The Technology Upside in an Economic Downturn

Embrace the paradox: Invest in tech partners and people now, while an impending recession makes talent and time abundant.

Researchers preparing the 2022 KPMG U.S. Technology Survey Report asked businesses: “What are the key drivers of your organization’s digital transformation and corresponding investments?”

As the United States slides into a recession, our industry is starting to feel it. It won’t last forever so take heed—your time is short to make the best of this crisis! 

The 2022 KPMG Technology Survey Report is stunning. About half of surveyed companies say improving the customer experience is the primary goal for their investment in enterprise systems, with 99 percent reporting growth in return on investment (ROI) from said systems over the past two years. 

Two years is a key measure. It typically takes that long to realize significant ROI for enterprise technology. To come out of the impending downturn stronger, your time to invest in new software and technology is now. But many companies hunker down as business drops, and they won’t begin to invest in clearly needed innovation until one or two quarters after an upturn starts. That’s too late!

KPMG further asserts that 80 percent of businesses say their cloud-enabled transitions have been successful, yet 67 percent have yet to realize substantial ROI from cloud investments. The financial audit, tax and advisory firm’s recommendation for a faster transformation is to find human talent and overcome risk-averse culture. Recession, enter stage right!

The tech-heavy NASDAQ has lost one-third of its value over 12 months, and many private equity and venture capital funds have lost two-thirds of their value or more. News from large technology companies is all about “right-sizing” their staff at an epic level. Tens of thousands of folks are now available and willing to work! They can help lead your company’s digital transformation—or at least help you evaluate and implement the appropriate technology to navigate through upcoming challenges.

The November edition of the Harvard Business Review includes the article “Tech Talent Is Flooding the Job Market,” in which authors Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava assert “traditional firms that previously struggled to modernize business processes now have access to some of the best talent in the world.”

Researchers preparing the 2022 KPMG U.S. Technology Survey Report asked businesses: “What are the key drivers of your organization’s digital transformation and corresponding investments?”

Henry Ford famously quipped, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” On top of that, ready-mixed concrete is a real-time business. Each day we are forced to react quickly to numerous upsets that could erode profit, and by the end of the day we are mentally exhausted.

With a downturn comes more time to think. We have the time to benchmark with other producers. We can research and envision a future with a stronger competitive advantage that will be different from the current reality. Most importantly, an economic downturn can be used to shake up the status quo and motivate change-resistant staff to adopt new tools and learn new processes for survival. 

Govindarajan and Srivastava conclude: “History has shown us time and again that downturns and challenging times create winners among those that capitalize on the opportunities and acquire the right assets, customers, talent and competencies at the right prices. The recent spate of layoffs represent such a time.”

At the heart of our industry’s competitive landscape, change will be dictated by the rapidly evolving needs of our customers, closely followed by material innovations to reduce the carbon footprint. These are big disruptions that require big talent from employees and technical partners. Humorist Will Rogers, not quite known as a technological visionary, nailed it: “Invest in inflation. It is the only thing going up.”

Craig Yeack has held leadership positions with both construction materials producers and software providers. He is co-founder of BCMI Corp. (the Bulk Construction Materials Initiative), which is dedicated to reinventing the construction materials business with modern mobile and cloud-based tools. His Tech Talk column—named best column by the Construction Media Alliance in 2018—focuses on concise, actionable ideas to improve financial performance for ready-mix producers. He can be reached at [email protected].