The Covid-19 pandemic has wrought havoc across the UK just as it has the rest of the world, but some industries have been able to navigate the crisis better than others. And while the overall consulting market has suffered its share of misery over the last six months, the technology consulting market has actually proven to be more resilient than most — which is great news for the UK consulting market, given that technology accounts for more than 40% of revenues.
Before the crisis hit, digital transformation was the number one priority for clients in the UK, with more than half of all clients we surveyed at the start of the year saying they’d be willing to use consultants to help in this area. While it’s clear that the pandemic has forced many companies to shift their priorities, digital transformation — a key driver of growth in the technology consulting service line — is still on clients’ minds, albeit with a somewhat different flavour.
In the pre-pandemic world, consulting firms saw companies eager to explore the next big thing, whether it be advanced analytics, blockchain, or the latest developments in intelligent automation. But lockdowns and the subsequent shift to remote working triggered a short-term surge in demand for technology expertise, as companies previously slow to invest were forced to modernise their operations at an unprecedented pace. Even beyond the challenges companies faced of sourcing thousands of laptops just to allow their employees to log on from home, technology firms saw a flurry of other activity. This involved rolling out video conferencing software in addition to advising on and implementing the latest cloud-based and connected solutions, boosting user numbers for AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud among others.
Why should tech companies use tech consultants?
And even companies that had invested in their own digital transformation were forced to reevaluate those investments. Whether because the shift to mass homeworking laid bare the weaknesses in their remote work solutions, or because the effectiveness of previous efforts to create online accessibility for customers was found wanting as the UK shifted to an online-first mentality, companies sought out external technology expertise to ensure their lights stayed on.
All of which has ensured that while the UK consulting market is expected to see a 16% contraction in 2020 — slightly higher than the 14% contraction globally — technology consultants have had a better pandemic. Demand for technology expertise has remained so resilient to the COVID-19-led downturn that the UK technology consulting market is only expected to contract by 4% — slightly better than the 5% contraction globally.
Now that we’re a few months removed from the early days of the crisis and much of the short-term firefighting — like so much else these days — has been relegated to a distant memory, a clearer picture of the post-pandemic world is emerging; and it looks like there will still be solid demand for technology expertise in the UK. Nearly half of all clients surveyed by Source say improving their technology infrastructure is even more important now than before the crisis, with nearly 35% planning to use consultants in this space compared to around 31% elsewhere in the world. And 37% of UK clients say they are more likely to use consultants for digital transformation now compared with less than a quarter of clients elsewhere.
That’s not to say technology consultants don’t still face plenty of challenges though. Not least of all are the difficulties of selling digital tools and new IT solutions to companies facing massive financial pressures at a time when the economy is in the doldrums, jobs are under threat, and ongoing uncertainty over Brexit still looms large. Add to that the fact that clients don’t just want to see the pre-pandemic ideas recycled — the world has changed a lot in the last nine months, and the needs of clients and their customers have changed too. But technology firms that can navigate that tricky path and offer up new and innovative solutions suitable for a socially distanced, post-pandemic world are likely to fare well.