What does the IT landscape look like post-COVID-19?

Executive search IT
by Holly Burnett 21 August 2020

Now the dust has settled on the 'new normal' Crimson's Senior Appointments practice asked our community of tech leaders how IT departments will change post-Covid.

The future is flexible  

Flexible working

Just ten percent of respondents indicated that techies would be returning to the office to complete their regular working hours. The remaining ninety percent suggested flexible working will be on the agenda. YouGov research found that just one in four people want to go back to the office full-time post-pandemic. In a recent Evening Standard article, many FTSE 100 companies said they only have a small percentage of employees on-site and plan to introduce flexible working programmes to retain employees.

Flexible working considers both the individual's needs and the company's needs. The home/office hybrid alleviates concerns around the impact of no face to face contact (mental health, 'water-cooler moments', morale, training, feedback, and collaboration.)

There may be uncertainty but there is definitely new opportunity 

Redundancy

Although IT departments remained crucial to operations during the pandemic, as we enter recession, it's not surprising that over half of our respondents' plan on cutting back. Research obtained by the BBC in a Freedom of Information request showed 1,778 companies informed the Insolvency Service of their intention to cut more than 139,000 jobs in England, Scotland and Wales. Research by Sage identified that approximately sixty-two percent of (SMEs) in the UK are planning to, or have made, redundancies because of the outbreak.

Amongst the worst affected are Aviation, Retail, Hospitality, Energy and Manufacturing. Unemployment rates are soaring in the North East, London, Scotland, West Midlands and East Midlands. With Furlough set to end in October, organisations will have difficult decisions to make. CV-Library found that sixty-four percent of IT professionals are worried about losing their job during the pandemic. In a later poll, we see that half of our respondents' plan to outsource work.

Chris Butler, Senior Appointments Practice Lead, commented:

"There is a place for contractors, retained talent and organisations offering a service. Employers need talent on the payroll to help them transform. Organisations need contractors for short term projects, and companies may want to outsource specialist services such as Cyber Security."

Vicki Smith, Senior Appointments Researcher, commented:

"Businesses have reviewed their priorities, changed the way they operate or introduced new services to keep up with demand. The skill sets they need have changed, and they're re-visiting their staffing model."

Will the workload increase for retained employees?

Pre-pandemic, in January 2020, CV-Library found that four in ten UK IT professionals experienced burnout. Stress levels have risen during the pandemic, as IT professionals have battled to keep Britain working. Well-being initiatives are no longer nice to have; they're a must.

Could the nine percent that are recruiting be taking advantage of the recession and introducing new technologies to blow their conservative competitors out of the water? Here at Crimson, we've hired four technology professionals for our IT solutions business during the pandemic.

A growing number of new opportunities

WaveTrackeR reported a seventy-one percent drop in IT vacancies posted by recruitment consultancies in May. However, during July job posts, in general, have peaked to the highest they have been since lockdown began. During July, IT and Internet vacancies accounted for ten percent of jobs posted (making tech one of the top-performing industries) according to WaveTrackR.

We asked the team what roles they expect to see more of in the coming months...

  • Cloud
  • Infrastructure
  • Cyber Security
  • IT Helpdesk
  • Data and Analytics.

Video conferencing will continue

Team meetings

Just over half of our poll participants confirmed they would continue to host team meetings via video conference. A similar number of respondents said they planned to mix it up. We've seen updates on Microsoft Teams such as personalised backgrounds, but what about the future of video technology? Will some of the changes take away our grumbles?

Tech leaders are working with machine learning to transcribe audio, count attendees and score engagement from guests. AR and VR will give us an array of meeting spaces to explore with our 3D avatar. AI will detect who is speaking and remove background noise. Voice assistants will help us dial in, 5G will solve our connection problems, and ultra-high-definition will improve our experience.

Chris Butler, Senior Appointments Practice Lead, commented: "Meetings are difficult to facilitate when some participants are in the meeting room, and others are online. Whilst some chat through idea's over lunch; the video caller misses out."

Your team could be based all over the world

Abroad

The prospect of living abroad is suddenly more feasible post COVID, the price of a plane ticket vs a train ticket to London, a few times a month, doesn't sound too bad. The poll results show that IT leaders are open to it. Now the competition can recruit from anywhere, allowing employees to follow their heart could clinch a lifetime of loyalty. However, employers do need to seek legal and financial advice to help them navigate taxation and in some cases, local jurisdiction.

If you want to retain your IT budget you will need to justify it

IT budget

Almost 50 percent of respondents said their budget would decrease post-COVID. According to CIO.COM, Gartner and IDC have predicted that COVID will cause a global decrease in IT spending. Cloud Computing is one of the  only areas where growth is expected. The article goes on to say budgets could take three years to return to their 2019 state. Many IT departments have shifted priorities; Crimson's COVID impact report revealed that security, cloud, automation, and mobile apps would be key areas of focus for the remainder of 2020.

Chris Butler, Senior Appointments Practice Lead, commented: "For budgets to remain the same in a recession is testament to the importance of tech, it is as good as an increase in my eyes. The seventeen percent that plan to increase their budget are likely to be those that will be continuing with transformation projects, despite uncertainty." 

Check out our webinar on Digital Transformation in uncertain times.

You might be outsourcing more work

Digital Road Map

During the pandemic, some countries have struggled to provide their employees with the tools they need to work from home.

Computer Weekly infer that small offshore IT centres owned by western multinationals may be brought out or relocated to the UK. Popular locations such as India may be snubbed in favour of places like Poland because of their ability to deal with the pandemic and their proximity to the UK.

Outsourcing is a popular solution; you can access experts, quicker and cheaper. It also enables organisations to be agile. The 2020 UK IT Sourcing Study, conducted by Whitelane Research, concludes that more outsourcing is predicted for the UK, with sixty-six percent of respondents planning to outsource at the same rate or more. The financial service industry and manufacturing are expected to outsource the most. The study was conducted pre-COVID however, the reasoning ties in with what businesses are wanting to do post-COVID, i.e. transformation, cost savings and business continuity.

Many of the businesses Crimson work with outsource as well as in-source. In recent months we have seen an increase in the number of organisations looking to start hiring again. Crimson's COVID impact report, produced in May, reported that over one-quarter of the two hundred businesses surveyed we're planning to hire in the next three months.

The IT landscape is changing, but as businesses and individuals, we're adapting.

Contact chris.butler@crimson.co.uk for the latest market info, salary guidance, and help with your senior executive appointments.

Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner operating across the UK.

Topics: Digital Transformation, CIO, IT Jobs, Offshore IT, Staff retention, CTO, IT recruitment agency, IT strategy, IT and business goals, Covid-19, Coronavirus