With the third largest digital technology sector in the world, the UK is undeniably a global tech leader; many of the world’s best-known companies use innovations from us to fuel their businesses. But with COVID-19 having significant impact on the economy, it is likely that the tech sector will be impacted negatively over the next few months – as all industries will be if we enter a deep global recession.
Yet once the dust has settled, and we get through whatever disruptions this pandemic brings, I expect the technology sector to thrive. According to the 2020 Budget, the UK already has plans to invest heavily in innovation, with the promise of huge investment in UK R&D. This will be further exacerbated through the technology issues companies are experiencing right now; the current crisis will further shine a spotlight on organizational preparedness and the need to have the latest tools, capabilities and security in place to enable a distributed workforce to prosper.
So, what are the areas that will see significant investment and growth as a direct (or in-direct) impact of the current crisis?
In my last article, I outlined the technology difficulties that companies will inevitably face as they are forced into a sudden and dramatic shift to remote working. In the 2020 Budget, the government committed £5bn for next generation broadband and extended 4G coverage, but I believe it’s 5G that will have accelerated adoption in the long-term. It offers lightning-fast speed and near instantaneous communication, something which will be critical for remote interactions.
Home working has, up until this point, never been fully embraced by many companies. This mindset will change after the pandemic, as employers realize the benefits of giving their staff flexibility, a reduced commute and a better work-life balance. Right now, teleconferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are seeing a boom as employees switch to remote work, and this sector is only going to grow as the workplace transforms over the next few months and years – even more so when 5G connection becomes widely available.
Post-COVID-19, we expect to see a rise in cloud computing, as the ability to offer flexible and collaborative working becomes more important than ever in the shift to home working. However, nearly two-thirds of organizations still see security as the biggest challenge for cloud adoption, and this isn’t going to let up as attackers look to exploit any weaknesses amongst the current disruption. I anticipate that cybersecurity solutions will thrive in the foreseeable future, particularly advanced tools that use machine learning to analyze patterns and take a proactive approach to preventing breaches.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
With social distancing comes a ban on business travel, and this is likely putting an immediate stop to any hands-on training for staff and new employees. AR and VR have huge applications in delivering immersive learning content, and can be accessed even on a standard mobile phone with disposable or transportable headsets. The immersive and flexible nature of consuming content is linked with very high levels of knowledge uptake, suggesting it could be significantly better at helping people to learn at a faster pace than other mediums.
AI for supply chain optimization
COVID-19 may well be the black swan event that finally compels companies to transform their global supply chain model. Business leaders will need to look at how new tools and technologies can provide greater intelligence and build greater resilience into their supply chain against future disruptions. I expect a huge investment in platforms that support applied analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to mitigate risks from these black swan events.
We are already seeing, and will continue to see, unprecedented impact from COVID-19 on businesses both in the UK and globally. But with the government set on seeing Britain become a digital leader, and the opportunities created even in the midst of a crisis, I expect the UK tech sector to (eventually) come out on top.
Partner & UK Country Head
Andrew is a life-long consultant with a very successful and diverse background, having served in MD or CEO roles for several technology and services companies. Andrew has over 25 years of technology leadership experience at an executive level, with a strong client background in the consumer, financial and professional services sectors. He’s lived and worked in Europe and North America and has built high-performing teams that have consistently achieved double-digit revenue growth. Andrew possesses a proven track record in the delivery of large-scale operations and technology transformation agendas across the B2C and B2B space. Andrew has also participated in numerous speaking roles over his career, most recently for Private Equity International, as well as the Business Forum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.