Australian businesses are facing one of the most challenging times in the last century and one many didn’t see coming. Following a long and devastating bushfire season earlier in the year, businesses are now having to adapt to the realities of a global pandemic. This not only means short-term business priorities have been turned on their head, but also makes planning for the future trickier than ever before, writes Jason Toshack General Manager ANZ Oracle NetSuite.
Statistics have shown that two-thirds (66 per cent) of Australian businesses have had their turnover or cash flow impacted and nearly half (47 per cent) have made changes to their business as a result of COVID-19. With significant economic impact comes the need to equip your business with the tools to continue well into the future.
How then can business leaders tackle the challenges they are facing now and build resilience for the future. Here are three ways:
Remain true to your business purpose
All business activities should be aligned to its purpose. It can be all too easy to lose sight of this as a business and team face uncertainty, however it should serve as a north star, more so during tough times. As conditions change, priorities may need to be adapted to change with evolving employee and customer needs.
Focusing on alignment can also help businesses uncover new ways to achieve their purpose. For example, a café could identify its purpose as being to sell high-quality, tasty food to the local community. In a time of change, this could inform a switch from traditional, dine-in hospitality to a delivery-based business model or offering raw ingredients, like coffee beans, fresh fruit and vegetables or eggs, for purchase.
By aligning, or re-aligning priorities to the business purpose, businesses are able to meet their customers’ needs in different ways. Whether that means adjusting the business model or service delivery, aligning priorities to the business purpose helps employees understand the value their work adds and provides guidance in even the toughest times.
To help identify and stay true to their purpose, business leaders should ask themselves:
What will give employees a greater sense of how they are contributing to the business?
In what way can the business add more value to its customers and the wider community?
How can the business best articulate its purpose to its audience and employees?
What is your own personal purpose and how does this link back to your business?
Having real-time access to the right data is particularly important during times of uncertainty. If data is living in fragmented Excel spreadsheets and on various, disparate platforms, the chances are that business leaders will struggle to find the insights they need to drive high-value activities.
This often leads to baseless decisions that miss the mark more often than not. Using one single source of truth for all data point will boost transparency across business units, enhancing collaboration and the accuracy of strategic decision making at a time when it counts most.
Businesses should first start with an audit of their data sources. Are they accurate? How often is the data updated – does it update in real time? From there, they can find any gaps in analytics capabilities that can be addressed either through new processes, software solutions or upskilling. Data should always link to key business objectives to provide strategic guidance.
Evaluate technology investments
The flexibility of the cloud and application program interfaces (APIs) has allowed many business leaders to bootstrap solutions. For example, while modern accounting software solutions offer additional business functionality beyond accounting through the use of third-party integrations.
Challenges arise as business requirements becomes more complex – what data lives where? Which programs syncs with which application? If businesses are pondering any of these questions, chances are it is time to re-evaluate the current setup.
Businesses should be tracking existing technology investments and their value. If not, start by:
- Creating a list of all existing technology investments, making note of details like if they’re a one-off investment or ongoing subscription
- Ask the ‘W’ questions: who is using this? What is it used for? Why do we need it? What can be used instead? Most importantly – does it work?
- Identify if there are double-ups, subscriptions to outdated services no longer used by employees, or if the technology no longer meets business needs
From there, businesses can identify what technology investments are necessary. Moving to an integrated platform that provides seamless collaboration across all business units will aid business resilience. Whilst there may be resistance at first, as it can be daunting to move to a new system, the productivity and enhanced business insights are a sound investment for long-term visibility and control.
Finding new opportunities
By embracing a data-driven approach and employing the right technology, business leaders will be in a much stronger position to identify, and action, strategic opportunities. For example, businesses may be able to offer a new product or service that meets consumer needs, such adding home-delivery options or offering online sales consultation.
Two in five (38 per cent) Australian businesses have recently changed how they deliver their products and services, including moving to online services. Real-time data and insights can provide the guidance on which new strategies are effective and help optimise as they go.
By aligning priorities around the business purpose, teams can focus on what will ensure long-term value. Adopting a data-driven approach with the right technology setup will drive greater collaboration and internal transparency, while data will guide businesses in the best direction for new opportunities. These strategies will help businesses manage turbulent times with resilience, now and into the future.
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