Digital thinking is boosting business in Western Australia
Digital strategy, digital transformation and the digital economy continue to dominate the frameworks of small business leaders searching for a competitive edge that will take them to the next level.
Data hungry applications, supercomputing, cybersecurity and the sheer power of data science are all intersecting and re-shaping the environment. There is a need for businesses to move, seize and see the opportunities of the digital future today.
At the beginning of the pandemic, businesses that were able to move quickly, become digitally-led and found new opportunities to grow. Digitisation provided a way to reach new markets and experiment with productivity-improving technologies including video-conferencing and collaboration apps such as Microsoft Teams and Slack. These technologies made it easier, and more efficient to engage with business supply chains.
However, added stress also pushed many small businesses already in survival mode, to the brink.
Worker shortages, increases to the cost of doing business and supply chain issues all contributed to that stress, as have managing the constantly changing regulations and rules (particularly in Australia with state border rules changing in a matter of hours).
Small businesses know how to adapt and move quickly. While no one really knows what the future ‘new normal’ looks like, there are still some actions small business leaders can take today to continue improving.
Leveraging the technology that has been invested in due to the pandemic, and the associated experience and knowledge that comes with navigating new challenges in these times is a good place to start.
Three steps for successful digital transformation
Evaluate your options and opinions
Time poor small businesses adapted quickly during the pandemic. However, they were often forced to bolt on new tech solutions to solve immediate problems, such as implementing digital payment systems to switch to online sales in very short timeframes. This was often done without a long-term vision for those investments.
According to nbn-commissioned research from analyst firm Telsyte, fewer than half (44%) of all small to medium businesses (SMBs) had a digital strategy at the end of 2020 and many still don’t in early 2023.
Telsyte’s research found that cloud-based systems were now being used by two-thirds (66%) of SMBs. Data storage was the most used cloud service, used by 63% of SMBs, followed by accounting and finance services and communications systems, such as video conferencing. Yet the majority of SMBs said they lacked the skills and knowledge within their businesses to utilise cloud-based systems to its full potential.
This data showed that small businesses need better access to knowledge and strategies to help them tap into more sophisticated cloud applications that can often bring existing data sources and applications together. Comparatively, few (14%) SMBs use cloud-based business analytics systems and customer service systems (12%). Only 9% use cloud-based business process management tools which are critical to staying competitive in a global market.
Take stock of your IT investments. To get started, ask these questions:
- What were you trying to achieve with this IT investment?
- Has it done what you wanted it to do?
If not, look for alternatives. IT investment decisions, whether they’re made for productivity or customer-experience reasons, will always require re-evaluation over time as technology evolves and business priorities change.
Seek expert advice from more than one expert
The small businesses that succeed in digital transformation are those who seek expertise.
ICT management consultants are experts who can help you to evaluate the digital state of your business and recommend better integrations, alternative systems and immediate action you can take to get the most out of your systems. Your professional associations can guide you through the many options and make suggestions as to the best tools for your industry.
Like big business, small businesses can feel bound to the tech resources they’ve already invested dollars in. However sometimes it might be more effective, cheaper and less frustrating to move to a newer alternative and start again.
These can be tough decisions - but technology development never stands still. Good advice can help businesses understand changing technologies and software is not necessarily a loss, but rather a change in direction that can better position the business for growth.
When looking for advice, find someone who knows your industry well. Small business owners are well aware requirements can vary widely between industries and individual businesses. Advice needs to suit your own circumstances. Do you need specific inventory software that easily integrates with your specific warehouse partners and broader supply chain?
‘Bite the bullet’ and seek advice, because no one can be an expert in all areas. Leveraging professional help gives time to focus on your vision and the bigger picture for your business.
Find your digital community
Small business owners are always learning from their business community peers, picking up new digital ideas and solutions to problems. Your networks shouldn’t be ignored when setting tech strategies.
Your business community can help show you what skills you should invest in. What are the types of digital roles people are hiring for in your industry? Are they social media specialists, cyber security experts, IT service managers, or a mix? Each industry will be different, so understanding from within your community what skills are being sourced is a great place to start.
This will also provide some direction for training existing staff. Telsyte’s research found the majority (63%) of SMBs have made investments to digitally upskill their employees; so has your investment been of benefit? What type of digital skills are most helpful in your specific industry and do you have them?
Industry communities are also great for SMBs as a source of inspiration and growth. Along with the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA), there are many industry-specific member associations that can point you in the right direction on skills and training. These resources are underutilised, so use them to your advantage.
What are you doing in 2030?
Not all the new digital channels and technology you use today will become long-term features of your business, but it is clear digitisation is a powerful and ever-changing generator of new opportunities.
For most small businesses, taking time to assess the current state of their digital set-up is a crucial first step in planning what comes next. No one really knows what the new normal will look like this year or next year, but a strong digital foundation is critical for small business leaders to be prepared for what lies ahead.
Step into change – you are an entrepreneur
With more effective controls in place, as the world becomes more digital and the number of potential threats increases, all businesses should be more vigilant in their awareness of threats with a focus on education, training in security and risk management. The opportunity is there to help drive change and build awareness for enterprise security right across all organisations – from individual employees and contractors, right through to upper management and directors at the C-suite level.
The Federal Government has committed to 90% of Australians in the fixed line footprint, over 10 million premises having access to world-class gigabit speeds by 2025. This means great digital capacity and workforce flexibility for more Australians as we pursue greater productivity and economic growth through digitisation, diversification and decarbonisation.
nbn is a Australian Government Business Enterprise, network wholesaler and also a proud Member of CCIWA. nbn’s WA team is dedicated to supporting CCIWA Members thrive in the global digital economy. Please visit nbnco.com.au/businessfibre to see the support that is available to business.