Business and Enterprise | Small Business |

Why the digitisation of Small Business is now urgent – not just important

By Michael Ackland July 31, 2020

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it has been how to rapidly respond to change. With online spending skyrocketing in recent months, Australia’s small-to-medium businesses must respond to this change in customer behaviour in order to take advantage of the ‘new normal’.

The COVID inflection point for digitisation

Make no mistake: Australian businesses in all shapes and sizes are at an inflection point, with the data telling a truly remarkable story. Unemployment has risen rapidly, and 1 in 10 small to medium businesses are no longer trading due to COVID-19. Those that have survived are reporting serious concerns, with 80 per cent of small to medium businesses expecting adverse impacts to their operations in the next two months.

Small business owners have always told us that one of the biggest barriers to getting their operations online was the time required. Owner-operators are typically so invested in doing the day to day that they don’t have the time to digitise their business. 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.

New data from Venture Insights indicates that 70 per cent of Australian consumers now consciously support local businesses, but many indicate that they are hamstrung by a lack of online presence. Businesses that go digital also reap near-immediate rewards, with our research showing that boosted technology spending leads to revenue that is three times faster than those who don’t invest in technology.

There are clearly huge opportunities for small to medium businesses in Australia to go digital during this time.

Driving digitisation

To capture these post-COVID consumer dollars, businesses must seize the opportunity of e-commerce as much as possible because those that have adapted well have put technology right at the centre of their business.

Businesses that have managed to rapidly digitise during lockdown have told us that tech and telecom services are now more important than they had been in a pre-COVID world. Connected, always-on tech is now being used by small businesses to create new experiences for customers and new ways of doing business.

There’s no doubt that it’s going to continue to be hard for many to adapt. Previous barriers to adoption such as time pressure or complexity are still as relevant as ever, but the urgency has increased. Video, remote connectivity and e-commerce must now be the watchwords of the successful post-COVID SMB.

One such business adapting successfully is Kalleske Wines. Situated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Kalleske relied heavily on physical presence at its winery, restaurant and cellar door to do business. When COVID-19 hit, Kalleske had the radical idea to take the fundamental features of a winery and put it online, adapting and digitising its operation rapidly to stay open.

It started to offer mixed six- and 12-packs of wine with accompanying videos and downloadable resources for customers to learn more about the wine. Furthermore, it replaced its Cellar Door experience with Facebook Live sessions in conjunction with a local industry group to continue tour and information sessions. Private tastings were held via video conference, with customers being sent new 100mL sample sizes to try the wine during the session.

Kalleske has told us that they’ll almost certainly continue all of these initiatives in the future to ensure that customers who would rather not travel can still take advantage of what their business has to offer.

It’s not an easy road out of COVID-19, but with resilience and ingenuity, many SMBs will be able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour and provide more remote working opportunities for their employees. Ultimately though, there is no going back.

COVID-19 represents a fundamental opportunity to capture not only a new wave of online shoppers, but also for SMBs to digitise their operations.

As the backbone of the Australian economy it is now incumbent upon all of us to get behind small business and help them grow. However, moving past these challenges (toward a new normal) and moving back into growth requires time and support, which many SMBs don’t currently have.

So we have made some small but significant changes to help them thrive:

  • To give you peace of mind about staying connected to your business operations over the coming months, we’re providing unlimited data allowances on fixed broadband free of charge for our small business customers until 30 September.
  • We’re offering small business customers a $50 credit for 6 months when connecting a new fixed internet service on the $100 Business Internet Unlimited plan with a $25 Business Calling Pack, until 31 August. This is a great offer providing more value to our Business Internet Plans to help small business to thrive again.
  • We’re offering small businesses access to our new Digital Marketing Services website plans at half the regular cost, until 31 August. We’ll help you create or update your website and if needed, open an online store.
  • We’ll be on hand to assist you in creating business listings for Google My Business, Apple Maps and Facebook Business. For our existing customers, we will automatically apply 50 per cent off your Telstra Digital Marketing or Telstra Online Essentials website subscription charge.
  • If you’re missing any equipment to work from home, Telstra’s Mobile Worksuite gives you the data, software, devices and support you need to get you and your team working remotely smoothly.
  • We continue to monitor the situation closely while working closely with regulators and the government. Our absolute focus remains on team wellbeing, supporting our customers and playing our part in the national response.
  • Find out more details about how we’re supporting small businesses through COVID-19.
Network | Tech and Innovation |

How we’re bolstering our digital economy with stronger fixed and mobile connectivity

By Nikos Katinakis July 17, 2020

The past few months of social restrictions have shown just how important connectivity is to keep the nation moving. As we emerge into a brave new world, ensuring fast, resilient and available connectivity is vital for economic momentum. We’re now thinking differently about how and where technology supports Australia’s incredible digital economy.

Lockdown: tackling an unprecedented network event

Security Operations Centre

Connectivity will have an ever-increasing and key nation-building role in the COVID-19 recovery efforts, as we grasp the opportunities the new digital economy will bring.

COVID-19 represents not only an unprecedented public safety event, but an unprecedented network event.

Our fixed and mobile networks, which stretch to more corners of our country and cover more Australians than any other, are massive and complex. On a normal week, we manage the capacity of our networks through various measures to ensure the best connectivity and reliability for our millions of customers. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’re proud of how well we do it.

Our team is working hard during the pandemic to ensure our network stays resilient, fast and available for our fixed and mobile customers.

Through COVID-19, voice calls on our national network have increased by as much as 40 percent and the number of mobile network text messages sent has risen by 21 percent.

We normally see a 30 to 40 percent increase in data traffic on our fixed network year-on-year. While we have seen daytime peak traffic on our fixed network increase by as much as 70 percent when compared with pre-COVID traffic, this increase is easily carried.

This increase – mainly in our uplink traffic – can be attributed largely to an increase in video calls used for meetings and schooling. Even still, this represents a small portion of the total traffic on our network.

The industry-wide collaboration between Retail Service Providers, nbn co and various content providers has played a key role in allowing these traffic increases to be absorbed painlessly. Given many people will continue to work and study from home for the foreseeable future, we think it makes sense to extend the 40 percent free allocation of CVCs (the separate volume-based pricing charge) for the locked down geographies for the time being or, as we and others in the industry have called for previously, for nbn co to look at removing the CVC pricing structure altogether.

Changing for the ‘new normal’

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way our country works. A seemingly simple task like returning to the office is littered with new concerns that need to be accounted for. From social distancing in lifts to reconfiguring collaborative working spaces, we need to think differently about everything.

Based on this ‘new normal’ and knowing how vital connectivity is to ensuring a growing digital economy, we’re thinking about how we can help.

At the height of the pandemic, we announced that we would bring forward $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 into calendar year 2020. This investment will increase capacity in our network and accelerate our rollout of 5G.

It will inject much needed investment into our economy at this time by allowing Australians to work, learn and create remotely, while connecting face-to-face at a COVID-safe distance.

Our 5G rollout started in 2018. With technology designed to provide high-speed, low-latency, high-capacity connectivity, we focussed on deploying 5G in densely populated areas like CBDs, airports and train stations.

A global pandemic, however, means that fewer people can be in those locations. We’re now refocussing some of our 5G investments to deploy into areas that need more network capacity as a priority such as suburbs and regional areas.

This also goes beyond our mobile network. We need to reconsider how Australians work remotely via fixed networks to provide the right technology, the right product, and the right price.

Securing the home-enterprise

The work from home regime will become permanent in some way for many of us and we are working to create the right technology conditions for this permanent setting to be successful.

As enterprises keep their employees working from home for a protracted period, we must consider how that traffic is treated on our network from a security and authentication perspective. This must be tackled at both the enterprise and the home front.

In an age where there are more cyber attacks over home Wi-Fi networks than ever, we need to consider ways to make the burgeoning “home-enterprise user” rapidly more secure through new types of security services.

As we continue to answer these security questions, we’re already rolling out smart security solutions to protect everyone. Our Cleaner Pipes initiative works to actively block cyber threats on our network that would compromise the safety of our customers’ personal information, for example.

This not only helps our consumer-grade customers to stay safe, but also works to keep the new “home-enterprise” customer safe as they work to remotely staff virtual facilities like contact centres and helpdesks.

Pushing to the edge

This fundamental shift in how Australians are working and connecting means we need to radically rethink how network applications are consumed. Thankfully, we’ve been thinking about this for a while with our work on edge-computing: an emerging area of how networks and applications will work in the future.

When you use an application (like a CRM or virtual computer), you can often be limited by the time it takes the network to communicate and action commands. By putting these new applications closer to where they are consumed by users, they will become a lot faster and more distributed than they are today for better performance over ultra-low latency networks like our 5G network. COVID-19 has accelerated the interest in such technology.

Distributing the network capabilities increases speed, security and reliability of an application. Distributing the network applications closer to the edge in multiple locations also cuts down the amount of time someone is disrupted in the event of a network outage.

That’s why our investment to bring better, faster and more reliable network experiences to our customers is an important foundation for the wider digital economy as we all work together to come through the COVID-19 situation as strongly as we can.

Based on nbn traffic.

Tech and Innovation |

Navigating our brave new virtual world

By Michael Ebeid AM July 7, 2020

Many sectors, from professional services to education and even the arts, have discovered a brave new virtual world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether working or learning from home for the first time, seeing your doctor, accountant, fitness instructor or vet on a video conference or attending a virtual performance. As restrictions begin to ease, how will people work, learn and live in this new world?

Since March 2020 organisations across Australia have realised that not only can their employees work from home but that productivity need not suffer as a result. In fact, many are finding the opposite is true.

The upsides of a flexible work policy are well-documented, particularly for an increase in employee attraction, retention and diversity but also to reduce congestion, strain on public transport infrastructure and pollution in the environment.

Virtual services, here to stay

Dad and child working from home on laptop

The video conferencing technology boom has heralded a new era for the services sector, where we saw a rate of digitisation in just a few weeks that we were expecting over the next five years.

Banks have transitioned to remote sales and service teams and launched digital outreach to customers to make flexible payment arrangements for loans and mortgages.

While telemedicine got a massive boost during the pandemic, we also saw the advent of virtual vet consultations and even virtual babysitters, to help Mum and Dad out when they needed an hour of peace and quiet to get some work done while school was out.

It’s not only professional workers who worked from home. Contact centre workers were set up with ‘agent at home’ solutions – spun up almost overnight – opening up employment opportunities all over Australia like never before. The implications of ‘work from anywhere’ are especially significant for urban planning and makes the dream of sea- and tree-changers much closer to a reality.

And while people are working from home, unable to pop to the bank at lunch, or worried about sitting in a GP’s waiting room, they’ve also wanted the convenience of accessing services from home.

This sizable shift in customer behaviour shows many prefer digital interactions when accessing services. KPMG’s recent research found that 75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.”

When we emerge post-COVID, the services industry will not instantly revert to pre-pandemic operations. For many, they will continue to operate dual operations – physical and virtual – and for others, physical services may never return to pre-pandemic levels.

Remote education for all ages

According to the World Economic Forum, 1.5 billion students across the world were unable to physically attend school as a result of the pandemic. Fortunately for most, it was not the end of learning, only the beginning of remote learning, thanks again to technology.

While home-schooling certainly wasn’t for everyone and has led to a renewed appreciation of teachers, the ability to continue learning despite the challenges, was critical.

Telstra worked with Education Departments all over Australia to rapidly upgrade their networks to establish remote learning hubs. In South Australia we helped create virtual classrooms via WebEx for all public schools, allowing teachers to create their own individual online learning space to deliver live video lessons and learning content for their classes.

In the Higher Education sector, where the sudden departure of International students wreaked havoc, we connected many Chinese and Korean students to Australian universities. We developed an online solution for approximately 4,000 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) students who were stuck overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing them to access educational resources and course content material.

These digital environments need not disappear post-pandemic. If education institutions can harness the digital tools they implemented during COVID-19, they will reap benefits not only of international education but the coming boom in micro-credentialing.

A new ING Future Focus Report shows that 3.3 million Australian adults are rethinking their career path because of the COVID-19 pandemic impact. It’s made many Aussies re-think their work choice with some questioning whether their existing skills will always be needed, while others have spent time dreaming about a change in career direction. To address this internally, we announced last week that we’re partnering with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to upskill a number of Telstra employees in the areas of data analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning to meet the demands of a rapidly changing jobs market and digitising economy.

Being able to upskill in this rapidly changing world is an economic imperative and education has an important role to play.

Ensuring inclusivity

For those without access to the right digital tools, devices and connectivity, life in lockdown would have been very difficult – creating a wider digital divide than ever before.

The 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index found that the affordability gap for internet access between high and low-income households is at the same level it was in 2014. The nbn™ network is making connectivity easier but there’s a long way to go to close this gap.

When COVID-19 forced the move to remote learning, it really highlighted just how critical digital inclusion is. Working with state, territory, independent and catholic education departments we provided 30,000 free sim cards to disadvantaged students – not so they could watch Netflix or access social media – but so they could attend school and learn with their peers.

The digital economy will be a boon for many industries but we must ensure no one is left behind.

Many businesses thought they could never work remotely, but have quickly discovered that with the right technology, anything is possible. We are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digitisation across almost every domain.

Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Growing Australia’s digital economy out of COVID-19

By Andrew Penn June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 made many of us shut our doors, something happened. Digital doors opened in their place. We embraced technology like never before to keep businesses running, people working, kids learning and ourselves entertained.

We now have a growing digital economy – something I recently highlighted as a significant opportunity we as a nation should seize. With businesses reopening and social restrictions relaxing, (albeit with some constraints given the risk of increased infections), we should stop thinking about post-COVID-19 as only a “recovery”, but as an opportunity to grow the economy in the long term and put us in a better global position.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression, profound disruption has brought opportunities to be bold, to re-think conventional wisdom, and seek out new economic and social opportunities to help build a stronger future for everyone.

COVID-19 has proved change can be made and embraced quickly. During the height of the pandemic we saw a huge acceleration in digitisation – from telehealth to online learning, remote working and e-commerce – and the fast-tracking of numerous policy and regulatory changes to break down long-standing digital roadblocks.

As a nation we have achieved in a few months what might have taken us years to progress, and it is important that we now do not lose that momentum.

However, a single company, a single organisation or a single government cannot achieve this on its own. Through coalitions across the public and private sectors, we can affect change by removing barriers and incentivising growth so it is faster and more pervasive.

Over the past few weeks I have been Chairing the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Digital Economy and Telecommunications working group, and this is exactly our aim: to map out tangible ways we can put Australia at the forefront of a digital future – paperless, cashless and virtual – so we can come out of this stronger as a nation, not just bounce back.

This requires reform in five key areas: 

  1. Digital transition 
  2. Infrastructure 
  3. Regulation 
  4. Cyber Security 
  5. Skills  

1. Digital transition

Australia’s local businesses and enterprises pivoted quickly to ensure they could keep running – from working from home, to medical practitioners delivering telehealth consultations, we even saw interactive online cheese tasting sessions!

Technology was at the core of many businesses that adapted well. That said, a range of recent studies found that Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise sector could be substantially enhanced by a greater investment in digitising their internal processes and developing an effective web presence. Xero’s September 2019 Small Business insights indicate that businesses that boost technology spending the most grow revenue three times faster than those with the weakest technology spend.

Some options we are exploring include potential incentives and assistance to help the small business sector access the benefits of greater digitisation of business processes and an improved online presence.

2. Infrastructure

Connectivity is what powered many workers and businesses during the crisis, ensuring they could continue running.

For Australians to effectively participate in the digital economy, they need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services.

Telstra announced $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 would be brought forward into the calendar year 2020, to increase capacity in our network, accelerate our roll-out of 5G, power more people with connectivity as well as provide a much needed economic boost.

With the completion of the nbn rollout nearing, there is now an opportunity for the Australian Government to develop its future vision for Australia’s digital economy and the telecommunications industry for the next decade – a vision that is technology agnostic and provides an environment that is pro-investment and pro-innovation.

3. Regulation

Governments and regulators play a significant role in enabling a digital nation, as well as ensuring as many Australians as possible can take advantage of the opportunity.

They took significant steps forward during the pandemic, including measures to help provide better access to telehealth, virtual AGMs, electronic execution of documents, and national electronic pharmacy scripts.

In the spirit of those last two initiatives, the BCA will be recommending a systematic review of regulation from federal to state to local, to eliminate barriers to a virtual and paperless society and a cashless economy.

4. Cyber Security

Last week was a timely reminder about the importance of strong cyber security, with the Prime Minister highlighting major cyber-attacks that are putting pressure on critical infrastructure and public services.

Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures.

Separately, I have been working with the Government chairing its industry advisory panel on the development of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. This will contain a number of significant initiatives to strengthen our collective cyber defences.

5. Skills

It was inspiring to see the flexible and innovative mindset many businesses adopted during the pandemic. This mindset needs to be deeply ingrained in Australian culture and to do this we need to invest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

We have partnered with five Australian universities to jointly develop critical skills and capabilities in areas such as network and software engineering, cyber security and data analytics. But we also need more people entering technology courses, and particularly more diverse talent, including female and Indigenous students.

We are also working on a suite of proposed improvements to the way industry and the education system collaborate, to ensure Australia’s school leavers have the foundation skills needed to succeed in the modern digital economy.

Australia’s opportunity to lead

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has left many businesses and families doing it tough and we need to do everything we can to build a stronger economy in the longer term in response.

Australia has been a world leader when it comes to protecting the nation’s health and economy during COVID-19, and now we can lead again. It will be important in so doing that this includes success for all of our communities.

I recently posed the question What type of historical moment will this turn out to be?. As life slowly begins to return to some type of normal, we are approaching a sliding doors moment.

We can go back to the way things were, or we can build on the innovative, can-do mindset that drove so many positive changes during the most significant disruption to daily life in a generation.

Advice | Telstra Careers |

Three behaviours all great leaders possess

By Aaliah Eggins-Bryson November 18, 2019

Leaders lead by example. They set the pace by actioning the behaviours they want to see from their teams, stakeholders, and anyone else they have influence over.

In my time at Telstra, I have worked closely with several leaders who have had an enormous influence on the company culture. They’ve made complex things simple to understand and helped me find my courage by showing that they care.

As a leader, I try to show the right behaviour to drive a great culture for my team and try to replicate what I’ve seen excellent leaders do. Here’s what I believe are the most important and impactful behaviours great leaders possess.

Having real conversations

Great leaders have real conversations with the people they work with. Having a human connection with your team influences their productivity and produces great results. Instead of letting things go back and forth over email, you can pick up the phone and easily resolve the issue at hand.

When things aren’t going right, it’s your responsibility as a leader to give constructive feedback to your members and have difficult conversations to get things running again. It’s important to use these conversations to understand your team’s motivations and any underlying issues they may have. This will let you effectively influence your team to achieve the priorities and outcomes you’ve set for them.

Trusting teams to deliver

The very best leaders have trust in their teams and their teams trust them to lead. You may have excellent strategies or an amazing work ethic, but without trust, it will be challenging to achieve results through your team. At Telstra, we want our teams to be able to work quickly and effectively, which is why we empower them to use their expertise to make and act on decisions. It is only through clear communication and connection that your team will feel liberated to voice their opinions and perform to the best of their ability.

As leaders, we have to trust our people to make decisions. Sometimes they might not be right, but you can use it as an opportunity to coach or provide a learning experience in the future. By empowering people and improving their experience as an employee, it repurposes their energy and focus to drive outcomes.

Promoting a fun and energetic work environment

Lastly, leaders need to facilitate a fun and energetic work environment where people genuinely enjoy working together. Telstra is by far the most supportive and inclusive workplace that I have ever worked in. The senior leaders help the team members contribute in their unique way to make the organisation an energetic environment of progress and learning. We encourage people to live our company values and support each other through every moment. Having this culture of support and inclusivity allows our people to grow their careers while being their most authentic selves.

Interested in joining a genuinely supportive and inclusive work culture? Check out our latest job opportunities.