The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way organisations prioritise their goals and agendas, with digital acceleration now at the forefront for Australian businesses. A recent study found a shared belief that technological factors will be the most important force impacting companies over the next two to three years. This trend is set to sit at the heart of C-suite strategies for Australian organisations in 2021, as business leaders aim to protect and grow bottom lines in an increasingly dynamic commercial environment.
We surveyed over 400 Australian leaders of SMEs to better understand how their investments in new technologies have impacted operations and overall performance.
The results show that Aussie businesses plan to continue investing into bolstering their digital infrastructure after increasingly seeing benefits from new software such as collaboration and online communication software.
39% of businesses purchased online meeting software since the pandemic
SMEs in Australia have increasingly turned to technology to resist the impacts of the pandemic, and for the right reasons.
The result of the survey shows that online meeting tools are the most purchased solution since the COVID-19 crisis began, with 39% of Australian organisations investing in them to use on either a temporary or permanent basis.
The next most common purchases were eCommerce and endpoint protection software products, both of which were deployed by a third of businesses (33% each). This is in line with the current trend of businesses increasingly engaging customers virtually.
73% of Aussie businesses have seen positive impacts from their software investments
To aid transition to a post-pandemic economy, last year the Morrison government pledged AUD$800 million to encourage Australian businesses to use new technologies and move them towards online platforms.
This support from the government, coupled with an Aussie commercial sector highly motivated to invest in digital infrastructure, resulted in tangible benefits that helped businesses to withstand the impacts of the pandemic. 27% of businesses report that software purchases led to a “very positive” effect on their ability to survive COVID-19, while 46% state the impact had been “somewhat positive”.
When asked about what the most positive impact of new software had been, almost half of the respondents (49%) stated the ability to work remotely had delivered the biggest business benefits.
Beyond helping companies adapt to the coronavirus crisis, the overall satisfaction levels with software purchases is also high. 38% of respondents state that they are very satisfied with their software investments and 53% say that they are somewhat satisfied. Only 9% of organisations expressed dissatisfaction with their software investments in the last year.
Sales and promotion are the focus areas for digitisation in 2021
Most organisations intend to replace software as it is unable to meet their current needs (34%). The next most common reason for replacement is a lack of agility preventing it from supporting evolving business models (25%). 32% of organisations plan to eliminate old software for the same reason, while 7% of respondents will eliminate at least one software programme due to financial constraints.
While most businesses are happy with their digital infrastructure investments, a considerable number believe they need to replace or eliminate at least one software programme in the year ahead.
When it comes to the specific areas of the business where organisations plan to invest in digitisation, the list is diverse with most keen to modernise their sales and promotion efforts (66%).
The top areas where Australian businessesplan to invest the most in digitisation in 2021:
- Sales & promotion (66%)
- Poduction/service delivery (50%)
- Backend adminstration (49%)
- Logistics and supply chain support (47%)
- Collaboration and communication (43%)
- Data mining and analytics (42%)
COVID-19 brought the spotlight back on cybersecurity skills
The acceleration in technology transformation during 2020 coincided with a significant increase in cybersecurity crimes targeting organisations’ digital infrastructure. According to Australian Cyber Security Centre’s (ACSC) Annual Cyber Threat Report, a cybercrime is reported every 10 minutes in Australia today.
To help address this challenge and protect Australia from growing cyber-attacks, the federal government announced it will invest AUD $1.35 billion into cybersecurity over the next ten years as part of a new program called the Cyber Enhanced Situational Awareness and Response (CESAR) package.
But for businesses an ongoing focus on cybersecurity optimisation is essential to mitigate the threats.
While the investment into new endpoint protection solutions is positive, the survey results points to further challenges. For example, there is an imminent need for more professionals with cybersecurity skills. 35% of respondents claim cybersecurity skills will be the most in demand skillset over the next six months.
Australian companies are seeing value in emerging technologies
Emerging technologies and new ways of working can play a significant role in the transition to a more digital economy.
Today, new and emerging technologies are helping Australian organisations build customer, employee and stakeholder trust, keep remote workforces connected, increase business resilience and build a strong foundation for future product and service innovation.
The results of the survey show that Aussie businesses see maximum value in emerging technologies like big data analytics (48%), cloud-based storage (46%), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (40%).
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of driving business transformation using technology as an enabler. Emerging technologies will be essential in helping organisations recover from the initial impacts of the pandemic, better protect themselves from growing threats and set a strong foundation for the future.
Data for this study were collected in December 2020 from an online survey of 493 respondents that live in Australia.
To participate in the survey, respondents had to be:
- Employed full-time in one of the following roles:
- Owner, founder or other head of an organisation
- C-Suite executive e.g., CEO, CIO
- President of Vice-president
- Working for a company of up to 250 people
- Working at the organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic