What can the software industry learn from COVID-19?

By April 16, 2020November 9th, 2020Articles

While the coronavirus has caused several problems for the world, I can’t help but be a little proud about how the software industry has responded – especially with how the WHO has received a lot of support from technology companies. Did you know that some of the world’s leading experts in tech gathered in a virtual roundtable to advance the WHO’s response to COVID-19? 

We have also done well on a smaller scale – every single company I know has taken steps to ensure that employees have what they need to work from home, while still providing clients with the quality of service they promised. 

Still, while the response has been admirable, I believe that there are some lessons for the software development industry to learn. Lessons that could benefit this industry moving forward.

Lessons for the software industry to think about

Strategy is key

If there is one thing the pandemic should teach the software industry, it’s the importance of strategy. Preparing for every scenario, unlikely as it is, could be vital for future-proofing the business or industry. 

We see the importance of strategy when dealing with the pandemic. For example, the United States did not consider COVID-19 a serious threat for a (relatively) long time. They failed to devise a comprehensive strategy to combat the virus,  and now they have more than 600,000 cases. 

Having a well-rounded strategy in place means taking a look at the processes involved in decision-making. The ability to make well-thought-out decisions means having the right information available to the right people at the right time.  

Software development projects are heavily dependent on strategies for success. Preparing for all eventualities makes it easier to get the right information to the right people at the right time so that well-rounded, timely decisions are made.

Being proactive 

You can say that being proactive is vital for success in the software industry, but the pandemic really hammers home that lesson. Countries that responded swiftly to the coronavirus have managed to keep their case numbers under control. For example, Taiwan learned the lessons from SARS and marshalled their health resources, so that they could respond swiftly to another pandemic.

As of right now, Taiwan has less than 400 cases, which is quite a feat when you consider its geographical proximity to other countries with high case numbers.  

As an industry, we can all take a lesson from Taiwan’s response to the crisis. If we are proactive, we can protect ourselves from most emergencies. But what does it mean to be proactive? It means anticipating user requirements and baking them into the research project, as early as possible. 

It’s about keeping stakeholders informed at regular intervals, and of course, planning for any emergencies. When we as an industry think proactively, we can prepare for even the worst exogenous shocks.

Communication and collaboration

I think most of us in the software industry know the importance of communication and collaboration in completing projects. After all, how are websites created if web developers and designers don’t work together? But the problems of the pandemic really highlight just how important communication and collaboration is for getting the job done.

Sticking with the example of Taiwan, they used several measures to keep the number of cases low. They banned travel from China, enforced strict penalties on those who spread misinformation, ramped up production on face-masks and conducted islandwide testing, all on top of a universal healthcare system.

Imagine the level of collaboration needed to pull this off! Industries like healthcare, textiles and law enforcement had to work in unison towards a common goal. 

Software development projects depend on the ability of people and teams to collaborate with one another. 

Collaboration means bringing together all stakeholders responsible for driving a project forward and incorporating their input into the process. No industry thrives alone, and understanding how different industries rely on each other is also crucial for success. 

Effective collaboration is also dependent on communication processes. With practically every developer working remotely, communication processes are now more important than before. Of course, I am not just talking about specific tools like Slack, but also the process of using these tools. 

Are you using a schedule and updating it? Does everyone have access to the same source of information? Are stakeholders and managers getting relevant updates? When we set the right processes, we can protect ourselves from most emergencies.

Preparing for the worst

The pandemic has brought suffering to millions of people around the world, our thoughts should be with the people who need aid, as well as the health workers who are working around the clock to contain this crisis. But the software industry could also afford to ponder some of the lessons this pandemic is teaching us so that we could become a more productive and more shock-resistant industry.