8 surprise silver linings for IT emerge from the pandemic cloud


Executives and new data shine a light on positive developments for the tech enterprise (and humanity).

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Image: iStock/PamSchodt

Unquestionably, the coronavirus crisis has been devastating to humanity, taking its toll in lives, health, and livelihood. It has caused undue stress and anxiety, discomfort and anger in nearly every aspect of daily life. But call it glass-half-full or looking at the sunny side of life, surprising silver linings for the tech enterprise have emerged from the cloud of COVID-19. TechRepublic consulted experts and data to find the positives that came from a very bad negative.

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Image: iStock/Stephen Barnes

  1. Nearly from the start, the quick exodus from the office to the home revealed to tech leaders the viability and potential of a primarily remote workforce. If companies are able to lock down hardware, software as well as the imperative need for cybersecurity, this could mean flexibility for employees, as well as savings on office rental, supplies, and more for employers. Despite the necessary adjustments and missed in-person social interactions, remote work has had numerous benefits over commuting and being on premises.

  2. Tapping into innovation and self-sufficiency was another unexpected silver lining: The pandemic was the catalyst for many entrepreneurs. A new report from JustBusiness revealed that 26% of those who were laid off due to COVID-19 were starting their own businesses. One in five respondents who said they didn’t have plans to start a business pre-pandemic, do now; 51% said they identified new business opportunities due to the crisis. As for the impetus to begin a business now, 32.9% cited that they were inspired by the changes in the market due to the pandemic. The entrepreneurs stated that the type of business they want to open were accommodation and food services, retail, as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation. The report acknowledged that given how hard hit these industries were, the response was surprising.

  3. New interest in employee visibility and productivity tools was a boon to developers of this software. “The sudden rush to remote work shined a light on the need that we never could have predicted,” said Nadine M. Sarraf, chief marketing officer for Prodoscore, which designs productivity software. “Our business has grown substantially since the start of the pandemic. We’ve seen our pipeline increase exponentially and our annual revenue go up almost 20 times since Q1.”

  4. Recycling a six-year-old physician platform proved very lucrative for the healthcare “edtech” Knowledge to Practice. “We took our physician learning platform that we developed in 2014, adapted it, and rolled out a brand-new curriculum with the goal of keeping frontline physicians up-to-date on emerging COVID-19 information,” said Mary Ellen Beliveau, CEO and founder. “Our new platform CurrentMD COVID-19 allows providers to stay current with the latest research and findings at the rate of discovery, so they can successfully diagnose and treat patients even as the disease continues to evolve.” Knowledge to Practice also launched an app for providers to access CurrentMD COVID on mobile devices, and doctors can easily pull up personalized COVID-19 learning modules.

  5. Encouraged (or maybe necessitated) upgrades. Independent insurance agencies can now distribute cyber insurance coverage to small and midsize businesses “at speed,” said Isabelle Dumont, vice president of market engagement at Cowbell Cyber. They can do so by upgrading the traditional insurance paper-based model to a 100% online process. “Because of the pandemic, insurance agents and brokers have welcomed our solution as it enables them to transact with policyholders online,” she said. “The pandemic led us to shift our hiring priorities. We started to hire resources regardless of location and have been able to add to the team amazing talents that we would not have considered prior to the pandemic.” She added, “Cyberattacks spiking during the pandemic has further raised awareness about the need for both technical and financial protection against cyber incidents. Many businesses are looking for standalone cyber insurance to get better control over what is covered and what are the limits on the policy. Overall, this is accelerating the adoption of cyber insurance.”

  6. Accelerated much-needed digital interactions between companies and stakeholders (employees, supply chain partners, customers, regulators, and others). “The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital interactions,” said Scott Hausman, executive vice president, strategy and corporate development at Axway, an API-centric hybrid integration platform provider. “To effectively facilitate the acceleration of digital interactions, companies need to open their data and services to their stakeholders and that requires fundamental integration technologies.” He added that they are “in the right business to help customers innovate, using our API platform to open their data and tech capabilities to their ecosystem. So for us at the moment, it’s definitely a silver lining.” During this period, the company also built Griffin App, a mobile-office scheduling-assistant to facilitate a return to the office, which they’ve made open source.

  7. Empathy. “2020 has undoubtedly been a difficult year for everyone, but if there’s a small silver lining, it’s how much we’ve learned to care for each other and empathize with human struggles happening near and far,” said a representative from BioLite, which promotes worldwide clean energy. A report published by 60 Decibels, a social impact measurement company, found that BioLite’s clean-energy products impacted “quality of life” in rural African communities. The company approaches the problem by developing off-grid energy solutions (solar and thermoelectric generation), that can be subsidized by the sales of similar equipment in western economies (for outdoor recreation), and through the sale of certified carbon credits generated from their products. This cycle leads to more affordable equipment, which accelerates market adoption, and provides the company with a sustainable profit margin to keep serving and innovating.

  8. Consumer transparency. Consumers have grown more willing to share their data, which has allowed Smart TV companies to do “addressable advertising,” according to new research from Hub Entertainment, which surveyed 2,500 US consumers from late August to early September.  The study, “Privacy + Piracy” examines consumers’ concerns about privacy and the use of their data. Despite the fact that 87% of consumers are concerned how their data is used, 71% are aware their smart TVs track their viewing data. Consumers are less willing to share their names, addresses, incomes, online purchases, use of specific apps or websites, online search requests, smart-home data and smartphone location. However, despite the negatives, the survey does show there is some openness among consumers to share certain data. For instance, a majority are somewhat or completely willing to share data on each of the following:

  • Gender (68%),
  • Ethnicity/Race (65%),
  • Age (62%),
  • Sexual orientation (61%),
  • Zip code (55%),
  • Tv channels watched (54%),
  • Specific programs watched (53%), or
  • What they buy at the supermarket (50%)

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Bonus: During the most strict period of quarantine and isolation, a silver lining few can deny is that families were drawn close together. Without commuting back-and-forth to work, without  after-school activities, get togethers, church services, families had to learn to navigate their way around each other. For parents (or a parent) of a returned college-age or even older child it was an unprecedented, and unlikely to happen otherwise opportunity: Whether putting puzzles together, binge watching “Breaking Bad” together and having to eat nearly all meals togethers it was the chance to bond, unlikely any other in our lifetime. 

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