Business and Enterprise |

Revealed: The Aussie industries needing a virtual revamp

By John Ieraci February 25, 2021

Our economy is, touch wood, beginning to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. The explosion of businesses embracing digital tools, which played a critical role in keeping our economy running and people working, shows no sign of stopping. But there are some industries that need to up their digital game if we’re to unlock a multi-billion dollar virtual goldmine.

Doing business and the delivery of services has changed forever, with the virtual pivots many businesses made to ensure thousands of Australians could work from home, attend telehealth consults, virtual classrooms and even online gym classes continuing even as things have started to return to “normal”.

That’s actually good for the economy. Economic modelling by PwC, commissioned by Telstra, found that increased digitisation by businesses could add up to $90 billion to the Australian economy and create up to 250,000 new jobs by 2025.

The sticking point is this requires a number of key sectors to open digital doors they’ve been resisting or been slow to unlock.

More education for our educators

Education has been among the hardest hit industries since the pandemic took hold, according to our research with PwC. While education institutions have started the digitisation journey – with remote learning deployed across Australia’s schools – there is more to be done.

Digital upskilling of educators is lagging, with 79 per cent of organisations surveyed by PwC saying that they have staff with limited confidence engaging with digital tools. Creating stronger digital skills goes beyond hosting video links for students – it’s about offering a safe place for educators to try and share new digital ways of working. These might sound like small steps, but they add up – our research found that embracing digitisation in education will contribute up to $5 billion in new growth by 2025.

It’s time for governments to help open more digital doors

As the world continues to change, Australians are looking to government for guidance and assistance.

Now is the time for governments to embrace technology like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide better, more efficient services. This offers enormous potential for our digital economy, as our research found that up to 20,000 jobs can be created in the government sector by 2025 through increased digitisation.

Healthcare needs a digital injection

While our national healthcare system responded exceptionally to the COVID-19 crisis and temporary measures encouraged more telehealth services, one third of health organisations told us that they are yet to adopt telehealth services.

Connecting with patients over a video link might be a step in the right direction, but it’s important to continue finding new ways to enrich virtual patient care. Leveraging AI-enabled tools, such as predictive models built on big data sets, is one way to predict conditions with a high degree of accuracy, and shift healthcare from reactive management to early diagnosis and prevention.

Embracing digitisation in healthcare also has the potential to create up to $8 billion in new growth by 2025.

Transport and logistics take caution on the digital highway

COVID-19 has severely tested transport, logistics and supply chains – the backbone of our economy – from delays to production through to disruption of global suppliers. What helped though was the sector’s early adoption of data analytics, digital tools and remote working applications that help organisations get a greater visibility into their supply chain and keep track of their assets.

A good example is Telstra’s Track and Monitor asset-tracking platform that was used by a healthcare customer as they deployed COVID-19 triage clinics across the east coast of Australia. This ensured valuable equipment wasn’t misplaced, helping to mitigate risk as demand continued to increase.

While transport and logistics are on the front foot when it comes to adopting digital technology, the next step is elevating cyber security to a top priority. More than half (54 per cent) of the organisations we spoke to are underprepared for a cyber incident. The sensible next step is ensuring that their data is secure – from putting network security in place to block attacks to ensuring ecosystem partners understand security responsibilities. Otherwise, it’ll be hazard ahead.

What’s next?

It’s clear that running a business in a COVID world is very different to how we operated pre-pandemic. Stronger digital skills means faster adoption of digitisation, improved customer experience and better business economics, no matter what industry your business operates within.

Based on our experience helping businesses from every industry across Australia on their digital transformation journey, our business technology experts at Telstra Purple have developed a Digital Maturity tool. Knowing how your business stacks up in terms of your ability to respond to Australia’s digital opportunity is powerful knowledge when you are deciding how to respond to changing business environments.

Now is the time to embrace digitisation to raise the Australian economy up and create the jobs of tomorrow.

Small Business |

Taking care of business with free MYOB Essentials

By Anne Da Cunha February 24, 2021

As the Australian economy becomes more plugged-in, logged-on and fired-up than ever, we want to give all small businesses digitising potentially for the first time the ability to mind their own business. That’s why we’re teaming up with MYOB to help Australian small businesses get the job done.

We know how busy it is running a business. You’ve got to handle everything. Your customers, your staff, suppliers to chase and invoices to handle. But we want to lend a hand with a one-stop shop for all your business tools and needs.

To help with that, our new suite of tools for Australian small- to medium-businesses (SMBs) launches today and includes a free three-month subscription to MYOB Essentials (normally valued at up to $180) for new and existing customers.

Combining your Telstra mobile and MYOB subscriptions on the same Telstra bill, simplifies administration and payments – allowing business owners more time to get on with what matters most.

Customers can choose any plan from the MYOB Essentials range on the Telstra website or in store to combine their billing, while still having access to MYOB’s ANZ-based support teams. The three-month free offer is valid with any $65+ Telstra month to month plan.

We’ve heard businesses asking for more help with their business apps, and accounting and payroll are key. Having the power to get paid quickly and easily helps ensure the continuity of your business.

It’s all part of our mission to help Australian businesses thrive in a new digital world. The pandemic has driven more shoppers online than ever, and paired with a desire to shop local, the digital economy is vibrant.

Telstra’s Business Intelligence Insights report recently showed 76% of SMBs agreed that in 2020, digital technology helped them stay connected with their customers, in response to the impacts of COVID-19. And 72% of SMBs agreed that in 2020, digital technology helped them keep their business running and adapt how they work, in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

In addition to this, a recent MYOB Business Monitor found 35% of Australian SMEs moved more of their business online after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with 83% of those who did saying it helped their business stay afloat.

For more information, and to sign-up, head to Telstra.com.

Business adviser analyzing financial figures of the company while meeting
Small Business |

Giving business the opportunity to get online for Christmas with a free website

By Anne Da Cunha October 12, 2020

With less than 90 days to Christmas, it’s fair to say this festive season will be like no other. With COVID-19 restrictions still in place around the country, many small and medium businesses are feeling the pinch in the lead up to what is normally a lively retail period. We want to help small businesses as much as possible during this difficult time and that’s why we we’re giving them a free website and Google listing to capture precious digital dollars.

The online tools you need this festive season

Did you know 1 in 4 customers will not consider using a business if it has no online presence? That’s why we want to make sure your customers can find you online when they have money to spend by offering a free website to small businesses.

We want to help you be found by your customers with a .com.au domain that reflects your business brand, and a website built from a template of designs you can have online in minutes. The websites we offer work brilliantly on mobile to capture customers on the go and allow you to also promote your social media at the same time. And it’s free for the next 12 months*.

It also includes a Google My Business listing, which allows users of the world’s largest search platform to find your outfit! This is critical due to the fact 1 in 5 consumers in our survey would bypass a small business they haven’t used before if no customer reviews are available.

To help your online presence even more, we’re also offering three months free website services when you take up a $65/month business mobile plan.

And if you switch your business’ plan to us from 1 October to 15 November, we’ll include access to a dedicated nbn Connection Manager: a single point of contact during the connection process to ensure you get truly personalised service.

Gearing your business for growth

It’s no secret that this year has seen businesses of all sizes under enormous pressure. Unfortunately, that pressure has been felt particularly acutely by small and medium businesses (SMBs).

But despite the doom and gloom, we are still seeing Australians clocking up billions in online spending this year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Naturally, businesses that already had an online presence or quickly pivoted to e-commerce, have been at an advantage.

Biologi, a scientific-skincare brand based in Byron Bay is acutely aware of how a strong online presence can drive your business. Heather Earl is the skincare brand’s Senior Marketing Manager and told us that a website is instrumental to reaching a wider audience.

“I truly believe that having our brand so readily available to consumers has been instrumental in our rapid success in a short space of time.

“Your website is your number 1 marketing asset, most consumers won’t consider shopping from your business without a website, they expect your business to have an online presence giving them a sense of protection that you’re an established, professional and legitimate business,” Heather tells us, adding that it also helps to grow your brand beyond a simple business and into a community that can have an impact on the lives of your customers.

“A website is an incredible easy and accessible touchpoint for building brand awareness that can complete your brand story. We use ours not only for retail but also for giving customers an insight and support in customisable forms. We chose to have an online skin quiz developed by industry professionals so that customers near and far can have equal opportunity of receiving an expert opinion on how to build a skincare regime that will get results for them.

“No matter how unique your product or service is, comparison is an inevitable part of business management, online presence ensures that control the narrative on your branding so that customers get an accurate insight into the incredible work that goes into creating a revolutionary brand.”

SMBs have often told us that the time commitment to building and maintaining a web presence is too high. But now that COVID-19 has driven legions of shoppers online, driving a digital strategy for small business is not just important – it’s urgent. Especially considering we’re seeing Australian consumers actively looking to support local businesses in their area.

That’s why we want to help provide the digital tools they need to get their products and services online quickly ahead of the busiest online trading period of the year.

Things you need to know

* Your website with the Extra Small (XS) 1 Page website plan will be live for 12 months, however you can upgrade at any time to a paid Telstra Digital Marketing Services Small, Medium or Large website service. At the completion of the 12 month free subscription period, the subscription will terminate, the website and its contents will be deleted, and the associated domain will be released for you to renew with Telstra or a third party.

Telstra News |

The future of the workplace post-COVID-19 – the new normal isn’t coming, it’s here now

By Andrew Penn August 31, 2020

It is business, but it’s far from usual. COVID-19 has transformed our ideas about how and where we work and put flexibility, adaptability and technology at the heart of the workplace. The way we work and how successful businesses in the future will be defined has changed forever – here are three thoughts on how.

Firstly, there is no “normal” when it comes to the workplace, what matters is maximum flexibility.

We’re all different. Some people are more introverted, some are more extroverted. We all have different personal circumstances and the organisations that will be successful in attracting and retaining talent will be those that can offer their employees maximum flexibility. In developing our thinking around flexible working Telstra is developing six personas based broadly around our people’s different role types, their technology needs, communication preferences along with individual considerations, challenges and expectations. This is about identifying the right solution for each person in our workplace, not a one size fits all, so our people can choose to work in a way that best suits them. Managing across personas increases complexity and adds more challenge to how leaders must manage but when you get it right, the payoff is so much higher.

Second, the humanity of our people will re-shape our culture.

Workplace culture has changed enormously during COVID and all for the better. The usual shields of business – the clothes, the offices, the hierarchies that we sometimes hide behind – have been stripped away and we have all got a better glimpse into each other’s real lives. It has certainly been a great equaliser as we all get to see each other’s partners, kids, pets and homes. The connections are real, the links genuine. The businesses that will be successful in the future will embrace their humanity and make it the foundation of their culture.

And third, our technology, tools and property plans need to supercharge our ability to do our best work.

Operationalising the workplace of the future means drawing together the threads of flexibility, adaptability and technology. It is a cross-functional, cross-company task and Telstra’s leaders from property, networks, IT and HR are considering our infrastructure, technology, tool and skills requirements through the lens of our employees’ experience, needs and expectations. The businesses that will be successful in the future will be able to think through flexible working in all its dimensions, and bring it to life through technology.

A new normal

Not long ago the biggest catalyst for workplace change was advances in digital technologies and connectivity. Many were alarmed jobs would be replaced by artificial intelligence, automation or robots. Those things have not gone away but COVID-19 has taken the future of work in a totally new direction, a direction that is increasingly virtual and remote rather than physical and centralised, a direction where a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday workday (physically at the office, for many of us) is suddenly hard to imagine.

The “new normal” for work will be flexible, geographically dispersed, and offer a choice of a hybrid of digital and physical tools and spaces that are tailored to your role and your technology needs, preferences and expectations. Work will be something you do, not somewhere you go.

At Telstra, this concept of flexibility will include our office-based staff but also extend to the many thousands of Telstra people who work in stores, install or repair connections at homes or businesses, take E000 calls or provide other critical services at secure facilities.

When COVID first hit, we moved our 25,000 Australian-based office employees to work-from-home to get ahead of things. We did that in a single weekend, more or less without a hitch. That was nearly six months ago and most – myself included – have not been in the office since.

Video meetings are now standard at Telstra. In July, as just one example, we ran more than 8 million Microsoft Teams calls. Management meetings, Board meetings, team meetings are now virtual including this year’s Annual General Meeting – a first in our 160 year history.

It is hard to imagine a bigger disruption to traditional work practices and yet the appetite for this type of flexibility is extraordinary. A recent employee survey showed more than 60% of our people believe they are more productive working from home and, on average, they would prefer to work from home around 3 days per week, compared to an average of 1.7 days prior to COVID.

We introduced All Roles Flex in 2014 but it has taken this pandemic to fundamentally shift us from a workforce that sees home working as a nice-to-do to a permanent fixture in the work-life juggle.

The top reasons our people cite for embracing this change are no commute time, greater flexibility on working hours and more time for exercise and family. There are still challenges (issues like mental health and domestic violence are very real) and we recognise that some people will want to return to the office as soon as they can while others do not have the choice such as those serving customers in-store.

Before COVID we trialled an agent@home model for Australian-based sales and service consultants from our call centres. Now all consultants can potentially work from home, shifting the conventional thinking on customer service roles.

There is no way to know exactly what the world will look like a year from now so we must accept this is our new normal and prepare for it.

Humanity in all its colour

If work is like the blood that flows through our veins then technology and collaboration tools are the connective tissue. However, as vital as they are it is the purpose, values and culture of a company that defines who we are. Through COVID this has been enriched by the humanity which we are now seeing on high-beam.

In two weeks’ time it will be six months since I set foot in the office. I certainly miss all those informal interactions – the opportunities to bump into people in the coffee shop or the side conversation before or after a meeting. Their absence cannot be replaced by technology alone. We all have our own small rituals and COVID has enabled us to better understand their bigger role in our psyche. In uncertain times, rituals give us comfort and confidence.

Working from home has truly broken down hierarchies in a way we could never have imagined previously. Teleconferencing means we are bringing people into our homes every day and they are seeing us in a way they never have before – with all of our issues, challenges and vulnerabilities.

In our efforts to keep connected, we are also asking each other how we are in meetings – and actually stopping and listening to the answer. The simple question “How are you” during a health pandemic is no longer a polite refrain but a symbol central to connecting us and looking out for each other.

From these simple acts of humanity, mental health, safety and wellbeing are now a foremost concern in how we manage our workplace and evolve our culture. Providing a safe work environment has always been fundamental but the increased focus on mental health is rightly pervading our outlook and is a key component of our new normal.

We need to be part of a tribe, to feel connected to each other and something bigger, with a purpose. The opening of the window into our humanity during COVID only enriches this.

Supercharging our best work with technology

Telecommunications networks and digital technology have been critical during the lockdown period, and the acceleration of the digital economy is now not only crucial to a fast economic recovery but is supercharging our people’s ability to do their best work.

The basics are obvious: what are the connectivity, applications and tool requirements – in the office, at home and on the move, for voice, for video and online collaboration?

Others are more complex and can involve anything from identity management to cyber security and our property portfolios. These are all important considerations with critical consequences if not managed well.

Like other large organisations, we operate large office buildings in CBDs around the country, many of which are now either largely empty or much-reconfigured to accommodate social distancing measures.

Our employees have told us they no longer want to be there Monday to Friday, that they see themselves coming in around two days a week to collaborate, see customers, socialise and build relationships with colleagues and to learn. There are many ideas around how this might work, from modifying existing facilities to cater for collaboration to a “hub and spoke model” that puts more office facilities closer to where employees live, including in suburban or regional areas rather than centralised in the CBD.

But in the new normal, more deeply understanding our people means we can enable them with technology, connectivity and physical space options to do their best work where and how it suits them.

This is the new normal

I have been in the workforce for more than 40 years and I have seen how work and the workplace has evolved. I have seen how roles change, how some have disappeared and how new technologies have brought forward new thinking around productivity, flexibility and engagement. I have also seen many changes in the nature of what constitutes a successful company.

Even before COVID it would have been naive to think technology was not going to continue to drive changes in our lives and in our workplaces – the real issue then is how do we respond and how we prepare ourselves for the future.

What COVID is showing us is that we are at our best when our workplaces offer maximum flexibility, when they enable us to let our humanity into our culture and when they combine the power of technology and connectivity. When they do that we will create a workplace that not only survives the new normal but thrives.

Tech and Innovation |

Innovation and technology are the foundation of Australia’s new normal

By Kim Krogh Andersen August 24, 2020

There’s no doubt technology has helped Australians address the changes that COVID-19 has brought on. From working, learning, socialising, shopping, eating, being informed and entertained, technology has been the foundation as we attempt to continue with our lives as much as possible. COVID-19 has swiftly forced the uptake of digitisation and changed our behaviour forever.

As a nation, we have collectively invested time and resources into learning how technology can help improve our lives in 2020, and we expect it to continue to play a vital role in the years to come.

Looking forward, COVID-19 will change the way we live and work forever. Just like other times of significant change and disruption, we need to learn the lessons, adapt to a new norm, and come out of it stronger. We cannot miss this chance to ensure the pandemic becomes a catalyst for innovation and growth in order of a better future.

In the home this year, we relied heavily on a stable and fast internet connection to support our working-and-learning from home environments during the day, while depending on it for seamless video streaming and gaming in the evenings. Furthermore, Australians have increasingly realised the benefits of shopping for goods and services online. Even when COVID-19 passes, we expect our newly-formed habits to remain, having a better appreciation of a fast, strong, and reliable internet and Wi-Fi connection.

Outside of the home, innovation was also being developed and deployed to keep us safe when we leave the front door.

The Government encouraged Australians to download and use the COVIDSafe app in order to provide an easier way to automate contact tracing to reduce further infections.

Telstra’s Track and Monitor asset-tracking platform was used by a healthcare industry customer as they swiftly deployed COVID-19 triage clinics across the east coast of Australia. This helped ensure there were no misplaced expensive and in-demand equipment, especially during a time of constant change.

We also saw the fragility and our dependency on delivery and supply chain systems, exposing the lack of end-to-end visibility. As an example, we are working with major suppliers to accelerate the development of Telstra’s Connected Supply Chain product and are also negotiating with transport companies to help increase supply chain visibility with domestic deliveries.

Quick, transparent and interactive communication was also very important. Victoria’s Department of Health & Human Services needed technology to help ensure compliance to the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for close contacts of COVID-19 and chose Whispir’s mass communication platform to perform this function with great success.

It is more imperative than ever to ensure the country does not encounter a second wave of nation-wide infections and the respective lockdown as a result. If it were to happen, the OECD has said the Australian economy could decline by 6.3 per cent this year, which would take us back to where it was in 2016.

The technology pioneered to help manage the pandemic will continue to help us live in the ‘new normal’.

Travellers passing through Canberra Airport may notice new Temperature Screening solutions at the security check-in. This allows the airport to increase its protection against COVID-19 and includes thermal cameras to detect travellers with high temperatures. The key goal is to help reassure passengers transiting through public spaces like airports. We may see more of this type of technology installed at other public spaces like train stations, shopping centres, and maybe even at some workplaces where thousands of people pass through daily.

Traditional offices will also evolve as a result of COVID-19. Employees will demand to be allowed to continue working from home after the forced experiment pressured companies to change their flexible-working mindset and accelerate the required digitisation. This also meant the need to evolve the cyber security, technology processes, and communication and collaboration tools to enable successful remote working. The pandemic has pushed CIOs and IT departments (no matter what size) to finally modernise various procedures and systems.

Telstra’s Smart Building product already measures people’s movement through infrared sensor data to deliver insights on desk usage, meeting room usage and general occupancy levels. The product is now being expanded to measure social distancing and hygiene compliance, and will be highly relevant to all industries, especially retail, transport, health, and commercial offices.

Elsewhere, video analytics will be deployed to assist critical industries with real-time thermal scanning to ensure the ongoing safety of staff and the public. AI will help deliver insights such as people flow and count, movement analysis, alerts, and more.

There is also set to be a widespread acceleration of automation (as robots can’t contract COVID-19) which has several drivers. One of the interesting opportunities I’ve seen is robots that can clean, disinfect, help detect fever symptoms, and monitor mask and social distancing compliance.

In the home, we’ll see faster internet enabling more advanced entertainment and educational technologies. I expect further innovation in television, gaming, smart home, and communication devices will be front and centre in consumer electronics R&D in the next 12-24 months.

I have no doubt these examples of technology and innovation will be scaled even further.

COVID-19 has reinforced how critical technology is for our daily lives, specifically dependable and fast connectivity. The swift need for network reliability and resiliency when we first moved to working from home, was an early indication of how vital connectivity will be in the future.

The world is slowly exploring ultra-reliable low latency use cases like autonomous driving, remote surgery, robotics, smart cities and smart homes. 5G, Edge Computing, IoT and AI are critical technologies for us to enable these advanced scenarios, but we can’t forget security, privacy, customer experience, and operational excellence are equally as important when we embark on this journey. Because it’s people that will give purpose to technology.

COVID-19 has meant new cultural and workforce transformation for the better. We strongly believe technology plays a central role in these shifting and accelerating trends and will be the foundation in what the new normal looks like for Australians – in the home, at the office, and anywhere in between.