Published 10 Feb 2021

The Coronavirus outbreak has created an unprecedented disruption to businesses across the globe, impacting customers and supply chains in all industries. The IT sector is no exception and, while contingency plans are always in place, the fast-moving and largely unpredictable effects of the pandemic have still presented challenges. The immediate impact of the crisis has mainly been damaging; aspects of the industry such as the supply of raw materials have been the most acutely affected. Despite this, there may be opportunities to brighten the future of the technology sector if adaptations can be made swiftly.

After almost a year of living under new Covid restrictions, it has become clearer to see the extent to which the pandemic and the necessary constraints imposed by it have effected the IT industry. Depression and difficulty have been most evident in the departments of manufacturing with the pandemic restricting the supply of materials. In the first instance, raw materials such as aluminium and copper have been affected by the reduction in global shipping with delays in delivery increasing by close to a quarter. Factories in Asia are beginning to reopen but are experiencing challenges in getting production running to full capacity which is affecting the distribution of products such as smartphones. This has precipitated a decrease in consumer confidence as mobile phone uses with contracts are choosing to defer replacing their devices. Strategy departments have felt the strain too due to the difficulty in predicting the developments of the virus have struggled to compose concrete plans for the mid-to-long term. Reduced participation in customer interactions, depleted ability to host internal meetings and cancellations of external events have all contributed to a slowing of overseas consumption of tech market products, especially hardware. 

Ultimately and possibly most concerningly, these economic downturns precipitated by the virus have had an effect on the workforces within IT. Prolonged blights to organisations' coffers could lead to companies considering significant budget cuts placing both full-time and gig jobs in danger. A slowdown in recruitment could affect the pipeline of skilled workers awaiting future employment.

But it is not all doom and gloom, for where the manufacturing sectors of the industry have lost, other areas have gained. The unpredictability of supply chains has provoked an increase in the software sector and, with the world working from home, developers and producers of telecommunication software have enjoyed swathes of new customers from a range of markets needing to connect their offices in a virtual capacity. Security software will see benefits from a growing remote workforce. Spending on security software will increase as organisations look to establish themselves on cloud-based platforms and with VPNs. In fact, forecasts indicate continued demand for cloud infrastructure services and potential increases in spending on specialised software as organisations encourage employees to work from home and schools move to online teaching. Hardware companies, too, may see demands coming from enterprises who are placing large orders for laptops and mobile devices to facilitate their workforces' moves to remote-working. 

Moreover, IT departments will play a larger role in future business continuity plans and will need help from service providers in procuring devices, setting up resilient, flexible and secure networks, disaster recovery systems and IT security. While Covid continues to delay and damage industry, IT can learn from the experiences, evaluate their performance and build contingency plans for the future around their findings, setting the sector up for a bright future. Once the aforementioned hurdles have been traversed, the chances for IT to become a world-leading industry will present themselves.

The IT industry has weathered past crises with unique creativity and innovation that has often paved the way for other sectors to follow suit and, in the case of the Coronavirus pandemic, it will likely be no different. From remote-working to a globally dispersed supply chain to managing through disruption, the industry is likely to find ways to respond, recover and thrive as innovatively as ever.