do business, in an extremely short period. Even prior to the pandemic, technology was hugely important to software companies, but it wasn’t being adopted to its full potential by many. Now, in new research by McKinsey, it has been found that businesses have accelerated the digitalisation of their customer and supply chain interactions, as well as their internal operations, by three to four years.
The lack of ability to gather as a team required almost all of our family of companies to implement new ways for their teams to communicate, collaborate and complete work whilst working remotely. At the same time, consumers have expressed much greater interest in contact-limited services and operations too.
With preference for online channels on the upturn, all industries have had to respond in one way or another. Results from McKinsey’s survey suggest that the share of digital or digitally-enabled products or services that have been developed has jumped by seven years, with significant increases across healthcare, pharmaceutical, financial services and professional service industries.
Aside from product and service portfolios, similar accelerations have also occurred around the digitisation of internal operations, including back-office, supply chain interactions, production and R&D processes.
Employee and customer experiences
A huge number of us have worked at home for the entire duration of our local lockdowns; some still are now, even as we begin to look at opening up the world again. At the start of it all, we were thrown into the deep end and forced to turn to technology through collaborative platforms and video conferencing tools to maintain a positive digital experience for employees. In fact, levels of remote working that would normally have taken more than a year to implement took an average of just 11 days during the pandemic.
Similarly, our family of software companies have also had to pay attention to the ease at which customers can interact with them, as the switch to offerings that promote health, hygiene and mental wellbeing increased. It wasn’t Covid-19 that brought about the demand for online purchasing or services, but more so, increased it tenfold. With those that are pushing towards communicating their brand digitally, there is now growing pressure to prioritise and nail the shopping and conversion experience if they wish to grow.
Investment in cybersecurity
The critical natural of cybersecurity has been made explicit during the shift to digitisation. With much greater emphasis on working and interacting with employees and customers remotely, investments to keep that information secure have become a prime concern.
According to IBM’s ‘2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report’, it takes an average of 280 days to identify and contain a data breach, leaving criminals plenty of time to wreak havoc. It also costs companies an average of £3.86 million, with healthcare coming out as the most lucrative industry. What’s more, Cybersecurity Ventures are estimating that cybercrime could hit $6 trillion annually in 2021.
During the pandemic, the priority for cybersecurity has shifted from providing ad hoc support and maintaining internal networks, to empowering the remote workforce. By combining investments in online infrastructure (such as virtual private networks (VPN) and cloud software) with training for employees, companies in the software industry have been able to protect themselves from scams and attacks.
Increased use of automation
The fewer processes that have to be handled directly by employees, the easier it is to create positive and safe experiences for customers. Automation has enabled exactly that.
Many software companies had already begun to harness the power of automation, but there were still plenty remaining who have now been positively forced to do the same. Those who take advantage of the technology can manage all manner of tasks and behind-the-scenes processes, including:
A way to drive innovation
To remain competitive in this new business and economic environment, software companies need to stop viewing technology as just a means to cost-efficiencies. Instead, it needs to be seen as an efficient way of freeing up time for employees to focus on other tasks that can’t be handled or completed as effectively by automated processes. It will provide a huge opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over those in the industry who will ignore the possibilities; all have the chance to innovate, adapt and push unique ways of engaging with customers and meeting their needs.
Even in the education sector, where students were limited to remote classes for several months, huge steps have been made to enable flexible learning. This opens the door for further adaptation in the future, even potentially for those who might have struggled before with pursuing their desired paths.
Onwards and upwards
As we look towards what will hopefully be a long-term managing of the pandemic in the months ahead, it is expected that the digital transformation will continue. Since software companies were forced to eliminate or overcome many of the barriers that once stood in the way of digital adoption, it will be much easier to maintain for the future. Some of the biggest changes are among the most likely to stick in the long term, including a significant increase in employees working from home, as well as a move towards greater remote interaction with customers.
For all of its many, many downfalls, Covid-19 has given the software industry an almighty boost up the ladder of digital transformation. How we all capitalise on the opportunities it affords will determine the long-term winners and losers.