Between the devastating bushfires from the start of the year through to the ongoing pandemic, the bedrock of the Australian economy has been hit with wide-scale customer declines, supplier challenges, and the impact of lockdowns. And yet, despite all of this, there is confidence in the sector. Sensis research shows that 57 per cent of SMBs "feel confident" in their future.
The key will be how those businesses rebound and move forward as the economy begins to recover. The challenge will be that businesses need to acknowledge that the pandemic has had a profound socio-cultural impact, and it will change consumer behaviour. People will rely on online shopping and remote services more, and as such the focus on the digital experience will be all the more critical. That's a transition that will challenge some SMBs. As a Deloitte report recommends, small businesses should take a step back and consider a staged adaptation to the new customer and social dynamics, as this will have implications for everything from customer relationships, though to cashflow, supply chain, the workforce, the workplace, and digital enablement.
As the report notes:
"To bridge the crisis and lay a foundation to thrive, we've identified three phases for businesses to work through:
- Reflect: Define what's next for your business. Think about what has worked, what you have learned, and what has been missed in your response to COVID-19.
- Restart: Manage your reopening. Determine where to focus first and what's required to meet your most pressing business priorities.
- Revitalise: Use these new business priorities to reconfigure and revitalise your business. This requires a balance between ongoing and evolving needs."
Underpinning all of this will be the way in which SMBs utilise technology, and for many SMBs, this is going to be a big opportunity to rapidly evolve their business.
Introducing SMB DIGITAL powered by CEBIT Australia
The inaugural SMB DIGITAL powered by CEBIT AUSTRALIA event is the only event of its kind in Australia that is focused exclusively on small and medium-sized businesses. As a virtual event that will run from October 20-21, the event will help small and medium sized business leaders across the country grapple with the challenges and opportunities that technology offers them, throughout the rest of this year and beyond.
The event will cover six broad themes, each addressed by numerous experts, and will give visitors the opportunity to participate in live presentations, panel forums, and Q & A sessions:
- Data management
- Digital transformation
- Finance software & technology
- HR software & technology
- Marketing platforms & automation
The goal of each of these tracks is to provide attendees with realistic solutions and ideas for their capacity as SMB. For example, with security, Australian SMBs understand the need to do better with regards to cyber security – research from the Australian government found that 90 per cent of SMEs wanted to understand cyber security better, but have a lack of dedicated IT staff, struggle with the complexity of security, are unsure of how to plan, and underestimate the impact that a cyber security incident will have on their business.
As Steven Scheurmann, IBM RegTech Solutions Leader, Asia Pacific said, ahead of his own presentation at SMB Digital, there's a lot of the perceived complexity among SMBs with regards to security doesn't need to be as complex as they believe… and it doesn't need to cost them with their customers, as often happens when security solutions are managed poorly.
"The problem with buying and investing in more standard security products to protect digital payments is it makes the customer experience very horrible," he said in a blog post.
"You will never be able to catch the smartest criminals with a traditional approach - there are so many transactions online. Even if you're a brilliant investigator, it's not easy to identify a pattern," Scheurmann added.
"Combining AI, machine learning and behavioural profiling is key because they can work together to interrogate and interpret a vast amount of data very quickly as opposed to individuals conducting investigations."
What's important for the SMB, Scheurmann argues, is that SMBs invest in capturing the right data, which will help them invest in AI solutions that deliver the real security best practices, without imposing on the customer at all. There are other benefits to the SMB, too, the blog post notes go beyond shielding them from theft that shows how AI can facilitate a more intelligent response to dubious behaviour on a transaction by transaction basis.
Scheurmann's presentation is just one example of the kind of innovative yet practical thinking that SMBs will gain access to in attending SMB digital. Click here for more information.
Meanwhile, while digital transformation is a complex project that is prone to failure within even the largest of enterprises, as a KPMG report notes, it's more important now than ever that SMBs look to digital transformation as a way of preparing themselves for the future. As the report notes: "This crisis has just made disruption very real, and has put a spotlight on the gaps in operations and technical investments. It is now important for businesses to start thinking more strategically about technology and digital capabilities, and investing in uplifting their operating models as an imperative rather than a 'nice to have'."
Finally, automation and digital solutions are a clear path forward for SMBs to improve the efficiency and productivity of their workplaces, particularly as remote work becomes standardised. As a recent Gartner report found, 82 per cent of company leaders will continue to allow employees to work remotely, at least for some of the time. They'll do this because the benefits of remote work – improved productivity and morale, and access to talent from anywhere, without regard for geographic limitations – are too good to resist. To help facilitate a better remote work environment, SMEs will benefit from understanding the value of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and automation across a wide range of different departments, including Finance, HR, and Marketing.
All of these pressing topics – and more – will be covered by the inaugural SMB DIGITAL powered by CEBIT AUSTRALIA. While 2020 has been a difficult year for SMBs, there is real opportunity to rebound with strength, and taking the opportunity to better understand the role technology will play in that will help SME business leaders better understand their next best step forward.
Develop a roadmap for the future for your business and sign up to attend SMB DIGITAL powered by CEBIT Australia.