Europe: Pandemic highlights regional IT cracks

We examine our European coronavirus research findings

Recent IDG Connect research showed that IT leaders from Europe were far more likely to highlight management as their biggest lockdown challenge than anywhere else in the world. Why is all about internal politics in European IT?

The Covid-19 crisis and resulting lockdowns have revealed sharp divisions across Europe. Different countries have all taken their own approaches - with varying levels of success - and some pundits have suggested all this could spell the end of the European Union. Only time will bear this out but what is clear that everything has become localised - from instances of the diseases to measures to contain it - and this need for autonomy is even showing in IT departments.

Management is singled out by European respondents to our research study as more of a problem than anywhere else in the world. Here are a few suggestions as to why this might be.

Cultural divisions rife across Europe

Way back in 2014, I did an interview with Rafael Laguna CEO of German software company, Open-Xchange, who grew up in cold war era East Germany and described how the legacy of the Stasi still plays out in German attitudes to Google surveillance today. By contrast, in the UK the wide use of CCTV surveillance is generally accepted because of the decades-long IRA bombing campaigns on British cities.

Cultural legacies have a big impact on the use of technology across Europe and also have a big impact the IT department. This is especially true of management structures, where individuals often have to take direction from physically remote leaders who don't necessarily understand linguistic and geographic nuance.

‘Chain of command' more popular

Regional management centres are a common way to divide up businesses, but these can become more significant in a Europe separated by languages and dialects. Eugenio Pace, an Argentine working in the US and CEO of Auth0, an identity platform for application builders argues that Europe has taken a more traditional ‘chain of command' approach to the workplace compared to the US' flatter organisational structures. He believes this is why remote working has been slower to proliferate in Europe.

"Lockdown has been a test for many managers. The hierarchical bosses, who have to control everything, are no longer the successful ones," he says.


Economic fallout exaggerates cracks

Earlier this year, IDC revised European ICT spending forecasts from 2.8% to 1.4% in the wake of the pandemic, anticipating a "substantial impact" of COVID-19 on European tech. The analyst suggests half the previously predicted regional ICT growth will be a consequence as "the crisis seeps into virtually all European economies".

Economic fallout is the same the world over but as it becomes more pronounced natural chinks in businesses are bound to widen. In European IT departments this may expose regional divisions and management structures that are not always well received.