March 18, 2020 - The world is making a stand against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Some countries have taken a harder hit so far, and everyone is coping with the new reality in their own way.
Just the other day, businesses discussed their grand strategies for 2020 and built impressive forecasts for their growth. And today we all have to revise our plans and working patterns. Some industries like travel and aviation took the harder blow. Others, including the IT companies, still face a lot of financial dangers brought by the virus and disturbing macroeconomic trends.
The Ukrainian IT sector is by large an outsourcing service industry. Over 60% of Ukrainian IT companies provide software development services to tech companies and enterprises based in the USA and Western Europe. Businesses come to Ukraine for engineering talent, and it’s not only about cutting development costs but also about finding rare tech expertise and reducing time to market of their products.
N-iX is a global software development service company with over 1,000 engineers and 11 offices across the world. Both our clients who already set up outsourced development teams in Ukraine and those who are only considering outsourcing to Ukraine have a lot of questions at this turbulent time. What is the current state of the coronavirus outbreak in Ukraine? Is it safe to outsource to Ukraine now? How are Ukrainian IT companies adapting to the changes? We’ve tried to answer these and a few other questions.
How Ukraine prevents the virus from spreading
As of March 18, 198,178 cases of infection are confirmed globally with 7,954 lethal outcomes. Ukraine wasn’t among the first affected. So far, only 14 cases have been confirmed in Ukraine and 2 people died. The country was able to take precautionary measures soon. Ukraine acted fast and within two weeks after the first confirmed case, both the authorities and businesses took drastic but necessary actions to prevent the speed of the disease - from closing schools to travel bans.
Hopefully, such a quick reaction will help Ukraine cut off the virus and prevent lasting effects on its citizens and businesses. When talking about the economic impact, it is clear that not everyone will get through this. And although Ukrainian IT service companies are used to working with distributed teams and have necessary infrastructures and processes for surviving the quarantine, they will suffer the impact like any other business.
Expected impact of COVID-19 on Ukrainian companies
A fresh survey by Deloitte and the American Chamber of Commerce evaluates the expected impact of the pandemic on Ukrainian companies. Its findings indicate that businesses expect the pandemics to slow down their sales and cash flow, for some it might cause difficulties with business management, and others consider changes in people management.
However, most respondents (63%) have already set up a temporary body that monitors the situation and takes necessary actions to ensure business continuity. These working groups usually consist of top management, HR, administration and, in some cases, all functions are represented.
The surveyed Ukrainian companies either plan or have already taken a series of actions to keep their employees safe and avoid disruptions in operations. They include limiting business traveling, organizing remote work, improving office safety, and providing the latest information about the virus.
For instance, we at N-iX started revising our office work and travel policies right after the first confirmed case in Ukraine, where our big development centres are located. We started by informing our employees about virus threats, increased office safety, optimized our online working tools, restricted travel, and so on. With the next communications, we gradually switched to the work-from-home format and canceled all business trips.
How Ukrainian IT companies cope with the COVID-19 impact
A lot of our clients in the USA, Western Europe, and Japan, for instance, felt the impact of the outbreak weeks before the first confirmed case in Ukraine. So we at N-iX started business continuity planning early on. Our top priority was to keep all our employees, clients and partners safe. Also, it was vital for us to continue delivering results to our clients as efficiently as ever and keep our high-quality standards.
Likewise, all other big Ukrainian IT companies started preparing their infrastructures, tools, and processes long before the quarantine started in Ukraine. Small companies took advantage of their higher flexibility to compensate for the lack of some resources.
According to the survey conducted by IT Ukraine Association between March 12- March 15, Ukrainian IT companies took a number of measures to withstand the virus effect on their business and ensure uninterrupted service to their clients. Almost all the companies increased the supplies of disinfectants and face masks in their offices, launched awareness campaigns, canceled business trips and events, switched to online communication, etc. A few companies, including N-iX, developed a special business continuity plan and created a working group to monitor the situation and take the necessary actions.
Specific preventive measures IT Companies in Ukraine take to keep their people safe
With a growing spread of the virus in Europe, Ukrainian IT companies introduced specific working procedures and adjusted them depending on the situation. Before a nationwide quarantine was introduced in Ukraine, the companies had taken the following steps to keep their employees safe in the office:
- Supplying offices with disinfectants and increasing sanitary norms;
- Avoiding handshakes or any other physical contact with colleagues in the office.
- Postponing any non-essential workshops or arranging them through online communications.
- Minimize face-to-face meetings, using online communication tools.
- Avoiding personal and business travels, replacing them with remote meetings.
- Introducing a 14-day quarantine after trips abroad.
After the quarantine had been introduced in Ukraine, all companies switched to the working-from-home mode and increased the preventative actions. For example:
- Banning all business travel;
- Conducting a “remote workload test”, gathering results and ultimately switching to the stay-at-home format;
- Banning all face-to-face meetings, switching to online communication tools;
- Arranging all workshops and group activities via online communication tools.
- Keeping offices operational only for those who must come to the office due to technical restrictions;
- Providing help to those employees who are traveling on a business trip and need to get back home;
- Increased focus on productivity, availability during the working day, more detailed reporting, attending all the scheduled meetings.
Actions your business should take during the outbreak
Ukrainian IT companies know how to deal with uncertainty and adapt to changes only too well. Working in the conditions of the Ukrainian developing economy and a looming political or economic crisis has taught Ukrainian businesses to act fast and constantly reinvent their organizations. Today we are all facing a totally new threat but here are the key steps you should take to keep running:
Come up with a business continuity plan
Even if we fight the coronavirus outbreak in the next few months in the best-case scenario, businesses will feel its impact long after it’s gone. So it’s important to have a long-term plan and not be afraid to take painful steps. Gather your brightest minds and come up with a contingency plan, revise your policies, rebuild the work of your functions, etc.
Communicate with your employees
Your people understand that unprecedented times need unprecedented actions. However, you need to be open about what is happening and what the company is doing to stay up and running. Launch virus awareness campaigns, communicate changes in company policies and encourage feedback to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Prepare your technology and set up remote work
Depending on the size of your company, available resources, and technical restrictions of the projects you are working on, setting up remote work processes will pose its challenges. Start with analyzing your infrastructure and asking your employees about what they need to switch to the remote. Then you could run a test launch involving a limited number of people and expand it gradually to the whole organization.
Stay optimistic and we’ll get through this together
The world after COVID-19 will not be the same. However, every risk is an opportunity. Those companies that accept the new reality, rethink their strategies, and rebuild their processes today will be able to use opportunities of the new world. Be effective, get things done, stay healthy and we’ll get through this together.