Knowledge is power. But further than any mere level of learning by rote understanding, we use the term ‘savvy’ to denote a particular level of practical knowledge and ability.

Coming out of the post-pandemic period of preparation for the ensuing recession will (arguably) require more savviness than many of us have previously witnessed in the past. Specifically, IT professionals will have to get more business-savvy and business professionals will have to get more tech-savvy.

This is the suggestion emanating from low-code software platform company Appian. The firm says that IT leaders feel they now have a seat at the table in terms of business decision-making but their ability to drive business direction (and therefore agility and change) could be short-lived… and it all comes down to costs.

The end of quick change?

In a recent study highlighted on Techzine here carried out by the company, as many as eight out of ten developer teams in parts of Europe say their organisation is already shifting focus away from innovation projects and towards cost-cutting initiatives. 

This rather woolly term ‘innovation projects’ isn’t as bland marketingspeak as it sounds – these are the kinds of quick rollout changes that happened during the height of the pandemic. Remember the drinks manufacturers that shifted their plastic bottle production lines to make sanitisers? Yes, that kind of thing.

Appian’s study “From Boom to Bust: Why Empowering Developers is Vital for Business Innovation,” surveyed 1,500 developers and software engineers across Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and the UK). It found as many as three quarters (75% for the UK) of respondents are concerned that the transition from the pandemic to downturn will see business leaders freeze IT budgets and headcounts, increasing IT backlogs. 

This is in stark contrast to the progress made when the pandemic required fast action and new approaches to business innovation. More than four-fifths of respondents say the past two years have sharply accelerated their company’s focus on IT-driven business transformation. 

Remember when cloud ruled?

It’s something of a sad fallout factor to consider when we had all done so well: immediately working from home almost overnight, championing cloud connectivity technologies such as Zoom, adopting online goods and services platforms with gay abandon and embracing the always-on world of the web that created a new global timezone i.e. when it was okay to be at work at 3am, but also okay to go to the park and look after your wellbeing at 3pm.

“Covid forced businesses to rapidly innovate their processes, increase automation and absorb new technologies,” said Michael Beckley, founder, CTO and CMO at Appian. “Organisations that continue to invest in IT-led innovation and agility will be better prepared to navigate the tight economic conditions expected in 2023.”

When asked about the consequences of freezing IT budgets and headcount, the top four fall-outs mentioned by developers were: 

  • Their organisation would become increasingly fragmented & siloed;
  • New platforms would take longer to integrate, 
  • The spectre of reducing ROI and struggle when attempting to capitalise on new growth opportunities; 
  • Increasing IT staff turnover.

The research also aimed to understand how European software engineers feel about their organisations’ ability to innovate in this market and the impact they’re able to have on business decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

Peace, love & mutual understanding

Respondents identified adapting business strategy due to economic changes, maintaining focus on core mission, as well as harnessing new technologies and platforms as the top three critical growth drivers in the face of harsh economic conditions. When it comes to technology-led business decisions, insights show developers feel strongly about the need for improved collaboration and mutual understanding.

A third of developers say too many silos throughout the organisation prevent a full understanding of how to use IT. An additional four in ten say business counterparts believe it is quicker to go directly to IT vendors for solutions, rather than engage IT teams within the business. 

IT leaders also believe technology can help businesses to become more efficient at a time when they are looking to do more with less. Nearly half of respondents believe technologies like low-code development (it’s an Appian study, remember?) and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning can help address the resource and business engagement challenges facing IT, while helping organisations adapt to change and get work done faster.

Pandemic-to-recession factors

We had better get used to it, the pandemic-to-recession discussion could be with us for most of the forthcoming year. JumpCloud has this month released its Q4 2022 SME IT Trends Report, “Managing IT Amidst Rising Security Threats and Global Turbulence for Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises.” 

The cloud-based Directory-as–a-Service (DaaS) platform company specialises in securing identities, managing devices and providing secure access to all types of IT resources. As such, it has an interest in the day-to-day experiences of IT professionals who power and secure operations without enterprise-level budgets and staff. 

The latest survey results highlight that a plurality of IT pros worry that cybersecurity-specific funding might be at risk: 44% agree their organisation will cut spending on cybersecurity in the next year compared with 41% who disagree. For this pluralised group, the jury is definitely out then.

With the accelerated rate of attacks on SMEs and the sophisticated evolution of external threats, IT admins are concerned that such cuts will make organisations more vulnerable, with 75% reporting cuts to their organisation’s security budget will increase organisational risk. 

Infection, invasion, inflation

Inflation, labour shortages, recession talks, market volatility and global conflicts are just a few of the external impacts companies are absorbing. Market and global turbulence were both present six months ago, but recent disruptions have been more acute. 

Jumpcloud says its study has assessed the situation and reports that recessionary pressures appear to impact SMEs already with many reporting seeing evidence of a recession in their business.

“SME admins have skillfully managed IT through a period of sustained and unprecedented uncertainty in business and the world,” said Rajat Bhargava, co-founder and CEO, JumpCloud. “These firms would be wise to listen to IT teams’ concerns about the vulnerabilities introduced by tool sprawl and cuts in security budgets, as well as their pleas for tool consolidation and enhanced security. Improving security and reducing costs can go hand in hand with a platform approach that delivers both, offering secure access, improved productivity, and a better overall experience for end users and the IT professionals managing their tech access and apps.”

Predictable payload or prescient probe?

Taking a wide-angle view then, we know that IT surveys are typically never carried out with some design to deliver a predictable payload for the sponsoring organisation or body behind them. Appian found some fragmentation… but suggested low-code could hold part (if not all) of the answer. Jumpcloud found organisational risk, tool sprawl and global turbulence… but equally suggested that a platform-based approach can help.

Naysaying notwithstanding, these are good people. 

These studies are carried out to highlight core issues and the nuances of individuals’ responses combined with the sum trends surfaced here give us arguably pretty invaluable insight into what’s happening in the market and, in this case, at the actual coalface of implementation. 

Remember when we were really good at overnight innovation and looking after each other? Now, wash your hands.