Like many other countries, Australia has faced unpredictable business conditions over the last 18 months. As a nation it is frequently viewed as fighting above its weight given the size of the economy. Unlike many other countries, however, it also continues to face the unpredictability of some unique challenges specific to our business landscape.
The Business Challenges Index, a study recently commissioned by Optus Business, details the challenges faced by businesses across a range of industries. We embarked on the study to understand the challenges facing our customers and provide the right solutions to help them succeed.
Many of the more prevalent, and indeed long-term challenges that the research highlighted, focused on the uniqueness of the Australian business landscape. It is particularly true of the link between Australia’s remoteness, coupled with the need for businesses to remain internationally competitive.
The research found that the geographical isolation of Australia is a significant factor affecting business competitiveness. The relatively small size of the Australian economy and the costly nature of sourcing inputs from other countries can prevent companies from competing with international players in less isolated locations. Not only this, but the challenge of limited expansion opportunities in Australia, leads to companies trying to diversify their interests; by either expanding into related markets or to international locations, particularly Asia.
CIOs are under increased pressure to address these issues and increase productivity while containing costs. But how can companies easily and effectively lessen the burden in an internationally competitive market?
One of the most prominent trends facing businesses today is around unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). UC&C provides both an effective and efficient framework for evolving business communication — particularly for organisations with multiple locations and remote workers.
UC&C applications such as voice and videoconferencing; unified messaging; instant messaging and mobility; are increasingly being adopted worldwide by businesses, government and educational organisations. With its emergence and growth, corporate use of UC&C technology will narrow the international business gaps – especially for a country like Australia.
In the last five or six years, videoconferencing has experienced a dramatic increase in adoption by businesses. Its intrinsic benefits including cost, quality and ease of use, are the most significant contributors to its adoption and use. CIOs are recognising the benefits of UC&C and implementing measures to close the international gap.
A perfect example of this is the way in which many companies now interview prospective staff. It can be a drawn out process at the best of times, but the added complexities of interstate or overseas applicants can provide further logistical challenges. The improved quality and ease-of-use of videoconferencing today allows recruiting managers to effectively interview and select candidates without the expense of flights or the ineffectiveness of a telephone interview.
As with this example, UC&C gives organisations the ability to significantly improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform; by integrating several communication channels to increase efficiencies. Providing a simple and integrated communications experience for staff — across devices, networks and interfaces — also helping speed up workflow and improve responsiveness.
Organisations with many office locations — either regionally or overseas — can, for example, use UC&C technology such as videoconferencing or instant messaging to host meetings or check information. At Optus Business, we have seen several educational institutions successfully use video conferencing facilities to link up multiple campuses within Australia and Asia.
The use of different UC&C technologies has already led to a strong track record for faster decision making as well as better acceptance and use of collaborative tools by employees. The working flexibility gained through UC&C increases a company’s competitive advantage for those facing a tight and internationally aggressive market for skills and labour.
The ultimate result of UC&C is people working together efficiently to achieve the best outcomes. For businesses which are constantly being challenged by the need to be internationally competitive or by geographic isolation, UC&C provides a cost-effective and convenient global link.
While UC&C is an important offering from Optus Business, we continue to work closely with our customers and partners to deliver and find other effective business and IT solutions to help them overcome future challenges. It remains part of our commitment to stay right behind business.
Rob Parcell is acting managing director for Optus Business
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