Watching the costs: Why 2013 might be an expensive year for business

If you’re the type of person who closely reads your bills and the letters from your gas supplier or phone company detailing changes in your terms and conditions you might have noticed something unusual last year – phone bills have started drifting up.

This started last July when Telstra reduced download allowances and mobile handsets subsidies and a few months later Optus followed them with a range of increased charges and reduced benefits.

At the beginning of the year Vodafone attempted to change its mobile plans with some sneaky changes to pre-paid packages that would have seen data charges increase.

Given that Vodafone has lost over half a million customers since its network imploded under the data loads put on it from smartphones, they weren’t really in a place to dictate prices to customers and so it proved when they retreated last weekend.

Those data loads are why all telcos are looking to increase their charges as they face huge costs in upgrading their networks to meet the demands of our smartphones and rollout the new 4G services.

It’s not just telcos though, we’re seeing this across the economy as electricity prices, insurance premiums and, as was reported yesterday, gas costs are all accelerating.

Even Microsoft is putting up the price of its Windows 8 operating system despite the fact no one is particularly interested in using it.

What this means for businesses is we’re going to have to keep a close watch on costs as each increase, which individually doesn’t mean much to the bottom line, quickly adds up.

If you’re looking at renewing contracts in the next year, it may be worthwhile locking them in early; this is particularly true if you are considering upgrading your mobile phone fleet or IT systems.

One aspect of this climate of price increases is also the importance of making your operations more efficient. There’s a range of cloud-based services that help automate your business and it’s worthwhile exploring them.

If you do find some that will help your business, the current high Aussie dollar is a good opportunity to save money with an upfront payment.

Right now the economy’s in an interesting situation; while some in the business media and politicians tell us we’ve never had it so good, that’s not the reality for many sectors so it’s important that you aren’t trapped like Vodafone finds itself.

Paul Wallbank speaks and writes on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn’t explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations through his business Netsmarts.

eBusiness, Seven Steps to Online Success is Paul’s latest book which looks at how businesses can effectively use web services like social media and cloud computing. It is available at all good bookshops or through the publisher, John Wiley & Sons. Subscribe to the Business Tech Talk RSS.

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