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Technology companies continue to see customer interest in cybersecurity, cloud computing and other areas, perhaps indicating that the business environment is stabilizing, according to a new survey by CompTIA, a nonprofit trade association for the global tech industry.

Eighty-four percent of respondent tech firms reported in June receiving new customer inquiries and business opportunities up from 76% in March, CompTIA said.

SEE: The new normal: What work will look like post-pandemic (TechRepublic Premium)

“There remains much uncertainty about the pandemic’s impact moving forward, but it’s a hopeful sign that technology is viewed as a solution to help businesses navigate through these uncertain times,” said Nancy Hammervik, executive vice president for industry relations at CompTIA, in a statement.

Customers are most interested in cybersecurity-related products and services (cited by 42% of tech firms surveyed), shifting on-premise infrastructure or applications to the cloud (42%), managed and outsourced IT services (40%), and general consulting help on how to “go virtual” (40%), the survey found.

Nearly nine in 10 members report that their organization has prioritized training IT staff in one or more cybersecurity areas within one to two months in areas including best practices for educating end users (43%), network monitoring/access management (32%), risk management/mitigation (31%) and data loss prevention/data security best practices (30%), according to the survey.

Among US companies surveyed 44% have applied for a Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Managed service providers and technology solutions providers accounted for about three-quarters of the companies surveyed that sought financial assistance from the federal government.

Staffing changes have leveled off

Another potentially positive indicator in the survey results is in staffing. The percentage of companies that reported making staffing changes has leveled off–56% in June compared to 58% in the last survey. Among firms that have acted:

  • 25% postponed interviewing and recruiting for new positions (32% in April)

  • 18% cut back on hours of full or part-time staff (21%)

  • 14% laid off contractors or suspended their work (18%)

  • 14% hired new staff to support increased customer demand in areas such as remote work support and cybersecurity (13%)

  • 13% laid off full or part-time staff (17%)

“Companies also reported taking positive steps in training employees in technical areas such as cybersecurity, networking, programming and tech support, as well as in ‘soft skill’ areas like communications and customer service,” said Amy Carrado, senior director for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, in a statement. “Taking advantage of any downtime in business activity to upskill employees is likely to pay off for these firms as customer engagements increase.”

SEE: How IT teams have been challenged by the shift to remote working (TechRepublic)

CompTIA surveyed 231 executives from its member advisory councils and communities on how their companies have been impacted by COVID-19. The latest survey, conducted between June 1 and 5, is the third monthly member poll since the pandemic began.

In the June survey 52% of executives reported they are feeling optimistic, 42% are hanging in there, and 6% are hurting and in a difficult situation. These results are virtually unchanged from the previous survey.

A large majority of companies (84%) have been impacted by the pandemic, according to CompTIA. The most common scenarios include the cancellation or postponement of orders by some customers (58% of firms, unchanged from late April), or customers requesting a restructuring of contract or payment terms (46%, up slightly from 41%).

Companies are nearly unanimous (94%) in their belief that their business will change for the long term, CompTIA said. The most frequently cited change is allowing more employees to continue to work remotely (65% of respondents). Other anticipated shifts include relying more on social and digital marketing rather than traditional methods (48%) and permanently reducing business travel (47%).

Some of these actions are being implemented now, at least according to comments provided by survey respondents. For example:

  • “Performing online meetings versus in-person. Alternating in-office/remote workers to maximize social distancing.”

  • “Restructuring information protection agreements to allow remote work.”

  • “Leveraging more cloud solutions to support the customer.”

  • “Trying to work with customers to support them as much as possible with payment holidays, credits etc.”

  • “… Taking advantage of every piece of government support to ensure that our cashflow isn’t squeezed.”