In my last article, I spoke about how our unique internet equality or “democracy” is giving rise to a level playing field for Australian businesses large and small. The roll-out of the NBN network has changed the stakes, and now, startups, scale-ups and enterprises from Perth to North Ryde can compete with one another on the merit of their ideas.

New national and international fibre networks such as the recently announced Hyper One network, will increase the connectivity between all parts of Australia with Asia, the Americas, even Antarctica - with vast and robust network infrastructure at a scale that has never been seen in Australia.

Competitiveness for Australian businesses on a global scale, has always been tied to connectivity - if you don't have quality connectivity, your ability to keep up with the international markets is limited. With Australia’s huge land mass, our regional areas have not had access to the same quality of connectivity as metro areas, but that’s now changing thanks to the NBN.

With equal access to all of the same connectivity options and SaaS-based tools, Australian businesses all over the nation are competing on the strength of their people and their ideas. It has often been said that an organisation's greatest asset is its people - and I’d argue their currency is collaboration.

Collaboration in today’s digital world hinges on humans connecting with one another digitally, and importantly: in real-time. The next generation of connection capability and what it means for our economy and our country, is exciting.

A shift to digital-first operating models

Today we are operating in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” - a phrase coined by the World Economic Forum in 2016, in reference to the increasing digital transformation around us.

The business world has been disrupted and remodelled with automation, IoT and smart devices, and the rate of change is accelerating.

The adoption of new digital tools and the flexibility they allow is enabling more businesses than ever to transition to digital-first operating models. Without the need for physical infrastructure or bricks-and-mortar presence, they can drive efficiencies and make cost savings that can be used to invest in other products and services that will enhance growth.

There are countless examples of how this disruption is playing out: the traditional finance model with new FinTech solutions for instance, and of course, the transport sector that was completely overhauled with the advent of new ride sharing apps.
The coronavirus pandemic only accelerated this trend - take Flight Centre as an example. A few years ago, there used to be a travel agency on every street corner. Increasing digital literacy over the past 10 years, however, has empowered customers to shop around and compare prices for themselves.

The practice of going into a store to book flights via a human agent became much less of a necessity, so it’s unsurprising that with the travel ban imposed, Flight Centre had to stand down nearly 6,000 of its staff members. How much of that dramatic impact can be attributed to the temporary impact of COVID-19 versus permanent changes in human behaviour as a result of the relentless march of technology - we can all have our own opinions on.  

It’s clear that our understanding of traditional ways of working are shifting.

Work from anywhere

After the shift to remote work, our understanding of the centralised office hub is changing too, and the business benefits are manifold. Saving overhead costs is just the start.

Now, without a mandatory requirement for people to be physically within commuting distance, businesses have access to talent from all over the nation, in fact, the world.

Top performers can come together virtually and collaborate more than ever before, sharing learnings gained from international experience, increasing diversity, and maximising potential for novel ideas and new thinking. All of which have been proven to contribute directly to business success and revenue growth.

Agility leads to survival

The businesses that thrived throughout the COVID storm were the ones that were able to move the fastest. Those that were able to successfully “pivot” (second only to “unprecedented” as the most overused buzzword of the year!) their operating models or supply chains in response to the rapidly changing circumstances were better able to manage the crisis and maintain business continuity. The importance of agility - both in business operations and in team mindsets - has never been clearer.

The adoption of cloud models and the rising trend of SaaS solutions is in pursuit of greater agility within the business. Cloud services allow capabilities to be rapidly scaled up and down without the burden of substantial infrastructure costs, which enables businesses to be more responsive to market conditions.

Ultimately, this should mean businesses can take on and trial potentially more experimental opportunities than previously. This propels them to move faster and rise above competitors from regions all over Australia, and indeed, the world.

Competitiveness, connectivity and collaboration

The fourth industrial revolution means the world economy could more than double in size by 2050, as PwC predicted, due to continued tech-driven productivity improvements.

Asian markets continue to be the highest growth economies - China, India and Indonesia are massive populations with the fastest growing middle class. This is where we will find the global centre of gravity of new consumption in the foreseeable future. In today’s digital economy, geographical proximity is no longer a limiting factor for us Australians.

With the strength of our ideas, access to affordable productivity tools, and the true agility that real-time collaboration awards us... where to next?

Australian businesses are primed for global growth. If an organisation's greatest asset is its people and their currency is collaboration, the power of synchronous collaboration is an advantage Australian teams have in a global context.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, our time zone conveniently straddles the working day across the American and Asian time zones. I’d argue that Australia now has the privilege of proximity to the action when it comes to emerging international markets, at the times that matter.

Where would you rather be?

Australia has navigated these last 12 months extremely well compared to other parts of the world, and with all of the benefits that high-speed, business-grade connectivity and equitable access available, there really is no limits for businesses of all sizes, all over the country. Within a global context, I am excited to see them develop, and how the Australian economy will prosper in the years to come.