COVID-19 and the Software Engineering Industry

Poole Software employee wearing a Christmas jumper

It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at Poole Software Limited. That must mean one thing, the year is almost over, and what a year!

People say, 2020 has been a year to forget. To some extent I agree, for obvious reasons of course, but personally, I would not be so quick to forget it. Yes, it has been a difficult year for many people, including us, but there are so many lessons to learn from it, that we would be amiss if we just put it behind us and never looked back.

My perspective of course comes from the software development industry, but not only. I have a perspective on how families have been affected and the lessons we learnt there. Also, other areas of life and wellbeing. But in this post, I want to concentrate on my take from this year as far as the software development industry is concerned and the lessons that we at Poole Software Limited have learnt through it all.

COVID-19 strikes

The year started very promising. We were all watching China from what seemed like a far away and safe place, but it very soon got to us. As we were watching it from what seemed like a safe place, I feel we missed the alarm bells and got caught napping a bit. The response was slow and that is one lesson we will be taking from this year. It has been said “the world is a small place” and COVID-19 proved the veracity of that statement like nothing else could. The world indeed is a very small place and things get round quick, surprisingly quick. The “stay alert” message will stay with us, pandemic or not, in business staying alert to global events is a must.

Impact on us

One of our key customers is Copperchase Limited who are a global supplier to the Air-Traffic Control industry. As air travel halted to an almost abrupt stop, they were receiving memos from distressed airports with bad news. In turn that affected the volume of work we were getting from them. But on the other hand, our customers in the fleet management industry were doing well as they were trying to ensure that all the key services are on the road and meeting the needs of the nation as we were all going through the pandemic. Another precious lesson we took away from this dark time is that diversifying is a must. Concentrating on just one industry or sector is risky, and if we had concentrated solely on the air-traffic industry, we would not be here today. And in fact, there are many sole traders and small start-ups that have sadly not survived the storm, purely because of lack of diversification. Our aim going forward is to establish ourselves in at least three different markets by ensuring that our services are second to none.

Impact on others

As I was speaking with other software development houses in the area, it was clear to me that the impact was quite wide-spread and went quite deep. I was surprised to learn how many people had to take advantage of the Bounce-Back Loan. And going back to the diversification issues, I was talking to a local software development house who are quite heavily vested into the public sector. They were raving about how buoyant the public sector has stayed during the whole period. On one hand, you could say, “yes, of course, they have the money printing machine, so they are alright”, but on the other hand, because they were alright, this company was looking to employ more software developers to meet the demand the public sector was putting on them. That can only be a good thing. So, another important lesson for us and for other software development houses out there, is that the public sector is a good friend to have when you are in need. Just need to make sure you are not completely dependent on them. It is good to see the public sector spending during difficult times, the hope is that, it will rein the spending back in again when the times get better.

The wider impact

During my time as a software engineering manager, I came across policies where working from home was not being encouraged that much, until that is it became necessary. Many of my personal friends working in other industries, were on furlough and enjoying some time off. As a software engineer, I did not have that privilege. Software engineering can be done from home, and much more so, as I found during this pandemic. I and many other software developers like me have enjoyed working from home during this time, so I can only hope that the sentiment towards working from home has changed for good.

Overall, though, many businesses, especially the high street, have woken up to the need for them to have an online presence. Also, to the need of more remote work and remote collaboration between employees. That alone has exerted a great load of work onto the wider IT services providers across the UK and the world. Software development service providers like ourselves are likely to be busy for some time to come.

Conclusion

As things stand at the moment, December 2020, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter for the bespoke software development industry. The score may be (Poole Software 1 : 1 COVID-19) for now, but I am confident that come early 2021, we will be 2:1 up and away. The main lesson for us is to save money during the good times. Funny how the difficult times may change, yet the basic business principles don’t. There is a lot of rebuilding about to start in the new year. Rebuilding of IT Infrastructures, Business Applications, Online Presences, and so on. It does look busy. Onwards and upwards!

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

10 December 2020 | Andrei Bazanov
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