Monday, 06 July 2020 10:52

Business software providers hit by impact of COVID-19, says ABSIA Featured


Over half (54%) of Australian business software industry providers experienced considerable to major immediate or short-term impacts from COVID-19, with a further 35% experiencing few or minimal impacts - while for approximately 10% there was no impact or change as a result of the pandemic, according to new research.

Research by the Australian Business Software Industry Association (ABSIA) - a not-for-profit association representing the Australian business software industry - also found that while nearly one third (32%) of respondents are worried about the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on their customers, the same percentage reported a small or large increase in customers during that period.

ABSIA will present the full research report findings at a free webinar on Tuesday, 7 July at 10:30am (AEST).

“While our survey revealed that the business software industry has not been immune to the impacts of COVID-19, the majority of our members responded effectively during the pandemic and are optimistic about the future of their businesses,” said Chris Howard, director and president, ABSIA.

Howard said that three quarters (74%) of the companies surveyed didn’t reduce staffing levels during the pandemic, and more than half (55%) expect to increase staffing levels in the next six months, either to grow (48%) or to refill (6%).

And he says a “resounding” 66% believe that the next 12 months will be a significant time for innovation and technological change, with a much smaller percentage uncertain (17%).

“Innovation and technological change will be critical to Australia’s road to recovery and the ongoing resiliency of our economy. The business software industry can play a key role in that, but a lot also depends on the government’s policy direction and what that does to foster business and consumer confidence,” Howard said.

ABSIA says its survey also uncovered the industry’s ability to adapt and respond to the challenges of COVID-19, and the longer-term impact of the pandemic on their businesses - and when asked if they will be implementing changes in how they operate, 39% responded that they would, while 32% said that they would not.

However, feedback from this second group indicated that they had already largely implemented more flexible and distributed working, as well cloud-based systems and products, ABSIA noted.

ABSIA says AccountKit, an Adelaide-based provider of integrated cloud applications for accountants and bookkeepers, was able to keep the business operating by relying on videoconferencing calls and Slack collaboration to replace their daily stand-up meetings - with additional functionality included in its software to meet the specific requirements in response to COVID-19, such as payment deferrals, and with the team “a lot more hands-on and engaged with existing clients”.

“Our main users are accountancy firms, who have been incredibly busy supporting their own clients during the crisis,” said Paul Murray, founder, AccountKit.

“We knew it would be difficult to win any new business, so we took the lockdown as an opportunity to reach out to our existing client base and offer whatever assistance we could to use our applications more effectively. We found that a lot were not using our cloud platform to its full capacity and they really appreciated our help, so we will definitely maintain a more hands-on engagement with our users in the future.”

ABSIA says AccountKit has also seen an uplift in business in the last few weeks, with accounting firms who had struggled to access their systems during the lockdown realising that they need “flexible, cloud-based applications to operate more resiliently in the future”.

ABSIA cites cloud-based recruitment software provider FastTrack as implementing its business continuity plan in early March to safeguard its service and Melbourne team, a large number of whom were using public transport to travel into the office.

According to ABSIA, FastTrack was already well prepared for the scenario with the implementation of ISO27001 and an existing working from home policy with staff who had already been regularly working remotely.

“We have an obligation to the health and wellbeing of our staff as well as the services we deliver to our customers, so we consulted with staff and made the quick decision to switch to working from home,” said Jason Quirk, Chief Technology Officer, FastTrack.

“Staff were instructed to take whatever they needed from the office to work effectively from home, which in most instances was only their laptop. It wasn’t even a blip on the radar – there was no difference in the service experience for our customers. If anything, our team put in even more effort to make sure things ran smoothly. In staff surveys, most of our people have appreciated the amount of time they have back in their daily lives with no travel. We will definitely be maintaining a permanent work from home arrangement for part of each week for those who want it.”

ABSIA says that as a provider of critical business applications including payroll processing services, ReadyTech (ASX:RDY) had prepared well in advance for any lockdown and quickly enabled its teams around the country to work remotely.

“With ReadyTech’s client base spanning multiple diverse industries, it witnessed the challenges (both negative and positive) of COVID-19. To support clients during the period, ReadyTech ran a series of webinars to educate them on any changes and new features to its systems, and provided support to ensure critical services were maintained throughout,” ABSIA said.

“Our top priority has been to help our clients in any way possible to make sure they don’t miss a payroll. Some industries – particularly in travel and hospitality – have been severely impacted through this pandemic, so having the right internal resources in place to manage this process has been confrontational for some,” said Daniel Wyner, Chief Executive, Employment, ReadyTech.

“We also had to make sure our clients were JobKeeper-ready and, now that we have reached end-of-financial-year, it’s more important than ever for their information to be accurate. There’s going to be extra government scrutiny on employers to make sure they have been correctly applying the various financial stimulus and support packages available,” Wyner concluded.

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