COVID-19 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay BigTime Software has published the results of a survey into the impact of COVID-19 on North American professional services business. The results were drawn from a survey that was completed by 101 BigTime customers on March 16 2020. With the situation so fluid at the moment some of the results are likely to have changed over the last few days.

Brian Saunders, CEO of BigTime Software (image credit Linkedin)
Brian Saunders, CEO of BigTime Software

Brian Saunders, founder, and CEO of BigTime Software commented: “While the business news is focused primarily on industries extremely impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, BigTime took the pulse of how small professional services firms are viewing the pandemic,

“In our survey, we found small businesses to be far more resilient and optimistic than the current news cycles would suggest. The reality is that small services companies have had to be nimble to survive and grow even in a booming economy, and had already optimized productivity while working virtually. They just aren’t as disrupted by no travel and mandatory work from home policies as their larger counterparts.”

Work from home increasing

The vast majority of professional services firms (81%) have already initiated a work from home policy. The detail behind this is interesting with many firms initiating a voluntary work from home policy. The data is broken down into industry sectors and by company size. Unfortunately it does not highlight by region. Had BigTime done so the numbers might have told a very different story. Washington or New York firms, for example, are more likely to work from home currently at the moment.

Surprisingly, many companies are allowing work from home under a voluntary scheme, rather than a mandatory one. Marketing (75%), legal (100%, accounting (74%) and the IT services sector (50%) initiating the highest percentages for voluntary programs. Mandatory work from home has not been imposed so frequently, with consulting (42%), architecture (39%) and IT services (38%) having the highest proportion. In general the trend is upwards and seems likely to remain so.

When looked at by company size it appears that smaller companies are focused on voluntary work from home policies, 59% for 1-20 employees. Larger organisations are more likely to apply mandatory work from home policies, 63% for 51-200 employees.

Business travel suspended

For many organisations business travel is pretty much suspended with most sectors seeing higher than 90% suspensions. The exceptions are Marketing (29%), legal (33%) and engineering (40%). The first is surprising, if courts close then legal is likely to drop and only engineering is likely to continue as they may be needed to carry out priority tasks.

Larger organisations (51-200 staff) have imposed a complete (100%) ban on travel. Enterprise organisations seem to be doing the same with Salesforce imposing a ban to protect its employees.

Revenue impact

The report states that 38% of surveyed firms believe they will see an impact on revenues this quarter. 45% believe it will impact revenues during the year. BigTime seem to make an assumption that only a few believe it will impact revenues beyond the quarter. The graph associated with these statistics appears to show a different picture however. ET has contacted BigTime to find out whether this was labelled incorrectly. (See Update below)

63% of larger organisations see an impact on revenues this year rather than the current quarter (13%). This is in contrast to micro firms (1-5) employees where 53% see an impact in the current quarter and 34% in this year. Again without access to the data it is difficult to analyse accurately. However, the way the survey appears to have been asked would indicate that at least 75% of companies fear an impact on revenues. The question is how big an impact? If BigTime ask the survey again it would be useful to get more detail.

Longevity of impact

While the impact on revenues may seem low, it is the last question the survey asked that sheds light on the reasons for optimism. 18% of respondents believe that the current changes will remain in place for only 2 weeks. That seems unlikely when looking at the impact on the rest of the world. It would be a bold move for the US to allow the spread of COVID-19 to continue unchecked which is what this would indicate. 55% believe that the current restrictions will only last a month and only 28% at least 2 months. This seems optimistic, if the travel ban does continue for weeks and months ahead, the impact on revenues will likely be greater.

The demise of airlines is another factor to consider. Trans State Airlines, schedule to close at the end of the year will make its last flight on April 1st. How quickly can the transport industry recover? Some airlines have already gone out of business and more may follow the longer this crisis lasts.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

In itself this survey is but a snapshot of feeling across the BigTime customer base. What will make this really interesting is if BigTime repeat the survey in a weeks time and see what trends they can uncover and the changing sentiment. In the UK and Spain, Enterprise Times has seen a complete lockdown. Health services are also under increasing pressure to deal with the crisis. Both countries are a few weeks behind Italy which was the worst affected in Europe so far and is only starting to slow the rate of growth of the virus.

Anecdotally, most business leaders that Enterprise Times has spoken to are optimistic. They all see revenues impacted during the year, though in the short term, for some organisations revenues may actually increase. The potential issue is more around the target customers of the professional services firms. Until the virus burns out it is difficult to gauge the impact on businesses that have been forced to close down or cut back. These include retailers, transport and hospitality. For professional services firms servicing those industries the future may be bleaker.

Saunders sees optimism in his client base. President Trump recently said “Our country was not built to be shut down. We are going to be opening up our country for business because our country was meant to be open.” (Source CNN). It is a bold strategy and it seems that Trump is in tune with business leaders. The question is, if left unchecked what impact will the virus have if the health services cannot cope?

Update

Following contact from Enterprise Times BigTime software has now corrected the report and updated its infographic.

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