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Many Australian small businesses don’t have the technology required to support work away from the office, according to a new report which found that many SMB owners work 20 hours a week away from company premises but are limited due to poor access to technology.

The Out of Office Nation report, based on a survey by Telstra of more than 1,000 Australian small business owners, found that more than 40 per cent of small businesses’ say their ability to expand is hampered as there is no person to replace them while they are away from the office.

According to John Boniciolli, Telstra’s Executive Director for Small Business, said small businesses continue to look for ways to maximise productivity and improve customer service, and that the right technology to work remotely was now an essential tool of the trade.

“Our research found that 37% of small business owners are so focussed on the day-to-day running of their business that at times they can feel frustrated by the amount of time they spend in the office.

“Mobility is no longer a preference for any business. It is a key requirement to remain competitive and our goal is to provide the tools and technology to enable this.”

Boniciolli said the survey also found that 76% of small businesses were unable to access business critical files and data while travelling, while 36% believed they could run their business more efficiently if they had access to better technology.

Bonicioli said that to highlight the importance of mobility for small business, Telstra commissioned the 'Overland Office', a challenge for an Australian small business to run its business using only a Telstra Mobile Wi-Fi device for connectivity whilst travelling on the road from Melbourne to Darwin via Adelaide.

He said Blue Wheelers, a successful franchise of dog grooming businesses, was selected to complete the challenge which included meeting other small business throughout Australia also using the device.

The Blue Wheelers travelled more than 4,000km for the “ultimate out of office experiment,” according to Bonicioli.

“Small businesses need to take the time to talk to their technology provider about the range of options now available to them that will ensure they can operate effectively while on road. As the Blue Wheelers have demonstrated mobile broadband can provide access to business critical applications such as CRM systems which allow customer bookings to be managed on-the-road.”

Key State-by-State findings of the Telstra study were:

ACT:

•    47% of small businesses in the ACT wish they were equipped with the right technology to grow their business

•    93% of ACT small business owners agree that technology helps them run their companies more effectively

NSW:

•    85% of small businesses in NSW believe that technology helps them to run their organisation more effectively

•    46% of NSW small business owners claim that majority of their customers are located more than 20kms from their place of business

•    57% of respondents in NSW believe that in order to grow their business, they need to expand their customer base.  

SA:

•    47% of business owners in South Australia believe that they spend too much time on the day-to-day operations of their business, rather than on developing their business

•    78% of respondents in South Australia are unable to access all corporate information when they are on the road

•    43% in South Australia wish they were equipped with the right technology to grow their business.  

VIC:

•    46% of small business owners in Victoria are travelling more than 20kms to visit majority of their customers

•    80% of Victorian respondents acknowledge that technology is already playing an important role in helping them to run their businesses more effectively.

QLD:

•    79% of respondents in Queensland do not have access to all of their business files and folders remotely

•    More than a third of Queensland small businesses believe that they need to be in two places at once to grow their business.

NT:

•    Majority of small businesses said technology helps them run their companies more effectively, in fact this was true for 100 per cent of small business owners in the Northern Territory

•    67% of business owners on the Northern Territory agree that in order to grow their business, they need to look beyond their existing customer base.

TAS:

•    62% of small businesses in Tasmania claim they are required to travel more than 20kms to visit the majority of their customers

•    86%  of small businesses in Tasmania are unable to access all of their business information from outside of their office

•    52%of small business owners in Tasmania believe that they spend too much time on the day-to-day operations of their business, rather than on the future strategy to grow their business.

WA:

•    78% of business owners in Western Australia state that they are unable to access all corporate information while travelling

•    More than one third of WA small business owners feel that being equipped with better technology would help improve how they are running their business.

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Peter Dinham

 

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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