Digital transformation: it’s not just for big business

| July 11, 2017

“Digital transformation” is one of the buzz words in business, with major programs underway in Australia right now at most of the country’s largest corporate and government organisations.

In fact, digital transformation is becoming embedded in the fabric of the country – the Australian Government has an agency dedicated to leading the digital transformation of the delivery of its services; the ANZ Bank has just appointed a General Manager Digital Transformation and Performance; and the NSW parliament passed a digital transformation bill that will make it easier for the State government to introduce digital services, such as digital drivers licences.

There is an expectation now from most Australians that they can access products and services online and even via their mobile devices. In fact, almost nine in 10 adults actively use the internet and just under three quarters of Australians use mobile phones to access the internet, and major corporates and Australian government at all levels are scrambling to meet the demand. In 2015, Deloitte predicted that the value of Australia’s digital economy would reach $139 billion by 2020, representing 7.3% of GDP.

I believe that 2020 figure will be surpassed for two reasons. First, I think Deloitte has misjudged the rate of adoption and change in the Australian market. Second, they haven’t factored in the potential impact of small to medium businesses on Australia’s digital revolution.

There’s no reason why SMBs can’t reap the benefits from the digital economy, and achieve those benefits far quicker than the larger players.

There are more than two million SMBs in Australia, and they have one distinct advantage to larger enterprises: agility. The barriers that exist for these businesses to transform their existing processes are far lower. And for companies starting out, they have the opportunity to go digital from the outset. We are starting to see these early digital first startups creating disruption for the traditional players in industries like banking and finance, travel, retail and recruitment.

Generally, SMBs have fewer contingencies to deal with – not so many interdependent processes and a smaller or more defined customer base – while each transformation they make has the potential to have a massive positive impact on their overall business. That positive impact is likely to come in the form of revenue growth, job creation, exports and innovative activity.

Digital transformation can have a massive benefit for SMBs from simple things like having a business website or social media presence all the way through to automating their supply chain or developing a mobile app for their business. And there is still a lot of untapped digital potential in the SMB space: according to the Sensis e-Business Report 2016, 61% of SMBs have a website, only 19% have a digital business strategy and just 7% have developed a mobile app.

One of the issues for SMBs to achieve digital transformation has been the access to and cost of the technical resources and skills required to make it happen. Unlike their larger peers, SMBs usually don’t have the in-house resources to help and local consultants and IT services companies are more focused on and more geared towards the opportunities at the enterprise and government level.
One option that has been working for Australian SMBs has been to source the digital transformation services and skills they need from Sri Lankan organisations.

Here at the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka, we’ve seen some fantastic collaborations between Australian and Sri Lankan companies, including Camms, Exetel, Expedia and Sinorbis.

As well as sourcing services from Sri Lanka, more Australian companies are setting up their operations in country, or creating business units working on developing new products and services, proving them as minimum viable products (MVPs) before launching them into their primary market. Our two countries have a great cultural fit, our businesses are smaller in size and easier to deal with than most of the region’s other sourcing destinations, and our business ethos is based on customer service, skills development, quality and innovation.

Our government agency’s role is transform Sri Lanka towards a creative knowledge-based society through digitally empowered citizens, and establish our nation as a destination of choice for Australian organisations of all shapes and sizes looking for the services they need to achieve digital transformation.

For the past few years, we have led successful trade missions to Australia, and participated in events like Gartner Symposium, Connect EXPO and CeBIT Australia. Between trips, we plan to establish an ongoing communication between Sri Lankan and Australian businesses.