Into the unknown: how small businesses can plan for what comes next

It’s safe to say none of us could have envisaged the seismic shifts in the way we work over the past year. We’ve moved from the office to remote working with Zoom/Teams/Webex overload and now the dawning of the hybrid workplace. The pandemic unsettled business as usual for countless industries and forced a rethink of what it means to be agile and prepared to meet unexpected challenges.

So, how do SMEs prepare for future shocks?

Digital transformation – old theory, new practice

Digital Transformation is a well-worn phrase at this stage, but it has become the centre of attention again during the pandemic. Companies with digital transformation strategies supported by flexible, resilient, high-capacity infrastructure were able to cope with the sudden shifts of the pandemic and those that were not had to adapt very quick or perish.

Looking ahead, a solid digital foundation could also help SMEs better prepare to stay ahead of new trends and leverage them to their advantage in times of future uncertainty. Businesses that can thrive despite external ambiguity are those that now make the transition from digital transformation to digital acceleration.

As the Australian small-business community begins to rebuild, companies will need to explore how they can use technology to connect to the market, their customers and their teams in a more compelling, authentic and engaging way, to ensure they’re building on the strongest possible foundation.

A flexible competitive advantage

For most SMEs, the office is pivotal to generating team bonds and culture, but times are changing. A recent research report from software company Slack found that almost one in two respondents would leave their jobs due to a lack of flexibility.

This change is already in action – according to the latest ABS statistics, 30 per cent of SMEs currently have staff teleworking.

Companies that offer a seamless flexible working experience through enhanced remote access, easy-to-use remote tools and inclusive working culture will find it easier to attract and retain talent. To achieve this, small business owners need to think about how they can invest in building greater flexibility, scalability and – ultimately – resilience into their network strategy.

The need to be secure

Cybersecurity is key to any future-proof strategy. The pandemic highlighted many of the common security gaps in companies’ digital infrastructure, especially as businesses rapidly switched to all-remote workforces and more consumer behaviour shifted online.

Security is going through a transformation, as the world moves more and more digital, cybersecurity becomes more and more critical and businesses are rethinking their approach to tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to facilitate an anywhere, anytime workforce but can also put additional demands on a business’ network plan.

Cybersecurity is just one of many solutions that businesses are considering as they integrate IT further into their operations in order to respond to new working expectations and unpredictable challenges. To be successful, small business owners require a holistic view of network and IT management investment from the foundation up, to ensure each layer of the ICT stack is set up to support the next.

Preparing for the future

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and employ almost 5 million people across the country. It is simple – if they fail, Australia fails.

To ensure we are well-positioned for change and have a smooth path through future uncertainty, small business owners need to understand how they could create the solid, future-ready foundation required to respond to whatever comes next.