Mark Bouris's column was first published by the Sunday Telegraph and is published here with permission.
Business is a lot like Darwin’s theories: you adapt or die.
So I’m concerned about the two-speed digital economy.
Among Australia’s two million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), many have grasped the productivity and efficiency advantages of digital technologies. But the rest are pushing back against digital and are taking themselves the way of the dodo. The message is simple: go digital or die.
Here’s just some of the ways you can embrace the revolution:
Business owners must understand the difference between threat and opportunity.
Telstra’s Security Report 2018 might say that 60 per cent of Australian organisations experienced business interruptions from cyber attacks in 2017, but there’s also opportunities. McKinsey & Co, in its white paper ‘Digital Australia: Seizing opportunities from the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, predict that digital technologies could boost our economy up to $250 billion by 2025. That’s a huge dividend for business owners to ignore.
Forget about blockchain and AI. Start with the basics: every business has to run a profit so small firms should investigate how digital can reduce their costs. Something as basic as foreign exchange and offshore payments can be done for half the price of a bank if you transact online; all sorts of procurement — from designing a logo to booking office space in a city you’re visiting — can be done cheaper and faster if you’re online;
Amazon and Uber are not mistakes. Consumers like the speed, convenience and price of digital offerings, and all businesses can make life easier for customers by offering a digital channel, even if it’s just an informative web site
Digital platforms now integrate the email and data systems with mobile phones and landlines, allowing everything to work wherever the owner or employees happen to be.
If you’re not using a system like this, the competition probably is;
You don’t have to be a big corporation to set up branches in other cities or produce goods in large quantities.
Small firms can expand their footprint by appointing contractors and partners and integrate them on digital platforms running in the cloud; and Aussie firms can access Asian manufacturing across digital sharing systems.
Digital can mean scale.
On the flip-side of scale, small firms can use digital systems to design, manufacture, distribute and sell small-run items to consumer specifications;
Every business has a back office which can be streamlined and made cheaper with digital systems. The efficiencies range from book-keeping and banking to paying taxes and payroll. Even basic compliance can be done online with most government departments;
Many firms with dispersed workforces are using social media-type platforms to communicate with employees and contractors, and using video-call to do meetings. It’s powerful stuff if you choose to use it;
The Commonwealth and big suppliers such as Telstra and Microsoft offer a lot of information resources in how to protect digital data and communications. It involves educating employees, having anti-virus systems, using a good password protocol and ensuring employees don’t open phishing emails. The information is out there;
Finally, business is evolving everywhere all the time.
The digital revolution is now part of business and we’ve reached a point where it isn’t so much what you gain if you do, but what you lose if you don’t.
There are far more opportunities with digital than there are threats, and business owners owe to themselves to find what those opportunities are.