June 16, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has strained governments, industries, and people alike. We’re still trying to assess the damages, analyze strengths and weaknesses, and grasp the situation in its entirety. If anything is clear, it’s that the ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances will prove to be the most valuable business asset in the year 2020 and moving forward.
A business’s ability to pivot and meet the changing needs of the market seems to be directly related to their success. Some industries, with less flexibility in their offers, face more difficulties than others. Hotel and hospitality industries got hit hard, with high employee lay off numbers and almost rock bottom room occupancy rates.
The purpose of this post is to offer a brief reflection on the impact COVID-19 has had on the software development community both globally and within our own organization. We’ll take a look at changes to workflow, opportunities, company culture, and more.
Being prepared to weather revenue fluctuations, employee turnover, structure changes, and other known obstacles is simply a part of good business strategy. But if you venture into most company’s emergency “playbooks” it’s doubtful you’ll find any chapters on natural disasters or viral pandemics. Even a more probable issue like long-term office closure has caught most by surprise.
As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.— Tobi Lutke 🌳🌲🛒🕹 (@tobi) May 21, 2020
In this aspect, software development has an advantage: the ability to work remotely without sacrificing efficiency. Most people in the industry already have experience working from home or at least cooperating with remote team members. Monterail had already adopted a remote-first approach before the pandemic effectively cleared out offices around the globe.
So when it came to telecommuting, to say that most software developers had already dipped their toes in the water would be an understatement. Sure, everyone was caught off guard when COVID19 emptied offices, effectively throwing us into the remote office equivalent of an Olympic 50m freestyle race. But at least we already knew our way around the swimming pool.
Previous experience has shown us what tools we need to utilize for remote work. The likes of which include: Slack, Jira, Trello, G Suite… the list goes on, pick your poison.
All these tools are commonplace in software development, SaaS, and IT companies. For interoffice cooperation, they have the benefit of working in sprints, organizing tasks, tracking time, and breaking down information silos. However, when it comes to working with remote employees they become essential to even the most basic level of communication and organization.
It’s difficult to quantify how much of an advantage this provides but it’s clear that previously embracing remote work helped ease the transition to a fully remote workforce.
It’s a natural reaction for companies to tighten the purse strings during an economic downturn. So it came as no surprise that new app projects, concept development, and even updates had been put on hold during these times of uncertainty.
One way to mitigate a decrease in new business is to focus on existing clients. After all, we’re all going through it together and this means their apps, websites, and services need new features to adapt to the current situation as well.
It became clear that although companies were hesitant to start new projects, there was work to be done adapting existing products.
An example of this is Monterail’s nearly same-day delivery of changes to Pizza Hut’s website. In the midst of their own pivot, restaurants were shutting down inside seating, facing a delivery only future. Social distancing mandates added to the complexity of the situation. Delivering pizza was nothing new, but doing it without contacting any customers, was. With delivery becoming the main revenue source almost overnight a solution had to be found quickly.
Food delivery is up. Are you going to move a sandwich with a 4,000 lb vehicle that has to find parking? pic.twitter.com/fwwJvHA3Hb— Micromobility Industries (@MicromobilityCo) August 2, 2020
In five hours we had updated the website’s content and checkout system in Poland in order to implement contact-free delivery and prepare the customers for the unique experience.
In a case of “get in the back seat marketing, customer success is taking the wheel” software development companies may see attention shifting from client acquisition to customer nurturement.
The pandemic affects every industry individually. Here’s a list of the top ten job types hit hardest by COVID-19:
All these sectors have offers that are very difficult to pivot within social distancing constraints. For the most part, they rely on customers coming to a static, physical location to spend their money.
On the other hand, services and products that deliver goods or allow employees to work from their homes have seen an increase in popularity. Video conferencing products like Zoom have seen a dramatic boost in profits.
A video streaming service is better positioned than an amusement park to offer customers an at-home experience. There’s space, however, between these two polarities for companies to change their mode of operations — as we mentioned in the pivot section.
Q2 2020 marked the turning point where Uber's delivery demand exceeded rides. Source
The impact COVID-19 has on different industries is multifaceted and complex. It seems logical, for example, that MedTech would emerge favorably from the pandemic. Providing remote care keeps patients and doctors safe while providing a huge convenience factor for both parties. However, financial uncertainty for health systems, extraordinarily high call volumes, limited capabilities, and more and more people losing their health benefits along with jobs creates a climate of uncertainty for the sector.
As restrictions are reduced we see economies begin to “unfreeze” and hopefully with that interest in starting new software development projects will normalize again. In the meantime, some companies can take advantage of the opportunity to focus on internal development. Website updates, new marketing plans, employee development, and other projects put on the back burner during busy times can now get some attention.
Lessons learned from the pandemic will result in more flexible software development companies. Already, many companies have realized that an office is not a requirement of productivity and are adopting a new remote reality in 2020.