For many small businesses, the new year calls for resolutions to improve and innovate.

In a digital world, the onus is on business owners to steer their company and people to meet the increasing expectations of customers as they operate in a competitive and demanding marketplace. 

To meet these expectations, business owners are also tasked with maintaining an appealing and progressive workplace to keep their people engaged.

Optimising business processes and creating flexible working options for their people are some ways businesses are re-engineering their offering. But there can be risks associated with new opportunities.

Here are some considerations for the year ahead.

Digital innovation

Running a business in the digital era can deliver a more seamless online customer experience and be more cost-effective. However, it can put your security and reputation in the firing line.

In 2016, for the first time the number of Australian businesses to report a web presence surpassed 50 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS found overall, 43 per cent of businesses introduced at least one type of ‘innovation’ with organisational/managerial processes (23 per cent) the most common type of innovation introduced.

In addition, almost one in four businesses had innovation still in development (24 per cent) as at 30 June 2016. New or ‘significantly improved’ marketing methods was the type of innovation that was most likely to still be in development (12 per cent).

Cloud computing technology is one example of organisational ‘innovation’ in business.

Many small businesses in Australia are taking advantage of cloud technologies, according to QBE cyber insurance underwriter, Ben Richardson.

“Every company is having to become a tech company,” he said. “SMEs with an online offering will provide customers an improved user experience, whilst using cloud computing internally achieves greater operational flexibility.”

There are many benefits to using cloud for a small business, including reduced costs and a higher level of security than may be possible in-house, but it means companies are putting all their eggs in one basket and relying on the cloud provider for accessibility.

“Companies are putting more of their business applications and data online within the cloud. Whilst this will improve operational efficiency, this also means they’re open to risks like data breaches or business interruption arising from a cloud provider or integration outage.”

A flexible workforce

Many businesses are adopting flexibility in their workplace because it’s boosting company morale and productivity.

A mobile workforce can also reduce costs for some businesses as it means a business owner doesn’t need to have a physical location to house their people every day of the working week.

However, it’s important to check your insurance coverage is appropriate for your people if they’re working from home, such as Workers Compensation.

“It’s good business practice to consider creating a safety survey so your employees can ensure their workspace at home is compliant with your company’s workplace health and safety policies,” said QBE Insurance National Product Manager for Commercial Lines, Andrew Norris.  

Social Media

In 2016, more than a third of Australian businesses had a social media presence (38 per cent), according to the ABS.  

The highest proportion of businesses with a social media presence was recorded in the 200 or more persons employed range (81 per cent) followed by businesses with 20 to 199 persons employed (63 per cent).

However, according to QBE Insurance National Product Manager for Commercial Lines, Andrew Norris, heavy usage of social media platforms has meant there’s an increase in company reputational risk.

“It’s meant that consumers have the power to shape perception of brands instantly and at large scale,” he said. “Training is essential for employees in a digital age around reputational risk.”

Companies should consider investing in the education of their employees to teach them about best practices on social media platforms.

 

 

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