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How did the Coronavirus crisis impact the software development industry?

The Coronavirus has shaken up almost every sector of the economy. All over the world, businesses are limiting operations or putting them on hold, and non-essential sectors are reporting money shortages and record unemployment levels. In this context, however, the IT sector seems to be thriving. As companies are advised to allow their employees to work from home, the need for IT services is getting higher, and the trends that we see emerging now will have a major impact on how software development evolves in the future.

For the most part, the Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t jeopardized the IT sector. On the contrary, it has helped it thrive because software has become instrumental in keeping businesses operational throughout this challenging period. However, that doesn’t mean that IT didn’t have its share of challenges to overcome. As it was the case with many other fields, changes had to be made to maintain efficiency while working remotely and address the needs of “the new normal.”

Tech conferences are getting canceled, but online events are booming.

Programming and software development conferences are essential for developers because they offer an opportunity to learn, share ideas, discuss new trends, and engage in networking. For 2020, devs looked forward to conferences such as DeveloperWeek (San Francisco), Google I/O (Mountain View), Facebook F8 (San Jose), and Apple WWDC (San Francisco). Needless to say, the Coronavirus has made it impossible for these long-awaited events to take place – in the traditional format, at least.

With strict social distancing rules in place, thousands of developers from all over the world couldn’t gather in the same venue anymore. But that doesn’t mean networking opportunities disappeared. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that there’s a digital equivalent for almost everything, and thus online events came forth. DeveloperWeek Global quickly converted to an online format, and it’s now the world’s largest virtual conference series, gathering over 15,000 developers.

Meanwhile, millions of people tuned in to watch Apple’s first online-only WWDC, an event that amazed everyone with its high production value. And, even if it took place online, developers got just as excited for Apple’s latest announcements.

Digitization makes the need for professional software development greater than ever.

The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our day-to-day life. Almost overnight, people had to change their lifestyles almost entirely. They couldn’t socialize the same way, shop the same way, or work the same way. Also almost overnight, individuals and businesses alike had to embrace digitization: people who had never used messaging apps before now signed up to stay in touch with friends and family. They also shopped more for groceries online and resorted to food delivery apps as a replacement for their favorite restaurants.

On the business side of things, more employees started working for home, which called for remote collaboration apps that could streamline communication in the virtual office. Also, many businesses had to hire a dedicated development team to facilitate the transition to online-only processes. For example, businesses that operated mostly in brick-and-mortar stores now had to adapt and build online stores or apps or risk getting left behind. Of those that had online stores, many had to upgrade their architecture to keep up with the influx of new users. Overall, development companies have been busy and even found new clients.

Work from home culture is on the rise.

Before the Coronavirus, working from home was more of a perk than a normal practice. In IT, working from home was more common because many companies already had remote development teams or were outsourcing to freelancers, but, as a whole, this wasn’t a priority.

Then the Coronavirus came along, and, suddenly, remote work became a recommended practice, with 88% of organizations encouraging their employees to work from home. Overall, this sudden transition wasn’t as bumpy as managers expected: work from home is still work, and productivity levels stayed constant.

However, the new normal changed executives’ priorities, who were now more worried about ensuring business continuity, investing in cloud/SaaS, addressing collaboration needs, and boosting online security. According to a Gartner report, more than half of HR leaders said that poor IT infrastructure was the primary reason why remote efficiency dropped, so we can expect executives to allocate more funds to this area. As many of them have discovered, the benefits of remote work (increased productivity, employee retention, reduced costs, employee satisfaction) outweigh the costs. So far, companies like Twitter, Facebook, Square, and Shopify have already announced that they will let their employees work from home indefinitely so, if the trend picks up, we will certainly see a rise in demand for remote collaboration tools, virtual desktop infrastructure, and IT solutions in general.

Big Tech could benefit from the shift in consumer habits once the crisis is over.

Once the pandemic is over, most of us will get back to our usual habits, albeit slowly. We’ll go to restaurants, meet up with friends, attend sports events, go to the movies, and catch up with colleagues by the watercooler. However, many habits that we’ve picked up during quarantine will remain, such as ordering groceries instead of going to the supermarket, video calling relatives, and streaming video content.

At the same time, businesses that launched online stores during the pandemic and gained new clients are unlikely to close them down because clients got used to the convenience of online shopping, and that would mean missing out on sales.

Even if Big Tech wasn’t impervious to fluctuations in stock value at the beginning of the crisis, companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft eventually recovered and even reported bigger profits because they’re renting out the underlying infrastructure for corporate networks and providing software to companies. For example, the number of Microsoft Teams users grew by 37%, iPhone app sales grew by 20%, and Android app sales grew by 14%.

If we look at the aftermath of the last economic recession, Big Tech came out as the winner. And, considering that this time round digital services became essential, there’s no reason why things would go any other way.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes

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