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In a COVID-impacted world where video communication is the new norm, Vpply is connecting job seekers with companies through a unique video-based job application experience that minimises the need for lengthy CVs and cover letters.

Vpply is a video job platform that allows job seekers to record and upload short videos, providing applicants with the chance to showcase character and people skills.

“The application process starts with a simple job search with filters which will take you to a list of job opportunities on Vpply,” CEO and co-founder Tom Lipczynski told Dynamic Business.

“From there, jobseekers can browse and select jobs they wish to apply for and simply record or upload a pre-recorded video introducing themselves and their interest in the job application.

“After reviewing their application, they can add in their career history and ‘Vpply’ (apply with video).”

The company says employers will also benefit from Vpply’s technology by having a shortened recruitment process and more consistent scheduling of interviews.

It starts with a vision

Vpply co-founders Alex Perry, Tom Lipczynski and James Farrell | Image credit: Tom Lipczynski (supplied)

Co-founders Tom Lipczynski, James Farrell and Alex Perry launched Vpply in July 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with a mission to decrease the mass unemployment being caused.

Tom, who has prior experience working with search giants Indeed and Adzuna, met Alex at a stockbroking firm in 2014. In 2019, James joined the duo and the three of them bonded over their shared business background and passion for video.

Related: 3 mind hacks to help you build your dream business

The founders say the technology behind Vpply was spurred by a lack of human connection in job search and a growing demand for video-based technologies and applications such as Zoom and Google Meet.

Studies show that video now accounts for more than 80% of all online traffic and is 1,200% more likely to be shared online than text or images.

“The shift to video as an everyday tool is already here accelerated by the global pandemic,” Mr Lipczynski said.

“I see video as an important tool for the future and wanted it as the core of Vpply. I was also looking for a new challenge with an idea that is fresh and exciting.”

The sectors on board

In January 2021, Vpply listed more than 6,000 jobs in industries including hospitality, retail, administration, recruitment, sales and marketing and is currently expanding.

The platform gained over 2,000 unique users in January alone, most of them between 24-34 years old – an age group that Mr Lipczynski says “suffered the most” as a result of the recession.

Related: Women and young adults among those hit hardest by COVID-19, Queensland survey finds

Even though the overall unemployment rate in Australia dropped down to 6.4 per cent in January this year, it increased to 13.9 per cent for young people at the same time.

“In October, employment among Australian youth 15-24 was 4.4 per cent below its level in March and represents the largest drop of any age group,” Mr Lipczynski said.

“As the unemployment of Australian youth has been the most impacted during COVID-19, Vpply’s platform has been most adapted and used by these age groups, showing a demand for jobs and more innovative ways to apply.”

What about CVs and cover letters?

Mr Lipczynski says job search companies that use mostly traditional application methods “may employ wrong culture fit” due to the restrictive nature of CVs. Vpply’s aim, however, is not to eliminate CVs and cover letters but to have video application as the first step towards recruitment.

“Various jobseekers have worked very hard on their career history and have amazing CVs, so we do not want to take away from showcasing those achievements.

“It is however the same jobseekers that are finding it very hard to get a foot in the door, even to gain experience in unpaid internships, so Vpply is an option to try a different method to get hired.”

The company says it will work with various associations to provide fair solutions and experiences for job seekers and employers, but it is ultimately up to the hiring party to choose an individual based on their CV/video, video interview and/or face to face interview.

An ‘opportunity for innovation

For the Vpply team, 2021 is all about research and development. The company says its aim is to improve the jobseeker experience while finding new ways to scale and generate revenue streams – especially in areas like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

“We are sitting on a unique product in the market with the opportunity for innovation and using various forms of AI,” Mr Lipczynski said.

Related: Let’s Talk: Automation – To be or not to be for your business?

Vpply currently integrates with Seek-owned JobAdder and is working with partners that will allow automatic postings in Australia and New Zealand.

“AI in video can pick up on so many pieces of information that cannot be gathered from CVs and this will be the new trend in the next few years – from simple cues such as lighting and length of application time,” Mr Lipczynski explained.

“Machine learning can be applied to tone, body language and various other points that Vpply will work with jobseekers to give them a larger chance of success in landing their dream job.”

Tom’s tips for a top video application

Mr Lipczynski says job seekers should be confident and willing to showcase their unique personalities while being mindful of factors such as lighting, audio and talking pace in their video applications.

“Although videos allow for greater creativity and range in applications, it is important for jobseekers to remember that they are part of a formal application process. Therefore, looking presentable and keeping videos at a considerable length – recommended 30 seconds to one minute – are all tips to filming a great application.

“The beauty of Vpply is that we allow retakes. However, the first take is often the best – so best not to overthink!”


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With rapidly rising technology becoming more a part of everyday life, businesses now have a plethora of options when it comes to what tech to use as more systems are automated. But questions remain. Automation, what is it good for? Is automation a good idea for all businesses? What limitations are there?

Let’s talk…

Inga Latham, Chief Product Officer, SiteMinder

Despite common misconceptions that automation will take jobs away, in the service-led hotel and travel sectors, automation will enable better customer experiences and standards of customer service than ever before. Having the right automation technologies in place can make for shorter wait times at check-in counters, deeper understanding of customers’ needs before they have engaged in a phone call enquiry, and faster changes to bookings and payment information so staff can get on with delivering the level of service that customers want and need. For a business’ bottom line, automation is also a critical enabler of new revenue streams.

When investing in this technology for the first time or in new ways, it will be challenging to know where to start. It’s important to not get distracted by whatever happens to be ‘new and shiny’ and instead have clear goals for automating your business that align with the overall digital transformation strategy. Prioritise end-to-end technology platforms for ease of vendor management and overall business efficiency.  

Mike Featherstone, Managing Director, ANZ & APAC, Pluralsight

Automation in Australian workplaces continues to grow with new applications for machine learning and artificial intelligence being deployed every month. Security is just one of the areas that stand to benefit from this trend. With over 111 billion lines of code written every year, automation of many security measures is required to deliver timely rollouts while ensuring that unknown threats are not introduced into the systems. Processes including vulnerability scanning have been the first to see this new wave of innovation.

However, no singular tool can check every piece of code for every conceivable problem. While automatic tools can be developed to catch a lot of potential issues, tech proficient talent still need to architect the toolset and interpret the results. Ultimately, cybersecurity still requires human oversight to counter a human-led threat. Tools and automation definitely have a role to play, but ongoing technology upskilling for developers must remain a priority. This will allow the prioritisation of complex problems, knowing the basics are taken care of by security-conscious software developers creating higher quality, secure code.

Pieter Danhieux, CEO and Co-Founder, Secure Code Warrior

Danhieux

Cybersecurity is a growing challenge in our economy as every business increases its reliance on technology. The sheer volume of code across hundreds of tech properties necessitates the automation of some areas of cybersecurity to ensure we do not fall behind.

However, the human element cannot be replaced. Human action is required to counter a human-driven threat. No single approach will mitigate every possible gap in security so to tackle this challenge we need to incorporate security thinking into every step of the software development process.

Upskilling developers to mitigate against well-known security bugs early in the development process can reduce the need for patches down the line. In conjunction, automated tools can help stretched security teams address simple issues while they focus on identifying new gaps and threat vectors. The creation of high quality, secure code requires developers and AppSec teams to work together to counter known and new challenges.

Jason Toshack, General Manager ANZ, Oracle NetSuite

Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, so it’s less a question of what can be automated, but rather, what should be automated.

In most instances, customers still prefer speaking with a human, especially if they are troubleshooting something particularly sensitive or complicated. Having been in sales roles for more than 20 years, I have yet to find a sales rep who enjoys admin tasks. Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can automate tasks like quote and order management, while also automating marketing communications, which in turn lets your sales team focus on delivering great customer service.  

Likewise, it is much more advantageous for finance leaders to use their brain power to tackle complex strategic challenges, rather than having them wade in the weeds of invoices and receipts. Your financial software should be able to create reports instantly or automatically create sales invoices when a purchase order is received. 

Ultimately, automation should be used strategically. Routine tasks that can be automated should be. In the end, this is not only more effective for your business, but it also frees up your employees’ time to focus on more rewarding and higher-value tasks.

Sahba Idelkhani, Director of Systems Engineering, McAfee

In the world of cybersecurity, automation is increasingly becoming a technology used to detect and protect against complex cyberattacks—and consequently help alleviate the cyber talent shortage. More recently, the volume of attacks has also surged. In fact, COVID-19-themed cyber-attack detections increased by 605% in Q2 2020

Tasks driven by automation are now addressed within minutes—not months—and allows teams to be proactive and resilient instead of reactive to the highly active threat landscape. Plus, automation provides an operational advantage, whereby, its implementation frees up senior analysts and IT staff from time-consuming tasks (such as data collection from various sources) to accelerate their response time to address an attack and make better-informed decisions.

However, automation is not useful in all contexts, as cybersecurity-related incidents rarely follow the same attack path – therefore, making it harder to automate remediation and responses completely. Response decisions will still need to loop in human talent for this very reason, and this is what we call human-machine teaming. Simply put, there’ll always be a need in cybersecurity for a human’s imagination and creativity to solve complex issues.

Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer, Zoho

Vijay Sundaram, Soho, on supporting employees

Innovation and efficiency in business is an amalgam of culture, practices, and technology. Technology drives automation in many ways. Time-consuming work—like scheduling, issue tracking, analysis, and reporting—can be completely automated using workflows that plan, schedule, and automate work. This frees up human intervention for strategic thinking and soft-skill issues that cannot be automated.

AI can help find bottlenecks before they happen, plan best routes, or best times to accomplish something by combing through patterns in data that humans never can. Notifications and reminders can ensure prompt customer service in ways humans cannot keep up.

What automation cannot do is to set a culture that establishes practices and policy. For example, quick and decentralised decision making or customer-centricity are defining corporate cultures that drive innovation and loyalty and have stood the test of time. Automation cannot do that for you. Neither can it intervene to resolve, or even head off, conflict.

Andrew Souter, Area Vice President PreSales APAC, Ivanti

Automation tools can resolve up to 80% of IT issues before users even report them – music to the ears of teams struggling to keep up with the demands placed on their technology assets by the remote working boom. Monitoring for changes in device behaviours and detecting, analysing, prioritising and remediating vulnerabilities and issues can all be automated, strengthening one’s security posture, alleviating pressure from staff, and reducing the potential for human error.

Automating spend management can hugely benefit organisations of all sizes who have bee tasked with ‘doing more with less’ as the events of 2020 continue to impact today’s budgets. Automating the analysis of asset usage, license types, purchases and subscriptions can help teams pinpoint every dollar spent at a moment’s notice. Not only can they then more effectively track usage, purchase history, end-of-life dates and ongoing overall spend, they can automate insights around upcoming renewals as contract expirations strengthens compliance.

Fintan Lalor, Director of Sales & GM APAC, Wrike

To answer that question, you have to look at the areas where humans and robots outperform each other. When thinking about automation for businesses and organisations, we are really looking at responsibilities that don’t require high human value. By that, I mean repetitive tasks and processes, coordination and organisational skills, and processing large amounts of data to extract insights and value from it. 

Our human skills are better used for higher tasks that require emotional intelligence. It allows us to be better leaders and colleagues, using our capacity for empathy and understanding, but also to be more creative, fuelling our continuous thirst for innovation to improve our environment and societies.

The aim of automation is really to remove those low-value tasks from our remit to allow us to focus on higher tasks that need human skills you can’t automate. To keep up with the digital age, there are intelligent platforms that organisations can consider to deal with the nitty-gritty, which is still very time-consuming for our workforce, and allow them to focus on growing and being a better business. 

Jarrod Kinchington, Managing Director, Infor ANZ

Automation helps drive efficiencies and cut out mundane work, but the human element always remains critical. Routine and repetitive work such as data collection and entry, for example, should be automated where possible, since it significantly cuts down time and reduces human error.

Supply chains is one area where automation provides critical benefits. Smart warehousing, automation and robotics transforms supply chains to be more agile, resilient and efficient. Cloud solutions have improved efficiency and risk management in the F&B, logistics and distribution sectors, while also giving clearer visibility into inventory, orders, equipment and people to help drive enhanced service levels and increase product velocity. In the hotel sector, automation can optimise check-in efficiency and eliminate paperwork, improving operating efficiency by up to 80%.

But caution still needs to be taken around automating relationship-based tasks. There are situations where human-to-human contact remains critical. While machines are getting increasingly effective in understanding human queries and generating responses, there will never be a day where the human touch is not needed.

Marco Zande, Marketing & Digital Communications Executive, WLTH

The power of automation is something that many businesses don’t fully comprehend until they start to build out and unlock its benefits. Automation helps businesses remove a number of pain points, especially clunky processes related to client engagement and communication.

Automation comes into its own when a business is looking to scale. By simplifying customer engagement flows, businesses can communicate with clients and onboard large numbers with ease, without having to bring on additional team members to handle the volume. 

However, it’s important to also remember that automation isn’t a good fit for all businesses, and there is a fine line between getting it right and missing the mark. In our business, the human element plays a pivotal role in everything we do, and our tagline ‘Branchless but not faceless’ really drives that home.

Greg Eyre, Vice President, Blue Prism

There has been a lot of conversation about automation in recent times. In the public arena, commentators are warning that robots are set to take over jobs and render the human labour force redundant, but this is simply not the case at all.

The digital workforce — robots driven by automated processes — are complementing human capabilities. It enables us to work smarter and be more productive, freeing our focus for high-level analytical, creative, and emotionally-driven tasks.

Robots might be able to complete administrative, predictable and tedious tasks through a framework that we, humans, set, but they rely on us to operate, learn and improve.

As a practical example in a healthcare setting, Robotic Process Automation and Intelligent Automation can help its human counterparts to improve patient care by proactively engaging patients with treatment plan updates or reducing wait times on arrival and discharge through automated or digital registration. However, it remains up to clinicians and healthcare professionals to deliver a high standard of care to their patients while also building and maintaining the human relationships that are critical within the healthcare sector.

Simon Le Grande, Director Of Marketing and Product Management, ‎Lightspeed

Through technological innovation as well as exceptional product & service design, some functions and tasks that used to require a human touch are increasingly becoming automated. What we’re seeing in many industries is a removal of the ‘human’ from repetitive and simple tasks, but a reaffirmation that more complex functions, requiring softer skills like empathy, communication, strategic thinking and creativity will never be ‘automated away’.

The hospitality industry provides an interesting lens here, especially given the acceleration of digital transformation in this space off the back of the pandemic. While digital menus, online ordering and contactless payments have automated many touchpoints in the dining experience, meaningful interactions and conversations with waitstaff, sommeliers and chefs that really augment the dining experience simply could not be automated. Humans are now able to focus their energies on value-add activities, while allowing technology to play its part in reducing the scope of their roles and bringing efficiencies that lead to business success.

Stuart Read, Head of Growth, JobAdder

Automation – intended to reduce human intervention in processes – can either be a blessing for businesses, or a true hindrance.

For us, at JobAdder, we embrace automation. Not only does it simplify our processes such as job postings to job boards, but it also helps to streamline our onboarding processes, payroll, and reference checks.  

However, we do acknowledge some aspects of our business that automation doesn’t entirely support, where a human element must be present in order to efficiently complete the task at hand. This can include anything from interviews with candidates, negotiations on money and benefits, the placement of a candidate, and hand-written job ads that can provide a personal touch and insight into the culture and essence of a brand.

Paul Hadida, General Manager Australia, SevenRooms

The accelerated adoption of technology in the last year has not only set new business standards, but has also led to changing customer expectations. Today, automation is a crucial advantage businesses can leverage to not only streamline operations, but meet and exceed customer expectations. In the hospitality industry, for example, there’s a misconception that automating processes could impact the personal, meaningful touches that patrons crave. The reality, however, is quite the opposite.

For customers, automation is both convenient and safe, helping venues glean valuable customer insights and data at the touch of a button. These insights, which are paramount to success, can ascertain a guest’s favourite food and drink, allergies and even their birthday. With that data operators can automate tailored marketing and promotions. Capturing data across the guest journey by automating previously manual processes – from on-site interactions to post-visit marketing – enhances a venue’s ability to provide the memorable and convenient experiences that can boost revenue and retention.

Roger Carvosso, Strategy and Product Director, FirstWave Cloud Technology

Automated technologies and processes come in a range of formats, and the most effective are those that pre-empt what the business needs, followed by taking measured actions to progress the business forward or prevent negative outcomes. One of the most important investments businesses will need to make in 2021 will be in cybersecurity technologies. 

With scams continuing to rise, professionals continuing to make simple errors that can lead to cybercrime, such as re-using weak passwords. And with businesses continuing to be easy targets for phishing attacks, whereby one leak of credentials can lead to the leak of an entire organisation’s data, it is no longer acceptable for a business of any size to ‘wait and see’ how cybercrime will impact them. There has to be a proactive approach, leveraging cost-effective but enterprise-grade solutions, to averting scam emails away from employees’ inboxes, flagging cybercrime to relevant executive and IT teams as it happens, and complying with industry rules and regulations. 

Emma Pudney, Chief Technology Officer, APJ, Rackspace Technology

Automation is part of our everyday lives even if we don’t realise it. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2025, more than 20% of all products will be manufactured, packed, shipped, and delivered without being touched, which means the person who purchases the product will be the first human to touch it. Organisations are automating more and more tasks, from operational workflows to application deployment. These tasks become end-to-end processes that are efficient, reliable, scalable and easier to adapt.

But deciding on whether or not to automate something is multifaceted. It’s not just about the decision-making process, but also part ROI, part morality and other knock-on effects. It’s worth considering, for example, the consequences to the global economy – what happens if we automate all of the tasks performed by an unskilled workforce? It’s not so much a question of what can’t we automate but what shouldn’t we automate.

Stephen Barnes, Principal, Byronvale Advisors

Most things in business can be automated or systemised. Accounting systems can have through processing from receiving an invoice through to lodging tax returns. HR systems can have timesheets based on employee’s physical location. Tasks such as answering the phone can be systemised as easily as taking a video recording. Automation and systemisation have many advantages. The three main ones in my opinion: it lets you guarantee the quality of work, it clarifies your thoughts and relieves stress, and it creates an asset that increases the value of your
business.

There is one intangible that cannot be automated – relationships. In my business of turnarounds, restructures, and crisis management establishing personal relationships and repairing broken relationships is absolutely key to success. This is done by having actual face-to-face (or virtual face-to-face) meetings, and actual conversations – preferably not via email. It establishes an environment of openness and trust – and that is exactly whom people want to be in business with.

Mark Brown, General Manager – Marketing, Konica Minolta Australia

SMEs spend massive amounts of time on manual tasks. Automating these tasks would let employees add more value and experience greater job satisfaction. One example is documents that need to be scanned, processed, and delivered to one or more destinations such as another department, a customer relationship management (CRM) system or an electronic archiving solution. Document capture and workflow solutions make these procedures faster and more productive, and, importantly post-COVID, reduce costs.

Robotic process automation (RPA) can also assist with repetitive tasks. RPA completes mundane tasks such as processing invoices or claims, completing financial processes, or managing HR-related paperwork. This is done faster and with complete accuracy, leading to better outcomes for staff and customers.

There is no doubt that innovative technologies that let SMEs automate will be critical to their ongoing recovery and success into the future.


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Since this pandemic began, more and more businesses have been pushed to find other “work place” avenues in order to not only avoid clashing with health regulations, but to provide employees with peace of mind. Working from home is now a viable option for a large number of businesses.

So, this far in, what do we think? Work vs. Home? Let’s talk…

Jason Toshack, General Manager ANZ, Oracle NetSuite

I think I’m still somewhat traditional, so I still prefer the camaraderie of the physical office. As culture is very important to us at Oracle NetSuite, I enjoy in-person interaction with my team. The office is great for impromptu chats, sparking collaboration or giving new starters a chance to learn from their peers.

At the same time, the past year has taught us that remote working is indeed a viable option. Thanks to cloud-based technology tools, people can work from wherever makes sense for them – that could be home or the office, but it might also be from a restaurant or construction site if that’s your line of business. As businesses look to move towards hybrid models, I believe the key to managing teams is setting clear goals and communication. While I might prefer the office, it appears that younger workers are more than capable of staying productive at home. Leaders should aim to align teams on goals that will keep everyone focused and working collaboratively. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Working from home offers flexibility, can promote a healthier work/life balance, and reduces time spent in traffic. Ultimately, the key is to ensure your team feels supported and identify tactics to keep them motivated.

Lara Owen, Director of Global Workplace Experience, GitHub

The pandemic has compelled organisations to think about remote operations and flexible work arrangements in ways that they weren’t a year ago. Whatever the chosen operational path, from hybrid to digital by design, clarity on core cultural priorities and business needs before making tactical changes and investments, is crucial. 

Our decade of experience with a distributed workforce tells us that offices are not going away. We will see a rise in hot-desking and a reduction in office footprints. Offices will be designed for collaboration: team deep-dives, customer and community events, celebrations, planning and design work. Successfully building a distributed team demands deliberate changes in the way people work. That requires a shift in the way companies train, empower and support people to work in new ways. 

Companies with a clear mission and purpose, an invested leadership team, and a willingness to let go of parts of the past which do not serve them, will truly thrive and usher in the new future of work. In every crisis there is opportunity – and this is a huge opportunity to embrace a better way of working for the future.

Amy Burton, Managing Lawyer at Everyday Justice, John Monash Scholar

I’m a big believer in flexibility. I personally love having a physical office. I’m a mum of a 1 year-old, so travelling into work is my opportunity to dress up, escape my messy house and spend the day having adult conversations and drinking quality coffee. At the same time though, I love that my legal practice has embraced phone and video-conferencing tech to provide free legal advice to those with disabilities or people in more remote areas who can’t travel to a physical office. 

I also think it’s important for more businesses to offer remote internships now, as we do. I’ve developed great working relationships with my interstate interns over video-conference and they’re getting the opportunity to develop their practical legal skills without needing to be in the same physical office as me.

Anton Schiavello, General Manager, Nura Space

For most of us, our work is fundamental to our identity and sense of self. A core part of this notion is the ‘place’ known as the office, that physically houses and cultivates the organisational culture, relationships, and functional performance outcomes such as collaboration.
 
The pandemic has shown us that the digital environment is able to support connections between people, but merely as an extension of the physical environment and interaction. In my opinion, the physical office can never be replaced entirely by digital tools, as it’s a place where teams come together and build essential relationships – which benefits both morale and productivity.

As a result of the global pandemic, we now know that the remote working model is here to stay. Workers are empowered to work with more choice and greater flexibility. This means that coming into the physical office will be right for some people, but not for others.

Alex Hattingh, Chief People Office, Employment Hero

Our Remote Working Survey last year found that workers loved remote work and preferred avoiding the daily commute. At the same time, employees missed the social aspect of office life and found it harder to switch off at home.

This is reflective of how increasingly sought-after the hybrid working model and flexible working conditions are becoming. Society’s rapid shift to remote work has revealed the benefits of telecommuting, but has also highlighted the advantages of being in a physical workplace — particularly for mental health, culture, and creativity.

For companies providing on-site facilities, the cultural benefits are endless — being amongst your colleagues or in the midst of a co-working space will certainly help to boost creativity and collaboration, nurture and develop your company’s culture and vision, and have a positive effect on staff’s mental health.

However, organisations that are continuing down the path of full-time remote work, a plethora of tech tools and innovative software exists, which can help to nurture the important social aspects of being in an office. These might include tools for social reward and recognition, team collaboration, and mental health support, that will help to increase employee engagement, regardless of where your staff is working from.

Billy Tucker, CEO, Oneflare

Our team, like many, delivered brilliantly during the crazy period of lockdown last year. However, I’m a big proponent of the need for a physical office and believe that cracks will start to show if it’s completely taken away. 

One argument for not having a physical office is the money businesses will save on rent, but for our business, the numbers simply don’t stack up. The majority of our employees are based in a Sydney office, single-level with water views, with the usual trappings such as a ping pong table and free breakfast. Rent is equivalent to just under 7% of our total labour cost. Add another couple of points for utilities, free food and some office management, and you’re still well under 10%.

Rounding the costs up to one-tenth of our total labour cost means that losing just 4 hours of weekly productivity from each employee as a result of virtual working will leave us worse off. That’s before accounting for a loss of valuable collaboration and other hard-to-measure factors, such as employee churn from those who don’t enjoy working from home. 

May Samali, Professional Coach, Venture Partner & John Monash Scholar

The past year has taught us that face-to-face interaction is critical to our mental and emotional wellbeing. The benefit of a physical office is that it fosters human connections that are almost impossible to replicate online.

It is also a work environment equaliser.

The same cannot be said for remote work — for some, it translates to working from a large home office or holiday home in Byron Bay, and for others it means taking Zoom calls from a closet in a small noisy apartment filled with children.

The ideal is to provide people with a mix of options including a physical office and remote work. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Ultimately, work should not be seen as somewhere we go, but something we do. It is a verb, not a noun. This perspective encourages work-life integration and allows people to “work” whenever, wherever and however is best for their circumstances.

Robert Coorey, Co-Founder, Archistar

If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that we don’t always need a physical office space to be productive and get our jobs done. I think it’s important, however, that employees are given the option. Our office is now a complete hybrid environment – our team can come in on the days that they like, and work from home on the others.  

On the pros of working from home, flexibility is the first thing that comes to mind. Pre-COVID, I hardly ever picked up my kids from school. I was often flat out and would feel guilty leaving the office in the middle of the day. Now, I can occasionally take out 30 minutes to pick up my kids and not miss anything important.

On the flip side, it can be hard when school finishes! During a recent client video call I had to excuse myself temporarily as my 7-year-old son was crying. When I came back into the room my son was on the camera making funny faces to the client! I have now learned to always lock my computer when I leave the room.

Laura Corbett, Office Manager, JobAdder

As many businesses slowly emerge from lockdowns and return back to the physical office, some leaders are still torn about whether to enforce an ‘office-only rule’ or adapt to a flexible, hybrid model. 

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that the modern workforce can successfully and seamlessly work from home, and adapt to a more remote, digitally-connected world, whilst still remaining productive. Businesses reaped the benefits while working remotely, by reducing overheads on physical spaces, including maintenance, insurance, furniture, utilities, storage space, and equipment costs. Other benefits include the streamlining of recruitment, and the ability to hire and grow, without the restraints of office space or desk availability. 

In saying this, there are also many benefits that come with physical space, from better team collaboration and engagement, to be being able to mold and nurture the company’s culture. Although digital work offers a number of conveniences, it’s clear to see the social element of working suffers when the only face-to-face engagement teams receive is via Zoom calls. 

If considering a return-to-office approach, it’s important to look at what value a physical office space offers your company, and most importantly, ensure the decision reflects the values of the business and the needs of workers.

Dionne Niven, Chief People Officer, SiteMinder

Blanket rules for team culture are no longer effective, and the same goes for the workspaces that employees work in and the values that drive how those workspaces are designed and managed. There is no point in enforcing blanket rules where all people need to work remotely, go to a physical office space, or adopt rigid hybrid models. Everyone’s needs and circumstances are different, and this has proven to be worth particularly considering since the pandemic, as research highlights it has impacted each person, family, and community differently.

We have adopted an approach we call Open Working, whereby our teams are given the autonomy to determine the best ways of working for them. This encourages staff to minimise the stress of commuting, optimise the benefits of collaborating, and connect with their teams on platforms and in environments that suit their preferences. Not everyone wants to start work at 9am, but almost everyone does want to feel connected and part of a team no matter when or where they’re working, and making that a reality every day will look different for every employee.

Roger Carvosso, Strategy and Product Director, FirstWave Cloud Technology

Thousands of Australians are taking advantage of the opportunities to work from home, which many businesses have trialled and benefited from throughout the pandemic. As well as businesses being able to cut rent costs, and employees being able to save time on commutes, many teams are also experiencing a heightened sense of trust and transparency. 

Meanwhile, a company-wide shift to working remotely has led to a rapid rise in cybersecurity threats and scams throughout 2020, which is an urgent area that needs executives’ attention. As professionals have flocked to working more online, rapidly increased their use of social media and web browsing, and have even further merged how they use technological devices across their personal and professional lives, cybercriminals have had more opportunities than ever to impersonate executives in emails, gather personal information via social media platforms, and trick employees into making payments into the wrong accounts. Consequently, for business leaders planning for a remote workforce in 2021, cybersecurity needs to be a significant part of the business strategy. 


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Monday, 22 February, marks the official start date of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia as more than 142,000 Pfizer vaccines touched down at Sydney Airport – an endeavour that has been dubbed Australia’s biggest peacetime operation.

The shipment, delivered by Singapore Airlines cargo, is the first of 20 million doses that the Government has secured as part of the COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy.

“It was March the 11th last year that the pandemic was declared and now on Aussie soil we have the Pfizer vaccine and it’s ready to go,” Pfizer’s Medical Director Krishan Thiru told the Today show this morning.

“Our focus is on delivering the vaccine to the points of use where the Government asks us to deliver them. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’ll do.”

The vaccine rollout is due to begin next week with the first Australians to begin receiving the vaccine from 22 February.

“The vaccine has landed and we’re stepping up our fight against the pandemic,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Once the final safety checks are completed we can start rolling out the vaccine to our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers.

“The hard work of Australians has meant we’re in an enviable position in our fight against the pandemic, so we’ve been able to take the time to properly assess our vaccine decisions and give our world-class regulator the time they need to review the safety of the jabs.

“While we’re taking the time to get the rollout right, I am confident all Australians who wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive a vaccine this year.”

Who gets first dibs on the vaccine?

As part of the ‘Phase 1a’ vaccine rollout, 80,000 doses will be administered in the first week. 50,000 doses have been allocated to quarantine and border workers and frontline healthcare workers, while 30,000 are reserved for aged care and disability care staff and residents. 62,000 will be set aside for second doses which will be given 21 days after the first dose.

Supplied: Australian Government

The Government’s goal is to eventually deliver 150,000 jabs per day and have the entire adult population vaccinated by late October.

The vaccine will be administered in hospital ‘hubs’ across Australia as well as in residential aged care and disability facilities.

How will the vaccine be stored?

Logistics company DHL has stepped in to tackle the complex task of getting the vaccine to Australians around the country.

The company will employ a network of 200 portable ultra-low-temperature freezers to ensure the vaccine, which needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees, can be delivered safely.

Dr Thiru said the vaccines had been shipped to Australia on specially-designed thermal shippers and were kept in refrigerated containers.

“Our company has a rich heritage in cold chain vaccine storage and distribution. We’ve so far got a 99.9% success rate from delivering the vaccines from the factory door to where they’re used with the quality and integrity interact,” he said.

Will the vaccine stop virus transmission?

Although the vaccine is designed to protect against COVID-19 and its variants, it is too early to tell if it will stop the transmission of the virus.

“You’d need to see a larger proportion of the population vaccinated before you can tell whether it’s going to stop transmission or not and whether you’re going to see a downturn in the rates,” Dr Thiru said.

He explained that laboratory testing results were promising and indicated that the vaccine could be effective against some of the newer COVID-19 strains including the UK, South African, and Brazilian variants.

“If sometime in the future it becomes apparent it’s not effective, you can easily tweak the formula for the vaccine.”

Why has the vaccine rollout taken so long?

When asked why Australia has been slower than other countries in the vaccination rollout, Dr Thiru explained that “every country’s situation is different.” A vaccine, he said, could not start production until it was given the go-ahead by certain authorities.

“Vaccinations can’t start until the vaccine has been fully and thoroughly evaluated by the independent regulatory agency and approved,” he said.

“The TGA is one of the world’s most respected agencies. They get a full evaluation.

“They didn’t have that emergency situation we’ve seen in some other countries.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is conducting batch tests on the first of the Pfizer vaccine arrivals to ensure they meet quality standards before they are deployed next week.

“Australians can be reassured this vaccine has gone through rigorous, independent testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ensure it is safe, effective, and manufactured to a high standard,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said.

“These vaccines will now go through further batch testing to further check for quality and efficacy, ensuring all Australians have confidence in the vaccines they receive.”

Why did Pfizer get first preference?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to be provisionally approved for use in Australia by the TGA with a 95% efficacy score from a clinical trial last year.

Despite the promising results, there have been ongoing concerns over the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

33 Norwegian officials aged 75 and older died a short time after receiving the Pfizer vaccine in mid-January and other countries have since reported further deaths and side effects.

A World Health Organization (WHO) committee said this was “in line with the expected, all-cause mortality rates and causes of death in the sub-population of frail, elderly individuals” and that the risk-benefit balance of the vaccine “remains favourable in the elderly.”

The TGA said that, although no concrete link has been established between the deaths and the vaccine, it would work with international authorities and Pfizer to get more information.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy told Nine News that he was not unduly concerned about the Pfizer vaccine rollout, which he says is part of a “diversified vaccine strategy.”

“That’s why we’ve bought more than one vaccine and I still think the Pfizer vaccine will be okay but we just have to wait and see,” he said.

In addition to the Pfizer vaccine, Australia has approved 53.8 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses and 51 million Novavax vaccine doses.

The Government has also signed up to the international COVAX Facility which provides access to a range of vaccines to immunise up to 50 per cent of the Australian population.

The full press release for the vaccine rollout can be found here.


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In the business game, attention – specifically, the right attention – is king. By now, most of us know that social media is a major marketing avenue for businesses – an incredibly valuable way to attract customers and partnerships, and to amplify the brand as a whole. But, oh boy, are there a lot of questions.

What social media platform is best for your business? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, YouTube? Go all-out on all of them? Or perhaps focus on one or two? Do you go the paid or organic approach?

Let’s talk…

Suzanne Mitchell, Senior Director of Marketing, GoDaddy Australia

As Australian businesses continue to evolve in the ‘new normal’, social media can be a great resource to help them engage customers, generate new leads and build a more personal, approachable digital presence.

There are 18 million social media users in Australia, however, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for selecting the right channels – that depends on your business, industry and customer demographics and preferences.

If you’re selling online and want to communicate directly with consumers, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook can be great options to promote your products and steer customers to your website or online store. Or if you’re in professional services and keen to engage professional contacts and stakeholders, LinkedIn can be an effective networking platform.

To help ensure reach – at scale – consider both an organic and paid approach, and also experiment with different formats beyond just static posts, like Instagram Stories or LinkedIn Texts Ads.

With all marketing channels, ensure your branding, including messaging and tone, is consistent and true to build trust and recognition amongst your audience. 

Alex Roslaniec, Co-Founder, Hey Bud Skincare

In our industry (D2C, skincare), social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram are crucial to our business success.

Instagram serves as a front-facing channel for new customers to understand our brand values, educate, and also showcase the benefits of our products. To existing customers, Instagram allows us to build up a connection and understand our customers more. 

Facebook is the perfect platform to build a strong community. We’ve built a Facebook group called the “Hey Bud VIP’s” where our customers are sharing their enthusiasm and passion for our products and the brand. There’s always someone sharing their latest tips, excitement for upcoming products, or our favourite when people post their positive results from using our products. 

I’d encourage others to do research into similar brands in your industry and see what social media channels they’re using and why, which will allow you to analyse what channels might be best for your business.

Edrianne Javier, Head of Marketing & Public Relations, 12RND Fitness & UBX Training

As a Fitness Franchise, our ultimate goal guiding all of our efforts across social media is to generate high quality leads for both Franchise Sales and Membership Sales. In order to identify which platform can help us to increase our volume of leads, ensures that those leads are high quality (easy to convert), and uses budget the most effectively – we test. We select a number of different platforms we believe our target audience is most likely to be using, and run a mix of paid and organic campaigns, then analyse the results.

According to Hootesuite’s latest Digital Executive Summary Report (2021), 45% of all internet users globally use social media platforms to research their purchases. We encourage our Franchisees to share as much insight into their club environment as possible through their content across all placements within both platforms. Then over time, they can focus their efforts based on where they’re getting the most engagement and membership interest. For some, it’s more Facebook, and the use of Messenger, and others see greater results through stories and Direct Message via Instagram. 

David Fairfull, CEO & Co-Founder, Metigy

The golden rule of business is to never start something before you can answer why you’re starting it. So, when assessing the best social media platform for your business, the key to success is having a clear understanding of what your company’s objectives are. 

Is your social media objective to drive sales or leads, build brand awareness, or act as a customer service platform? 

The answer to these questions will affect which is the “best” platform to select.

Breaking this down:

  • Facebook and Instagram are ideal for businesses looking to drive direct sales through targeted paid ad campaigns, but their cluttered nature does make it tough for brands to grow communities organically
  • Instagram is best suited to brands that can drive engagement and build their brands through visual content
  • LinkedIn can be leveraged by white-collar businesses for thought leadership and innovation
  • TikTok and Snapchat are best suited for businesses looking to target a younger audience with original video content

Rather than having a strong presence on every social platform on the market, identify the channels that best suit your objective and align your social strategy accordingly.

Growing your business’ social media presence isn’t as easy as flicking a switch on. It requires consistent performance analysis and optimisation in order to grow, which is where digital marketing tools become a critical business asset. 

Run Samarakoon & Robert Mikhail, Directors, Cosmetic Avenue

Social media is such an integral part of Cosmetic Avenue’s platform to educate and communicate with our clients. In fact it’s so important that we have a dedicated in-ouse Social Media Manager. 

Being such a visual platform, which our clients are high users of, we utilise the various features across the platforms, particularly Instagram and Facebook to post educational surgical videos, Q&A videos, Before & After transformations, and to answer many of the questions we receive via DMs (Direct Messaging). 

Facebook’s ‘Groups’ feature has allowed us to create a dedicate private Cosmetic Avenue Discussion Group, which now has over 4,000 members! The group encourages discussion, questions, and sharing of before and after images, in a safe and supportive environment created to support its members during a nervous but exciting time. 

With over 25,000 followers already, Social Media will continue to be an integral method of client engagement for our business.

Anna Ji, Head of Product, Clipchamp

For businesses looking to integrate video into their digital marketing strategies, social media is an obvious choice. Not only does it have the ability to target niche audience segments, but it can also lead to more business down the track. In fact, according to research, social videos generate 135 per cent more organic traffic than static imagery.

When deciding on the best platforms for your strategy, it’s important to understand which platforms your audiences are accessing the most and really hone in on them.

For example, a beauty company might want to make use of social media platforms like Instagram, over Twitter or Facebook. While a finance company may opt for LinkedIn. Also, don’t forget that 98 per cent of Australian users access social media via mobile devices, so make sure your content is mobile friendly and following the correct specifications.

Handy tip: Ensure the content is tailor-made for each platform, as it will have a much higher chance of engagement and turning buzz to business than a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.

Alexander Frolov, CEO, HypeAuditor

Brands are increasingly flooding to social media, all fighting for the attention of users. There are a few factors to consider when choosing which social media platform will yield the most ROI and leads for your business.

Brand personality: Brands need to have a clear vision of their brand identity. When posting content, you need to keep in mind what emotions you want to trigger in your audience and it needs to reflect your brand personality. For example, for audacious, young, and bold brands with a young target audience, TikTok might be the most suitable platform.

Audience: Even though it seems very obvious, it’s often overlooked. It’s paramount to understand what audiences use each platform. For example, according to the HypeAuditor recent research, the core TikTok audience in Australia is female between 13 and 24 years old (44.65%).There is also a large number of users between 13 and 17 years old (31.56%). So if you’re a B2B company, TikTok might not be the best option for you.

Campaign goal: Some platforms will be more appropriate than others depending on the objectives of your campaigns. If you’re looking to launch an influencer marketing campaign, and want the highest engagement rate, as it is a popular KPI for brand awareness, Instagram or TikTok are your best options. But if you want to further your reach and achieve long-term impact, you might want to consider YouTube.

Competitors analysis: Study competitors’ websites, social media profiles, and ads to get a sense of the creative assets that they’re using and look at their audience responses too. Since influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing channel, the information gathered about your competitors’ strategies is especially valuable, as it helps to adjust your strategies and choose the mechanics that work best on different platforms.

Dirk Steller, Founder and Managing Partner, Seed Space Venture Capital

The media landscape has shifted dramatically over the last five years, propelling social into focus as a vital engagement tool for business.

My focus goes to LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with more than 740 million members spanning at least 200 countries. It offers an instant global audience and a large opportunity to create a substantial network with like-minded industry professionals.

For a start-up seeking investment, the platform offers engagement opportunities with the high-level decision makers, while allowing it to showcase its brand and differentiate it from the competition.

Social media and, particularly LinkedIn, now forms upwards of 50 per cent of public outreach in the fintech sector. In fact, according to social media management Hootsuite, a staggering 55 million companies worldwide are now on LinkedIn.

Robin Marchant, Head of Marketing APAC, Shopify

Whether your brand is exploring social media marketing for the first time, or whether you’ve been doing it for years, it’s never been more important to invest in understanding the customer and how the way they search for information and interact with your brand has changed in the last six months.

It’s easy to take a ‘spray and pray’ approach to social media by posting content on every channel and hoping for the best, but this is the fastest way to wasting resources and putting customer relationships at jeopardy. Customers expect brands to use their customer data to everyone’s advantage, which means using the data to only reach out to customers on platforms they want to hear from you on and with information that is genuinely helpful.

It’s important to keep an eye out for new or fast-growing platforms, like TikTok, as well, to ensure you’re not falling behind on customer expectations and behavioural trends.

Start with the data, and let customer insights dictate how social media strategies are implemented.

Ben Crow, Marketing & Partnerships Executive, WLTH

With so many diverse social media platforms existing in the current market, it can often be hard for businesses to pick and choose where to best focus their attention.

My tip would be to refer to your business model and the demographic you want to target to help steer you in the right direction. Every business is different, so it’s important to completely understand your customers and the platforms they are using before rolling out any social strategy. Think about your messaging and know exactly what you want to achieve before you start mindlessly uploading content.

Social media is also a great way to gather feedback from clients and build it into your overall NPS strategy for your business. As with everything, if you aren’t allocating time to your socials, you need to decide if it is worth establishing a social account. If you don’t put the work into it, you won’t get the results you want.


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Running a business is a challenge at the best of times, but throw in a pandemic and the associated economic woes – and cost cutting has never been more important. So, in what areas could your business improve on when it comes to keeping that expenditure down? Let’s talk…

Vu Tran, Co-Founder, Go1

There are many ways SMBs can cut costs, but given the pandemic, it’s even more important than ever to balance any action with staff wellbeing. 

Conduct an audit of your biggest cost centres. It’s important to have a clear view of all expenses to help guide which costs can be slashed. For example, could a virtual assistant replace the administrative tasks of a few people so they can provide higher value contributions that can have a greater impact on revenue?

Staff training is another secret weapon – with minimal investment, it can do wonders for the productivity and morale.

With remote working and hybrid working set to continue, reducing office space may also be desirable. For some businesses, switching from traditionally leased space to an on-demand co-working space (or desks) could offer further cost savings.

Stephen Barnes, Principal, Byronvale Advisors

In a time of crisis in a business, like most businesses are facing now with COVID-19, it is vital that decisions are made. 

With cost cutting, go fast and go hard. 

If you suspect that sales are going to decline, and debtor days are going to lengthen, cut back your overheads now.  Waiting until the sales slow and the cash cycle lengthens, or waiting to see what happens in a week, a month or a year, is to me like watching a car crash in slow motion. 

Cut back your overheads now and cut them back hard. Then, when circumstances improve, grow these expenses slowly. You might even find you come out of the crisis a lot stronger and leaner business.

Dunya Lindsey, COO, Wiise

Amid the pressures of COVID, many businesses have had to take a good hard look at their expenses to determine where cost-savings can be made. In a time where survival is key, cash flow becomes absolutely critical – running lean is a priority right now.

Automation is one way to save costs. Labour-intensive, manual processes such as re-keying information are a direct hit to a company’s productivity and ultimately cash flow. Automation enables staff to spend more time on higher value tasks such as maximising sales, keeping customer satisfaction high, or getting orders out in time.

Understanding the true cost of sale is also key. For manufacturing and logistics businesses, freight costs have rocketed, likewise the price of imported goods. The cost of sale has to be recalibrated. To do this manually is very complex, but cloud-based ERP systems can automatically recalibrate costs due to changing shipping fees and taxes to ensure a profit is always being made.

Ollie Watts, Co-Founder, Hey Bud Skincare

Applying cost-cutting methods can bring immediate savings and improvements to the profitability of your business. As a growing E-Commerce store, Hey Bud Skincare constantly requests updated contracts from its courier and handling companies as well as its payment processors. Talk to these companies and they will provide baseline figures to achieve these cost savings.

As a start-up, invest your time in learning new skills (such as media buying, website development or video editing), if it helps you grow your business without risking your long-term goals. You’ll save on outsourcing fees and learn a useful skill set at the same time. 

It’s also who you know that brings success in cost-cutting. Reach out to people who have more experience in the same field and industry than you – they can save you time and money by sharing with you their costly mistakes which you can avoid, and also provide tips that can optimise and grow your business. 

Jarrod Kinchington, Managing Director, Infor ANZ

As companies embark on digital transformation journeys, there are significant savings to be made by adopting infrastructure – and software as-a-service solutions, and replacing the “traditional” hardware and software approach. Choosing the right cloud partner not only saves money, but provides the ability to rapidly scale your business accordingly and remain resilient in today’s business environment.  

Intelligent solutions that include automation, machine learning, asset management and workforce scheduling can reduce hours of mundane tasks and administration, giving employers the opportunity to re-purpose their staff to focus on higher-value work.  

Modern and industry-specific software, purpose-built for different micro-verticals, can help simplify business processes and foster closer collaboration amongst employees – especially in the new remote and hybrid working world.

More advanced organisations are expected to accelerate their adoption of artificial intelligence and business analytics that will enable them to accurately forecast supply and demand in real-time.

It’s also important to audit the services you currently have and discontinue those you no longer use (but are still paying for) as well as duplicate services you may have subscribed to.

Ryan Miller, CEO, Keeping Company

If you start any cost cutting exercise by first targeting the line items in the budget which cost the most, you’ve missed a critical step – aligning cost cutting with the business strategy.

Start with the business’ overarching strategy. What will achieve a return on investment against your strategy and what won’t? Going paperless, renegotiating supplier contracts and cutting discretionary costs like entertainment or gifts will deliver savings without impacting your business goals. However, making overly deep cuts to headcount, for example, could lead to the business becoming too under-resourced to achieve your strategic goals.

Other options for cutting costs include outsourcing or automating tasks, transitioning to a partly or fully virtual office, changing banks to a more cost effective facility, consolidating any credit cards or establishing a system to automate payments or provide reminders to make payments so you can avoid unnecessary late fees.

Joseph Robins, Payments Expert, GoCardless.

According to the Forrester report, 85 percent of businesses have more than 20 people responsible for managing payments, and more than 60 per cent of surveyed payment decision-makers said the most time-consuming areas are matching payments to invoices, and reconciling reporting from different gateways or processors.

This more than often means that businesses of all sizes need dedicated staff to manage the different stages of the payment process, be it manually entering payment details into a legacy system, generating payment files to be submitted to a bank, manually reconciling each day or chasing late payers.

There’s a big misconception in the difference between price and cost when it comes to a payment solution. Your “cheap” provider may charge you cents in transaction fees, but could be costing you thousands of dollars in human intervention. Now imagine those staff are freed up to work on “value-add” initiatives like expansion or increasing sales, and it quickly becomes evident that spending that bit more for a fully automated solution can have a huge impact on your business as a whole.


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Australia’s agricultural sector is set to enjoy a generally profitable year ahead – underpinned by high commodity prices, positive seasonal conditions, and low-interest rates, and despite expected continuing trade tensions with China – according to Rabobank’s Agribusiness Outlook for 2021.

The report says a largely profitable 2020/21 season for most Australian farmers will not only kick start recovery from the recent severe east coast drought but also put the sector in a stronger position to navigate several major transitions it will face in the year ahead – the pandemic recovery, reducing reliance on China and increasing sustainability. 

Report lead author, Rabobank head of Food & Agribusiness Research Tim Hunt said despite the turbulent environment facing the world as 2021 gets underway, global demand for food and agribusiness products remained “surprisingly firm”, while weather patterns were also favouring Australia ahead of competitors when it comes to production. 

“In a current global environment marked by the pandemic, political tensions and trade wars, demand for food and agri products has remained unexpectedly strong,” he said. 

“And despite the punitive actions of China on Australian agriculture, high agricultural commodity prices, low-interest rates, and positive seasonal conditions are underpinning a positive outlook for most farmers in 2020/21.” 

Credit: Rabobank

Turbulent place 

The world is a “turbulent place” as Australia’s agricultural sector enters 2021, the Rabobank report says, impacted by factors including the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the completion of Brexit and the emergence of the US from a tumultuous presidency, as well as continuing trade wars, which are distorting the direction and price of traded goods. 

“Market intervention is back in vogue, with grain-exporting countries reconsidering export quota and taxes as they fret over food security, while elsewhere port strikes have impeded trade flows,” the report says. 

Demand for agricultural commodities though is being supported, with several major importing countries appearing to be stockpiling to mitigate the risk of shortages and by unprecedented support from governments helping to offset the pandemics impact on employment and incomes, and therefore spending on food. 

And while foodservice channels remain compromised in many markets due to pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, the otherwise strong demand for food and agri commodities is seeing global prices supported – which is good news for Australian farmers, Mr Hunt said. 

Weather deals “winning hand” 

The weather has also finally turned in favour of Australian farmers, the report says, “with mother nature dealing Australian farmers a winning hand”. 

Above-average rainfall in 2020 had set up a good winter crop along with higher-than-usual moisture to open 2021 and significantly increased storages across the Murray Darling Basin. 

“This is improving broad-acre farm incomes, boosting locally-grown feed and underpinning better water allocations for irrigators,” Mr Hunt said. 

Simultaneously, the report says, while the La Nina weather conditions have been positive for much of Australia, they have “crimped the production prospects of competitors offshore”, with large parts of the US, Latin America and eastern Europe unusually dry. 

This had helped to significantly tighten international markets and increase global commodity prices, Mr Hunt said. 

China tensions 

While “mother nature” is supporting Australian farmers at the moment, the report says, “the Chinese government is in a less generous mood”, with tensions between the two countries showing no sign of easing. 

“Australian barley, wine and timber exports into China remain effectively blocked as we enter 2021,” Mr Hunt said, “while informal impediments appear to be constraining shipments of cotton and lobsters.” 

The report says the loss of some of Australia’s agricultural trade with China is now evident in data, with November 2020 shipments to China falling 33 per cent below the previous year’s (albeit unusually large) value. Although Rabobank notes, a 10 per cent November month-on-month fall in shipments to China is probably more representative of the impact of the geopolitical tensions. 

However, while the spectre of further loss of access to China hangs heavily over the Australian agricultural industry, Mr Hunt said, “the data to date suggests that many products are still flowing through”, with AUD 800 million worth of food and agri products still shipped to China in November last year and preliminary data showing exceptionally strong wheat exports, at least, in December. 

Major transitions ahead 

Reducing the sector’s reliance on the Chinese market is one of three major transitions the report identifies that will need to be negotiated by Australian agriculture in the year ahead. The others are recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and adjusting to a market more focused on sustainability. 

“Whether China continues to reduce its purchases of Australian food and agri products in coming years – as we think likely – or not,” Mr Hunt said, “the risks of supplying this market have definitely increased.” 

“2021 will likely mark a watershed year, in which Australia starts to reduce its reliance on China, voluntarily or otherwise.” 

Positively, the report says, prevailing global market settings – with strong demand, limited supply and high prices for agricultural commodities – make this challenge seem less daunting at the current time. 

“But reorientation to reduce reliance on China is a multi-year challenge that will still be ongoing when the market cycle inevitably turns again,” Mr Hunt said. 

The year ahead would also require a delicate transition as governments looked to withdraw assistance measures for consumers that had propped up end demand for food and fibre during the global pandemic. 

“If this is messed up, we could easily see demand for food and agricultural products soften during this transition,” Mr Hunt said. 

An increasing focus on environmental sustainability also looms large in 2021, the report says. 

“COVID-19 took the headlines from climate in 2020, but it didn’t alter the commitment of key players throughout the F&A (food and agri) supply chain to mitigate climate change, prepare for its risk and find mechanisms to reduce and/or recoup the costs of adjustment,” Mr Hunt said. 

“If the pandemic wanes in late 2021 as hoped, this quest will again rise to the fore, creating both opportunities and challenges. And it may prove to be the greatest of all the transitions facing the sector.”


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New research by Australia Post and the Banksia Foundation looks at key issues that SMEs are facing when it comes to small business sustainability in a post-COVID world.

The study shows that almost half of SMEs in Australia, which make up 98 per cent of businesses and employ almost half of the nation’s workforce, see sustainability as a key driver for their future growth and success.

The Small business sustainability in a COVID-19 world report, which is part of a broader effort by the researchers to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), suggests that sustainability is critical for the long-term survival, security, and competitive advantage of small businesses.

Key findings

1. Operating responsibly

The small business sustainability report found that SMEs are motivated to operate responsibly for three main reasons:

  • Balancing purpose and profit: profit is crucial to ensuring financial sustainability for all businesses, but many SMEs are seeking to balance purpose and profit by establishing themselves as a force for good.
  • Changing stakeholder expectations: a shift in generational thinking means more conscious consumers and purpose-driven employees who expect SMEs to be proactive in their sustainable practices.
  • Future-proofing the business: SMEs recognise that sustainable business practices are necessary for long-term survival, but they can only thrive if the communities they serve and operate in are also sustainable.

SMEs identified three important issues at the heart of their sustainability practices:

  • Reducing waste and rethinking materials: SMEs see waste as a burning issue and are reevaluating the materials they use in their products, while focusing more on reuse and recycle operations.
  • Sustainable packaging: e-Commerce-focused businesses consider packaging to be a significant concern, and one in three SMEs are now committing to Eco-friendly packaging for their products.
  • Supporting local communities: 38 per cent of SMEs said that they integrate community support into their sustainability approach, with many focusing on philanthropy, sponsorship, and initiatives that stimulate local employment.

2. Building resilience

SMEs identified three ways to build greater resilience in response to weakened supply chains and a lack of contingency planning:

  • Rethinking supply chains: Many SMEs will need to consider how they can reshore production and integrate diversity into new and existing supply chains.
  • Transitioning to a circular economy: SMEs may benefit from coming up with new business processes, connections and ways of linking the supply and manufacturing chain as natural resources decline and supply chains are disrupted.
  • Digital disruption: SMEs should be looking to adapt to online environments in the post-COVID world of social distancing, self-isolation, and the closure of bricks and mortar stores if they are to remain viable.

3. Regeneration in a world impacted by COVID-19

The SDGs serve as a global blueprint for creating a world that is comprehensively sustainable: socially fair, environmentally secure, economically prosperous, inclusive, and more predictable.

Adapting to sustainable business models could open up new market opportunities worth up to US$12 trillion a year and generate up to 380 million jobs by 2030.

4. Small business sustainability roadmap

SMEs can follow a practical roadmap to improve their approach to sustainability.

Image source: Australia Post

Australia needs small businesses ‘now more than ever’

Australia Post Executive General Manager Gary Starr called small business the “engine room of our economy” and urged business owners to take advantage of new opportunities to incorporate sustainability into their practices.

“There has never been a more important time for small businesses to be directing their focus towards sustainability and improving their overall resilience,” Mr Starr said.

“Research consistently finds that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that are sustainable, and many are willing to pay more for products and services that protect the environment or don’t infringe on human rights, and this trend has only been accelerated by the pandemic.

“As many small to medium businesses are often occupied with the immediate concerns of running a business, sustainability isn’t always top of mind, but developing more sustainable products and operations is becoming increasingly important, and it’s easier to get started than many businesses realise.

Banksia Foundation Chief Executive Officer Graz van Egmond also called on small businesses to consider implementing sustainable strategies “in a way that also delivers positive commercial outcomes,” despite the limited resources available to them.

“Now more than ever Australia needs small businesses, and we have a real opportunity to build a more sustainable and inclusive economy than the one we left behind prior to COVID-19,” Ms van Egmond said.


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Not many people build an app that reaches a million users within the first year of release. 

However that’s exactly how Daniel Vassilev and Jacky Koh, the co-founders of Vector AI, discovered their passion for tech and entrepreneurship.

“We built our first app by accident,” Mr Vassilev said.

“We were talking about doing something. I could code and he had the idea and marketing skills, so we built the app and released it. It was an android app for playing youtube music in the background.

“A few months later it gained traction so we monetised it. In 9-12 months we hit a million users installing it.”

Mr Vassilev created this app without any formal programming training, having only graduated from high school at the time.

However his interest in app development continued throughout university and the reach of his projects increased.

“Throughout uni, we kept building and monetising things,” Mr Vassilev said.

“Our biggest app was PokeWhere – it showed you where Pokemon were and it hit 4-5 million users in a couple of months and also hit no. 1 on the app store.”

Meanwhile Mr Koh was busy diving into data science, becoming the president of the Data Society at UNSW and winning the national EY data science competition.

Mr Koh and Mr Vassilev then went on to found Vector AI, a data analytics company that uses vectors to help businesses improve their products.

“Vectors enable you to capture the DNA of data – e.g. images, audio, documents – and converts it to a format that you can analyse using statistics.”

Despite being a powerful data analytics tool, Mr Koh found that vectors were heavily underused.

Whilst tech companies or large businesses would have teams dedicated to data analytics, smaller businesses would neither have the time, resources or knowledge to tap into their data.

“Data science is not the main focus in many businesses. If you’re an ecommerce company, your KPIs are around sales and conversion rates. So we realised there was a huge gap where we could provide them with the tech to drive their KPIs without having to worry about building and maintaining.”

Through Vector AI, Mr Vassilev hopes that more businesses will become aware of the untapped potential of data analytics.

“We want to have a wide array of customers that are using vectors to better capture the data they own. Around 70 per cent of data is unused and that’s a waste because one of the most valuable assets is data.”

However venturing into data analytics for the first time without a background in technology can be difficult.

“For people who don’t know much about data science and are in a managerial position and want to make better use of it, I understand it can be daunting because there’s a lot of noise out there.

“But I think the best way to overcome this is to have data experts internally that you can talk with and help you distinguish between the real and the fake, the useful and the not so useful for your business. But if you don’t have that, just write down the list of KPIs that you have and think if there is anything you can derive from your data that’s relevant to them.”

Despite Mr Vassilev’s success as an entrepreneur, he never planned this career path.

“I didn’t see entrepreneurship as a career option. When we first set out to build an app, we didn’t say we’re going to be entrepreneurs, we did it because it sounded like fun. The entrepreneurial side only developed after when we realised you could build and reach people from your home just by hitting some keys from your laptop.”

Passion, he argues, is the key to his success.

“Be really passionate about what you do,” said Mr Vassilev.

“I think people might want to build businesses because it sounds great and fun and exciting.  But there are a lot of really hard days and you don’t get through them unless you have a burning desire and passion to solve the problem and help the people you target.

“If you are going to start a business, find something that even in the worst of times you feel so passionate about that it’ll keep you going.”


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An upcoming Apple iOS update for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will give users the power to decide whether or not an app can access their data across sites and other apps.

The iOS 14 (iPhone), the iPadOS 14 and the tvOS 14 beta updates will be ramping up privacy measures with an opt-in requirement Apple is calling App Tracking Transparency. The privacy feature will ensure companies and developers have to ask for a user’s permission before they can collect and use data for advertising and tracking purposes.

The update is expected to go out in the spring in the US and autumn for those in Australia. Apple initially had planned for this feature to be installed in September 2020, but delayed the update to provide developers more time to prepare for the change in requirements.

ALSO READ: Emerging Tech Apple releases new warnings about iPhone 12 and medical devices

There are currently capabilities in the iPhone’s settings to disable tracking, but this feature is the first time users will be prompted with the option and developers will risk being removed from the App Store if they fail to comply.

Image credit: Apple

As for the types of tracking we could be experiencing now if we haven’t taken a dive into our settings, here are four examples provided on Apple’s developer page:

  • Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies.
  • Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker.
  • Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users.
  • Placing a third-party SDK in your app that combines user data from your app with user data from other developers’ apps to target advertising or measure advertising efficiency, even if you don’t use the SDK for these purposes. For example, using an analytics SDK that repurposes the data it collects from your app to enable targeted advertising in other developers’ apps.

However, there are exceptions to what data access Apple considers “tracking.” User permission will not be required when data “is linked to third-party data solely on the user’s device and is not sent off the device in a way that can identify the user or device”, and when data is shared with a data broker “solely for fraud detection, fraud prevention, or security purposes, and solely on your behalf.”

Facebook: Not happy, Jan.

The transparency-focused move from Apple has, of course, been cause for concern for certain companies – namely Facebook. The social media giant has been arguing – and even taking full-page ads in American newspapers in doing so – that removing personalised advertising will cost small business attention and websites ad revenue, driving the latter to implement more subscription-style fees and reduce high-quality content.

“These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively,” read the company’s stance, published on Facebook for Business. “Our studies show, without personalised ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads.” 

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook responded to Facebook’s concerns with a tweet in December.

“Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before,” Mr. Cook posted. “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”


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