Skip to the content

COVID and Computing – the success of IT since the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset nearly every aspect of life, from how we live to how we work. Business has changed forever. The way in which companies interact with customers will undoubtedly never return to ‘normal’ and the way in which we all, as consumers, purchase items or use services has changed dramatically.  And the common denominator enabling these changes? …IT!

Virtual Interaction

When the world ground to a halt and basic liberties were taken away such as nipping to our local shops to buy electricals or clothes, we simply moved to online shopping. When we needed to see a doctor, but it was dangerous to visit the surgery, we moved to video calls as a safer alternative. The government turned to phone applications to help track and trace the virus to keep the nation safe. And without virtual contact with family and friends, the world would have been more isolated than we could possibly imagine.

It was not just on a personal level we began to heavily rely on technology but also from a business perspective. The pandemic made businesses move to a digital customer experience. Some were not prepared for the rapid shift and struggled to transition into online, meaning there was reduced engagement and sales, but many thrived and even saw increased sales.

The online boom

Greater Manchester has seen an increase in the use of IT and technology. Many businesses have adapted to more remote working, having to rely heavily on online systems for staff to work together, arrange meetings and work in a way like never before.

The success of this has led to a lot of businesses keeping the changes they have implemented on a more permanent basis. The automation of previously time-consuming tasks has meant we as a nation have more time. With most workplaces moving to remote working and meetings moving online, everyone has a much better work life balance without the dreaded commute.

Restaurants and takeaways have had to adapt and move ordering online, creating a more profitable margin due to being able to cater on a quicker basis and secure more orders than usual.

The most obvious success story of moving business online during the pandemic, was online shopping. The enforced closure of shops selling non-essential items led to a boost for online retailers.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) October 2020 retail sales publication reported “online sales reaching higher than usual levels over the course of the pandemic”. Online purchases represented 28.5% of total sales in October compared with 20.1% in February.

IT and professional services are sectors on the rise, they are integral to every sector as we cannot function without them, especially in Greater Manchester. Showcasing innovation, creating jobs, and moving with the times.

Mind the Gap

There is a huge skills gap in professional services which unsurprisingly has the highest job vacancies in any industry since the pandemic.

Most businesses have gone through a digital transformation since the pandemic started, mainly to provide customers with innovative experiences which augment their shopping experience, while others are brought about by a need to make businesses more agile and efficient in their day to day operations.

No matter what the reason for the new technologies were, there is little point in investing in these if you don’t have the people in place who can effectively manage and operate them. The main factor driving the digital skills gap is the changing nature of work and the fact older generations of workers are finding their skills set becoming redundant due to the rapid advance of these technologies.

Going forward

Greater Manchester is growing rapidly as a tech hub and digital skills must be a top priority for all industry sectors moving forward.

2021 has already demonstrated there is further ambiguity on business operations, but for businesses still feeling a little left behind, now is the time to break out of the digital transformation rut and ensure your business is ready to deliver the best service possible.

In order for businesses to survive going forward, we all need to accept that things are not going to go back to normal, shopping habits have changed, people have changed the way in which they carry out the working day and to be sustainable – we must acknowledge the importance of digital business and invest in upskilling existing workforces and meet the demands of the new age.

Businesses need to think about the digital tools available, to make operations more efficient, to empower staff working remotely and to ensure customers don’t lose out on personalised, human interaction when using digital channels. Skills for Growth - SME Support can help you do just that. With one to one tailored support, we can support businesses to identify the skills needed to grow business.  We can support you in finding the perfect training partner for all your training and development needs at all levels.

If you or an SME you know could benefit from talking to one of our advisors - please get in touch today! Alternatively you can call our team on 0161 237 4444.

 

The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years. 

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.  

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding. 

About the author

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support

Skills for Growth - SME Support is a fully funded, tailored service to help upskills your employees and improve business productivity. We're here to help you grow your business through re-shaping, developing your talent and enhancing your team's performance.