Small Business Digital Task Force recommends a central point of advice for SMBs

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The Small Business Digital Taskforce has delivered its recommendations to the Federal Government, with the establishment of an independent body to be a central point for information and advice on digital options for small businesses (SMBs) its key proposition.

Chaired by Mark Bouris, the taskforce was brought together last November to look at how to accelerate the rate of digital adoption by SMBs.

“Many small businesses are delaying, ignoring or simply are unaware of the opportunities that digital technologies may offer them. There is a lot going on out there to support small business but much of it is uncoordinated and this makes it challenging for a small business owner to navigate through,” Bouris said.

According to Bouris, members of the taskforce spent time talking with suppliers and vendors of digital solutions met state and federal government agencies and spoke with industry associations and SMBs to understand the barriers facing businesses.

Among these barriers, the task force stated in its report is the fact that SMBs “tend to be suspicious of tech companies’ pitch to buy their products”.

SMBs also tend not to go to the government for digital advice, while the efforts of the government to engage SMBs online have also been mixed, the task force reported. On the flip side, SMBs trust industry associations, however, these organisations haven’t been able to provide best practice digital advice or effective digital awareness campaigns for their members.

Also, a problem is that SMBs trust the advice of their accounts on digital issues, but accountants, in turn, lack a central reference point from which to source their advice.

With this in mind, the task force recommended that an independent body be established to provide that central point for  tailored, up-to-date, easily accessible information

“At its centre, the new body will maintain a curated online platform which will be recognised internationally as the ‘gold standard’ for digital small business advice,” the report stated.

The body should partner with industry associations and Small Business Commissioners to “facilitate a flow of information” relating to the digital needs of SMBs and best practice digital advice, and be the main vehicle through which the federal government can promote digital awareness.

A member of the taskforce, Minister for Small and Family Business, Craig Laundy said, “I get that change scares people, but this is a change that we have to communicate to small and family businesses that if you adopt and embrace digital technologies, there are not only productivity and profitability gains but hopefully you’ll get more time to spend on the things that matter to you.”

To promote digital awareness, the task force also recommended the development of initiatives such as video and audio case studies promoting success stories of SMBs who have leveraged digital tools, an online ‘digital health check’ tool, providing industry associations with digital best practice guides, and a local ‘digital champions’ program providing trusted sources of local advice and digital roadshows for regional areas.

These recommendations are geared around selling key messages to SMBs, the report stated, including the notion that going digital will save SMBs time, provide SMBs with the flexibility to work anywhere at any time, and increase revenue by helping SMBs reach new customers and markets.

The task force stated that the recommendations should be pursued by the new independent body, however, urged the government to act quickly.

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