RSM Australia

"Going digital always has three components to it: the business efficiencies and productivity gains, the market access and the customer experience."

Will Laird


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William Laird. Director Business Advisory. RSM Australia Pty Ltd.

My name is Will Laird and I'm a director of business advisory at RSM. RSM is a leading professional services firm and we pretty much cover the whole country with regional offices and working people on the ground in centres all over the country. One of the RSM services is RSM Digital which is a division within our firm specialising in providing solutions for clients looking to go digital. Our main focus there is helping them develop digital strategies and then identifying and selecting products that will help them solve those problems that they're looking for. I think many small businesses do have an idea of what they want to achieve, and that is they have an idea of what the customer experience they're trying to achieve looks like, and often they'll then try to backfill the whole process, so, many start-up businesses, I think, go through that process where they have started with the actual customer service or the customer solution or product they're trying to deliver, and then they've got to work backwards to think, “OK, well how can we actually set up the system?"

And that's the perfect time to go digital is in those early phases because you can implement processes and have them up and running from day one. Our business in the digital space have had to really try to make pace with that area because really a lot of businesses look to us to be the advisers. So, one of our challenges is to be across the technologies that are out there, to understand how they apply and also what benefits people can get out of them and talk them through the challenges of implementing them to get those benefits. The biggest challenge that they have is really focused around the small business owners being so time poor and so risk averse when it comes to the tried and tested ways. You know, "Why is that becoming outdated?" And I think that really what we want to talk them through is just what the digital economy looks like and where we're going with that, and they need not be fearful of it. It's just a matter of actually being prepared and working through that in such a positive way. We think in a lot of those areas it is about having a good digital strategy.

It's about saying, “Is it worthwhile having a website?” If it is, what are you going to do with the website? It's about thinking through social media, it's about thinking through all the different platforms and products that you can use and making sure that it's about the business that we do. Our key messages always around that going digital is not about choosing a product. It's really about transforming your business to technology software that is going to provide an outcome. Quite commonly, they come either with one or two things. One is they feel like they've been left behind by other businesses and they want to do the quick catch up. The other is that they're trying to solve a problem and so that problem might just simply be, "We don't know how. We've just bought this business, we don't know how to set the payroll up really quickly,” or something like that.

I think the benefit of having a trusted advisor is to have someone independent that isn't there selling their own product to effectively be able to say, “Look, this product would actually give you the solution that you're looking for,” but also to help them through that phase of implementation and that is to say, “What is the purpose of this product going to be?" So you have to have that digital strategy. So we try to lead customers in that direction to develop a digital strategy. We then talk them through the process of perhaps a digital orders - they may already be using some digital products but just not very effectively. And then we go down the journey of saying, “OK, well - how can we redesign that whole infrastructure for them such that they get those gains that they're really looking at?" So, the business efficiencies, the productivity gains, the market channels that they're trying to access and also the customer experience that they’re really trying to achieve so they can get their products to those customers.

I think the major experience post-implementation of the digital strategy is first of all, they feel like they actually did achieve something, and that is because they set out with a strategy plan they can actually measure whether they had success. If you don't have that strategy in the first place, you don't know whether you have actually achieved anything because you really don't know what you're measuring it against. So, once they start to see that they've accessed a few new markets, they have increased their sales, or that they've been able to achieve some productivity gains, I really feel like they go home with a smile on their face. I think that the biggest risk for businesses that don't choose to embrace digital technology is really that they're missing out on those market opportunities.

As I say, I think there's businesses that can still get some efficiencies and productivity gains by just looking at digital solutions internally, but equally there is a lot of external digital solutions with connectivity to the net and so on and so forth that they really need to be embracing. A good example may be in the agribusiness space is that something that many young growers in the farming rural areas have done is they've really embraced, with open arms, a lot of the business efficiencies and productivity gains such as gear that they can use on their own farms with drones and mapping and so on and so forth, but they haven't yet seen the place for where digital can play in the customer experience of the markets. And I think that's becoming more and more emerging with things like blockchain technology where we're starting to see that the customer’s needs for wanting to have food safety is really coming to the forefront and this is an area where farmers can actually allow traceability of their product all the way through from the farm to the fork.

When customers first come to us, I think that one of their major experiences at the time is really the fear of dealing with the unknown, and they're positive around the solutions that might come from digital but also they've seen every product promising the world and they're just not sure where to start, and so I think that what we've provide to do is really to guide them through that process to say, “OK, how can I actually get to the benefits? Because I know there's challenges on the way to get there," and implementing it all at once just seems overwhelming to them. So if we can get them past that obstacle, I think often they are really pleased about adopting digital technologies and once they start to see the benefits of it in terms of they can head home early and enjoy some time with the kids, or that the profits are increasing and they can meet customer demands, I think that they really do enjoy it.


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