bluenotes debate: data, security & disruption for SMEs

For small-to-medium businesses, knowledge is power – the kind that leads to success. And there’s no better fountain of knowledge for modern SMEs than data.

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ANZ’s latest insights report The Digital Economy: transforming Australian businesses shows businesses could benefit from a collective revenue boost of $A385 billion per year and around 22 million hours of effort saved - each week - by employing a range of digital solutions.

" I think what you need to be doing is challenging yourself to always understand data.” 

To discuss the issue, we sat down with Blue Derby Pods Ride owner Tara Howell, Xero’s Australian Managing Director Trent Innes and ANZ’s General Manager of Small Business Banking Guy Mendelson. The event was hosted by SmartCompany digital publisher Zoe Dattner.

Below is an edited version of the discussion. In this, part two, the panel picks apart data and security for SMEs, as well as the future of disruption in the sector. You can read part one HERE.

They started by addressing the right time to use data in your business.

DATTNER: SMEs are forced by circumstance to solve problems on their own.

I know that there is - depending on the size of a business - often this niggling feeling from owners they need help from an expert or a guru, which often is expensive.

Tara, as the owner of a very young business, how are you solving some of those problems and working out when you need help? How do you identifying those points where you just need to push it a bit further?

HOWELL: I think you're really asking when to ask for help around data. I don’t think it’s an actual point, like, ‘at this point in your journey you should be looking for it’.

I think what you need to be doing is challenging yourself to always understand data. Saying that you love data is something you shouldn't be ashamed to be passionate about.

When we started I was so keen to know about our customers through our analytics. I wanted to know who was booking and where they were booking, how long it took them to book, their age, everything about them.

When we started, by understanding that and being so fascinated in our data, we were able to confirm our secondary target market. It sounds really funny given we’re a mountain biking experience but our core target market is a softer adventure seeker. They are not necessarily hardcore mountain bikers.

Through data we were able to confirm the hardcore mountain bikers will actually pay for our experience - and then change the way we use digital channels to target them.

To your question, I think the point that you feel like you can't interpret or understand your data - that's when you would look to get some assistance.

DATTNER: Cybersecurity plays a big part in the report – but I think the word cyber really needs to be replaced. I think we're probably just talking about security.

Once upon a time it would have meant just padlocks and safes. How can we turn cybersecurity into a discussion that seems like something we all need to act on? How can we have a different conversation about it where businesses start to think of it in the same way they think about the locks on their doors and windows?

INNES: It has changed a lot but I still think, on the whole, small business owners are too lax with their security. They don't fully understand what the risk is. The biggest risk is still the person sitting in front of the screen.

There's always a debate in the design experience over making something as beautiful as possible and as secure as possible.

I do think there's a brand issue at the moment. Cybersecurity sounds like a problem big business has. But it’s just as big of an issue for small business.

MENDELSON:  I think the best thing to do is to have a prevention plan and to be talking about it all the time. The prevention plan realistically needs to look at people – not just your policies and your technology.

And just having a plan and putting it in the drawer is not good enough. The environment is changing so quickly you need constant communication around it and awareness of it. It isn't like putting a padlock on a door and opening and shutting it when you need to.

Talking about it is really important. The fact that only 50 per cent of the people we surveyed really thought about it or knew much about it is a real concern. It is one of the major challenges facing not just business but the world moving forward.

INNES: Cyber insurance is an interesting one as well. We all insure our buildings and our premises but we don't actually insure ourselves against digital risk.

DATTNER: I read a really lovely line from a fellow called Jeremy Scrivens recently, a future of work consultant and theorist. He wrote if you want people to embrace digital transformation, you must allow them to take the best of the past with them.  I'm curious to get your thoughts on that.

INNES: I actually completely agree with that. I think you still need a great strategy in place, you’ve gotta have a great idea. It's just digital helps you amplify that.

I actually dislike the word disruption as disruption has a negative connotation to it. People see the word disruption and think ‘I'm going to lose my job’.

From the evidence we see it's actually the opposite. For example, for every app someone downloads to Xero it creates 20 per cent of a new full-time job.

So actually the more digital you are, the more people you are employing. Technology doesn't disrupt, people disrupt - and that's always been the case. I don't see that changing.

I get to visit so many small businesses and the amount of them that have got overseas customers now is huge. The barriers to overseas business that used to exist are not there anymore. They can be globally competitive.

I would actually say right now small business has better access to technology than big business and can adopt it quicker. In 2009 the app store came about launched with 500 apps on. There are now two million apps on the App Store. There's so much innovation going on.

MENDELSON:  The only thing I'd be a little bit more explicit about is the customer. If you embrace digital it will allow you to engage with your customer in a in a more efficient, effective way.

Cosi De Angelis is GM Transaction Banking & Asset Finance Solutions at ANZ


The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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