Go dig­i­tal or go like the dodo

Busi­ness is a lot like Dar­win’s the­o­ries: you adapt or die.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - THE MENTOR - MARK BOURIS Mark Bouris is founder of Men­tored.com.au and chair­man of Yel­low Brick Road, www.ybr.com.au ASK MARK AT WWW.MEN­TORED.COM.AU

So I’m con­cerned about the twospeed 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:

DIG­I­TAL MIND­SET

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.

SAV­INGS

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.

CUS­TOMERS

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 web­site.

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

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.

SCALE

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.

CUSTOMISE

On the flip-side of scale, small firms can use dig­i­tal sys­tems to de­sign, man­u­fac­ture, dis­trib­ute and sell small-run items to con­sumer spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

BACK OF­FICE

Every busi­ness has a back of­fice which can be stream­lined and made cheaper with dig­i­tal sys­tems. The ef­fi­cien­cies range from book­keep­ing and bank­ing to pay­ing taxes and pay­roll. Even ba­sic com­pli­ance can be done on­line with most gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

EM­PLOY­EES

Many firms with dis­persed work­forces are us­ing so­cial me­di­atype plat­forms to com­mu­ni­cate with em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors, and us­ing video-call to do meet­ings. It’s pow­er­ful stuff if you choose to use it.

THREAT

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 an­tivirus sys­tems, us­ing a good pass­word pro­to­col and en­sur­ing em­ploy­ees don’t open phish­ing

emails. The in­for­ma­tion is out there.

EVOLVE

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 it to them­selves to find what those op­por­tu­ni­ties are.

If you don’t adapt as a small busi­ness you’ll likely end up go­ingthe way of the dodo.

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