Aussie SMBs must learn agility tricks from emerging Asia


By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Tuesday, 16 June, 2015


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Australian SMBs could learn a thing or two from their counterparts in emerging APAC countries, and local companies even have the potential to replicate the regional average high growth rate.

These are among the findings of Microsoft Asia Pacific’s New World of Work (NWOW) study, which explored the digital workplace habits of 11 APAC countries.

The countries were ranked based on the average flexibility and digital productivity of their SMBs, as well as the support employees receive from technology, leaders and workplace cultures.

Australia received an index score of 36, below the APAC average of 40 and significantly below frontrunners Indonesia (62) and the Philippines (61).

Microsoft Australia applications and services group lead Steven Miller said the results demonstrate that SMBs in emerging APAC countries are blessed with an inherent flexibility.

“They are embracing [cloud computing and] mobile and using the resources that they have — the creativity and tenacity of their people. Rather than being chained to a desk, they are able to leverage that inherent agility,” he said.

“That is something that Australian small businesses can really learn from — they can learn that SMBs have inherent advantages in the nimble and fast ways for operating enabled with mobile technology to help them to compete for business and compete against bigger businesses.”

The report shows that the traditional notion of work is changing in Australia. Some 64% of Australian respondents to a survey conducted for the study said they are required to respond to internal communications within four hours and 58% must respond to external customers within four hours.

Nearly two-thirds of Australian employees are required to be contactable outside of work, but only 48% feel well equipped with the technology to respond in this time frame.

In addition, 65% of Australian employees are already spending more than 20% of their time working outside of the office. Yet 66% are working in SMBs that do not support remote workstyles with formal policies and encouragement.

The most common reason cited for needing to be in the office is that the tasks required to be completed need specialised equipment and tools, or the provision of in-person services. More than four in 10 Australian employees also report not having full access to the information needed to perform their job while not in the office.

To close the gap, SMBs need to enable secure remote working, communicate and collaborate in real time from anywhere, allow work from any device and democratise access to technology, the report states.

Employees likewise need to change to be more flexible, collaborative, tech-savvy and self-managing. Managers will have to learn how to lead dispersed teams, provide spaces for collaboration and embrace changing technology.

Email services are the most widely used remote work tools, having been adopted by 91% of local respondents. Other popular services include social tools, document collaboration tools, virtual meeting tools and file-sharing services.

BYOD has meanwhile firmly taken hold in Australia, with 49% of employees reporting using personal devices for work tasks.

“The nature of work has evolved and now requires more remote collaboration. Progressive companies have changed their workplace, policies and capabilities to better succeed in this environment,” Organisation Solutions COO James Eyring commented.

“These companies also provide more flexibility to current workers and better attract young talent who are used to a connected and mobile environment.”

Image courtesy of gail under CC

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