Welcome to 2014 and a new way of thinking that needs to emerge in Australia as the costs of imported goods is driving our inflation, as shown by the CPI figures last quarter.
Do you work in an industry where what you do has become commonplace, commoditised or highly competitive? Would you like to provide high value, well-respected solutions again?
In 2014 we need to start thinking about how disruptive technologies like the internet of things, radio frequency identification (RFID), 3-D printing and the new breed of robotics can help us work around the key industry driver of labour costs.
As costs are increasing in developing nations, and as the dollar buys less offshore, it may be time to make use of local skills, capabilities and resources to improve our own economy and reduce dependence on imported goods. Further reducing logistics and fuel costs will be part of this equation that also has a positive impact on carbon costs.
But how does this relate to small business in Australia? Surely this is the stuff for large-scale industries and manufacturers to be reflecting on?
Well, yes, it is where the major savings will be made. But now more than ever is the time for small business to be innovating, combining technologies and driving solutions into larger manufacturing and other industries.
There are large opportunities for companies that innovate now in anticipation of the opportunities technology is creating. Data analytics is another area that is driving behavioural change in organisations as they are able to assess the impact of small actions to streamline operations.
This is talked about as part of “digitised operations” where better communications, planning, monitoring and analytics are leading to better design and better decisions in shorter timeframes.
While manufacturing may still happen offshore, the innovation may well happen here in small innovation companies set up to exploit these advances in technology. The actions for today are around building supplier relationships with larger companies to take them solutions that improve speed to market, reduce costs or improve quality of product, service or customer experience.
The steps towards this are likely to involve adoption of technology and the training of staff in new tools: from the technology to be deployed to better use of communication tools and project management tools to ensure tight project timelines are met. Another challenge for small businesses will be the sourcing of staff capable of keeping up with the pace of change required to be nimble in this rapid change environment.
The oversupply of university graduates at the moment just might help with this as the graduates eager to be employed may realise that the key to success is in being market-ready with specific skills. This is not greatly different to the path that took me from my degree in mechanical engineering into a self-educated position in IT in the post-recession era of 1992.
If your business is still ignoring technology but provides products or services to larger clients in labour intensive industries, it may be time for you to look at technology for their industry and figure out how you can use your scale, agility and knowledge of the industry to exploit a new niche for your clients.
In 2014, that is where success lies for many of us.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for solving business problems with IT. How can we help?