To say that COVID-19 has shocked global industries is an understatement. Businesses across all continents struggle to cope with the ongoing fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Major supply chains have been thrown into chaos, business operations have been interrupted, and large swaths of the world’s workers have been forced into ad-hoc telework situations. It’s probably fair to say that no single factor has had a greater and more sudden impact on the global economy within our lifetimes. Even if the pandemic comes to an end tomorrow, it’s going to leave an indelible mark with long-term consequences on every business it touched.
It’s not just logistics and human interactions. Technology is also among of the many disruptions produced by the pandemic. Cutting edge initiatives such as big data have also been severely hampered, and that’s probably a bigger issue than you might expect: 90.5% of businesses are either already using big data or had plans to use big data in their projects in the near future. With so many new priorities and unknowns to worry about due to the pandemic, it’s unclear how — or even if — those businesses will be able to continue executing their big data plans as originally intended.
One likely outcome of all of this is that the big data industry is about to undergo some profound changes as the needs of the businesses it serves become clearer. One of those changes is that we may be about to see a wave of outsourcing activity as businesses struggle to cut costs going forward.
Here’s a look of what’s coming in the post-COVID-19 era.
One reason why businesses are going to opt for data operations outsourcing is the fact that many were already in the process of doing it before the pandemic.
Industry estimates had projected steady growth in data and analytics outsourcing through 2025, even before the pandemic’s effects set in.
The practice of outsourcing is not a new one by any standard — it has been prevalent among startups for a few years already. The pandemic means the odds are now even higher that businesses who had already been considering such a move will put their outsourcing plans into action sooner rather than later. And that’s just for starters. There are also reasons to believe that many other businesses will join them.
Shifting Technology Priorities
As the pandemic continues, one of the most obvious changes businesses have had to make is shifting their technology resources toward cybersecurity and away from pretty much everything else. If you’re doing most of your activity online, you want to make things as safe as possible.
With legions of new remote workers to suddenly accommodate, there hasn’t been time or money to deal with other priorities. Despite positive messages coming from companies, the reality is that a lot of businesses, particularly smaller ones, simply don’t have a big enough (or any) rainy day fund.
Indeed, there’s even emerging evidence that IT organizations whose pre-pandemic tasks focused on cybersecurity have all but abandoned their long-term strategies in favor of an all-out effort to hold overburdened remote infrastructures together. According to an analysis conducted recently by McKinsey & Company, these shifts are expected to outlast the pandemic and continue to shape IT budgets for the foreseeable future.
The First Signs of Change
There are already some signs that businesses are adapting to the new reality in their IT spending. According to one recent survey, a full 28% of UK businesses are already planning to use outsourcing as a survival tool amid the pandemic. And when asked which business functions are their most likely targets, 37% reported that IT would be the first to go. Where big data is concerned, this makes perfect sense. Modern data warehouse solutions are already cloud-aware and location agnostic, so there’s nothing tying data operations to one location or another.
That means businesses face far fewer hurdles in moving their data operations offsite, and in some cases, to other parts of the world. That’s the conclusion being drawn by the experts at Think Big Analytics, as well. Their in-depth technology analyses indicate that data infrastructure is one of the few IT functions that’s almost exclusively cloud-based already, so it’s all but certain to be the primary outsourcing target for companies looking to save money.
The Bottom Line
All of these factors add up to a picture of a big data industry that had already been in the process of a shift toward outsourcing, and that COVID-19 has all but guaranteed it will accelerate. With businesses already making moves to take their in-house data operations elsewhere, and many confronting a dearth of resources to continue executing on their own, it’s no wonder many are reporting that IT operations are their go-to targets for some much-needed cost-savings.
All of that being said, it is becoming increasingly clear that the big data landscape is in the process of a shakeup that nobody saw coming in the near-term, but that may have been inescapable anyway. The only real question that remains is which firms, regions, and sectors will be most affected by the coming changes and how well it’s all going to work out. Stay tuned.