In early February 2020, before most of us were truly aware of the implications of COVID-19, a well-respected IT consulting group predicted a $4.3 trillion global spend on information technology in 2020. Drivers of the projected activity included cybersecurity, outdated infrastructure, mobile accessibility needs, cloud and SaaS transitions, and on-premises technology requirements. In late 2019, another well-respected consulting group had predicted that, in 2020, “[t]here will be increasing opportunities for technology vendors and service providers to grow their businesses, and for technology buyers to innovate and upgrade their infrastructure, software, and services.” In fact, as 2020 began, many deals for technology development, implementation and related services were signed and technology providers, consultants and related service providers (collectively referred to in this post as “vendors”) and their customers were busy building, implementing and testing new systems.
Then came COVID-19. Most people in the United States and in many other parts of the world are now working from home. Capital markets are volatile. The global economy came to a screeching halt and recessions are forecast. As a result of these and other factors, many deals that were humming along nicely are now facing significant and unanticipated challenges. For example:
- In many cases, neither the vendor nor the customer community is “in the office.” While it is not uncommon for software developers to work remotely, many important aspects of a complex implementation – e.g., hardware installation, software testing and user training – are most effective when done on site. Obviously, given the work-from-home and no-travel environment that we are in, this is not possible.
- Key individuals from both the vendor and customer community may be less available, either due to their own illnesses or due to pressing family issues or other concerns related to the pandemic.
- Some customers may experience significant and unanticipated financial distress, and as a result, the payment obligations associated with the initiative may become particularly burdensome for them. Vendors may also be facing similar financial distress.
- Due to the downturn in the business climate resulting from the pandemic, the business volume assumptions on which the ongoing initiative was based may no longer be realistic.
This blog post is intended to suggest a practical approach that both technology vendors and their customers might take to find amicable solutions to challenged deals.