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Business climate stabilising for tech companies following COVID crisis - report

The business climate is seeing signs of recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, with a new survey of technology companies by CompTIA suggesting the environment is stabilising. 

The survey shows technology companies are continuing to see customer interest in cybersecurity, cloud computing and other areas.

The percentage of tech firms that reported receiving new customers inquiries and business opportunities was 84% in June and 83% in April, up from 76% in March.

“There remains much uncertainty about the pandemic’s impact moving forward, but it’s a hopeful sign that technology is viewed as a solution to help businesses navigate through these uncertain times,” says Nancy Hammervik, executive vice president for industry relations at CompTIA.

Customers are most interested in cybersecurity-related products and services (cited by 42% of tech firms surveyed), shifting on-premise infrastructure or applications to the cloud (42%), managed and outsourced IT services (40%), and general consulting help on how to “go virtual” (40%).

Another potentially positive indicator in the survey results is in the area of staffing. The percentage of companies that reported making staffing changes has levelled off – 56% in June compared to 58% in the last survey. Among firms that have acted:

·         25% postponed interviewing and recruiting for new positions (32% in April)

·         18% cut back on hours of full or part-time staff (21%)

·         14% laid off contractors or suspended their work (18%)

·         14% hired new staff to support increased customer demand in areas such as remote work support and cybersecurity (13%)

·         13% laid off full or part-time staff (17%)

“Companies also reported taking positive steps in training employees in technical areas such as cybersecurity, networking, programming and tech support, as well as in ‘soft skill’ areas like communications and customer service,” explains Amy Carrado, senior director for research and market intelligence at CompTIA.

“Taking advantage of any downtime in business activity to upskill employees is likely to pay off for these firms as customer engagements increase.”

CompTIA surveyed 231 executives from its member advisory councils and communities on how their companies have been impacted by COVID-19The latest survey, conducted between June 1 and 5, is the third monthly member poll since the pandemic caused disruptions to life and business.

In the June survey 52% of executives are feeling optimistic, 42% are hanging in there and 6% are hurting and in a difficult situation. These results are virtually unchanged from the previous survey.

A large majority of companies (84%) have been impacted by the pandemic. The most common scenarios include the cancellation or postponement of orders by some customers (58% of firms, unchanged from late April), or customers requesting a restructuring of contract or payment terms (46%, up slightly from 41%).

Companies are nearly unanimous (94%) in their belief that their business will change for the long term. The most frequently cited change is allowing more employees to continue to work remotely (65% of respondents). Other anticipated shifts include relying more on social and digital marketing rather than traditional methods (48%) and permanently reducing business travel (47%).

Some of these actions are being implemented now, at least according to comments provided by survey respondents. For example:

·         “Performing online meetings versus in-person. Alternating in-office/remote workers to maximize social distancing.”

·         “Restructuring information protection agreements to allow remote work.”

·         “Leveraging more cloud solutions to support the customer.”

·         “Trying to work with customers to support them as much as possible with payment holidays, credits etc.”

·         “… Taking advantage of every piece of government support to ensure that our cashflow isn't squeezed.”

Among U.S. companies surveyed 44% have applied for a Payment Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration. Managed service providers and technology solutions providers accounted for about three-quarters of the companies surveyed that sought financial assistance from the federal government.