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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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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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The Australian Government’s JobKeeper scheme has been of great support to businesses nationwide during the pandemic. With JobKeeper payments now reduced and the end of the scheme looming, Let’s Talk about what it can mean for businesses…

Rob Smith, Partner, McGrathNicol

JobKeeper has been the most significant and successful COVID-19 business support measure, providing substantial cash and employment support to impacted businesses across Australia through 2020. JobKeeper payments reduced again on 4 January 2021 to no more than $1,000 per fortnight and the scheme is currently set to expire on 28 March 2021. 

Without significant new government financial support, many businesses that continue to be adversely impacted by COVID-19, particularly in the tourism, travel, wholesale and retail industries will come under renewed liquidity and employment pressure from April this year.

We anticipate that asset-light small to medium sized businesses, with less funding options available, will be most affected. Solutions may be to permanently reduce employment, seek further concessions from suppliers, landlords and lenders, or to take more drastic measures such as closure or insolvency. Such actions will have a knock-on effect, impacting employment, liquidity and working capital through industry value chains and the broader economy.

Tracey Dunn, Associate Director, RSM Australia

While some businesses were hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns, many have already transitioned away from JobKeeper in the second round. Most other businesses will have been planning in advance for the end of JobKeeper.

Businesses that are experiencing cashflow issues at this point may need to look at the business more broadly. It’s possible that underlying business issues were compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, magnifying and accelerating the impact of these issues for those businesses. If small businesses are likely to struggle to meet their overheads without JobKeeper, they should speak with their advisor to identify options. Restructuring could help the business emerge from this crisis stronger than before. In some cases, unfortunately, it may be that the business needs to be wound up.

Small businesses owners who are concerned about the end of JobKeeper should speak with their business advisor or insolvency advisor as soon as possible to maximise their chance of success.

Tom Cornell, Head of Assessments APAC, HireVue

Following the Government’s comments, JobKeeper will not be extended beyond its current deadline and instead Australian businesses will lose their safety net during March. For many businesses this will require a reassessment of their talent needs in order to ensure that all current and future hires can be adequately supported.

This may lead to HR teams having to make difficult decisions. However, the core thing to bear in mind is the long-term health of the overall business. The current optimism around economic recovery is based on a range of factors, including the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Hiring talent into an unstable and potentially short-term environment comes with its own set of challenges and HR teams would be wise to take a cautious approach in the coming months. 

On the flip side, companies fortunate enough to be in a position to hire, will have an expanded pool of talent to draw from, so will need to effectively assess potential candidates to ensure they are securing the right fit for the business. Either way, this is not a time to be making knee-jerk decisions, but instead to be acting strategically.

Gordana Redzovski, Vice President APAC, Vend

Few industries were harder hit by the pandemic than retail, so for many who relied on it the impending end of the government’s JobKeeper program represents a daunting cliff edge. Despite that, though, the local retail industry has, and continues to make strong strides, with the proliferation of ecommerce, the “shop local” sentiment and easing social distancing restrictions representing a platform that could alleviate some of  the concerns about its conclusion.

That’s not to say it’ll be easy, though, so ensure you have a solid understanding of your business’ current financial position. Look at the past 12 months as a whole and then identify where you might be able to cut costs or implement more cost- and time-effective processes. If, for instance, you’re wasting time on manual admin tasks, consider how you might be able to adopt digital systems and processes to save both time and money in the long-run. Consider, also, whether flash sales, loyalty programs or discounts for recommending friends could incentivise a short-term spike in custom.

Jonathon Colbran, Partner, RSM Australia

Government stimulus funding has kept Australian small businesses afloat during the COVID-19 disruption. JobKeeper was a highly effective cashflow measure but, although it was extended a number of times, it was always intended to be finite. Businesses should therefore be prepared for it to end.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that business owners have proactively planned for this. In an environment where many significant creditors have deferred debt repayments, businesses need to prepare for the time when these debt repayments will re-commence or return to pre-COVID-19 levels, since most debts were only deferred, not forgiven. When the government stimulus payments eventually stop, this is likely to affect cashflow.

Businesses continue to face risk from COVID-19 and other, unforeseen disruptions. It’s essential to work with a business advisor to plan for uncertainty, find ways to protect cashflow and explore all options such as restructuring to protect and improve the business.

Dunya Lindsey, COO, Wiise

The end of JobKeeper should be a sign that everything is getting back to normal. But as any business knows, “normality” is still a long way off. Australia has so far weathered the impact of COVID-19 better than many other nations. But certain industries have been particularly hard hit by continued travel restrictions. Travel and tourism, international education, freight and logistics will still be severely impacted even as JobKeeper ends.

This is a crucial time for businesses to take advantage of the right technology solutions. Having robust accounting and ERP software is critical to generating the data and insights needed for smart decision-making. This will boost business agility and help them keep a close eye on cashflow, as well as ensuring there is enough capital to rebuild businesses and meet deferred payments. Employment forecasts seem more positive, with labour force figures showing continued improvement since the depths of recession in June 2020. But the recovery is not evenly spread. For vulnerable businesses, still struggling and exposed to uncertainty, ongoing support measures will be critical.

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

With the hospitality industry still facing so much uncertainty, there is hope that the federal government may continue to support the industry by extending JobKeeper or replacing it with a hospitality-specific scheme such as ‘HospoKeeper’, currently being pitched to the treasurer by Restaurant & Catering Australia.

However, if tough staffing decisions do need to be made by business owners, making the right decisions will be paramount. It will be critical to understand how business has changed over the past six months, including: What are now the busiest hours of the day, and days of the week? What is the new order channel split (eg: dine-in vs. takeaway), and how does this vary by hour? Getting the mix of skills and coverage right when rostering will be more important than ever.

Hospitality owners should also consider implementing emerging technology to generate additional staffing efficiencies. Connected, cloud-based POS systems enable access to tools that can bring efficiencies to roster management such as digital ‘order at table’ solutions, and rich, real-time analytics features that empower smarter business decisions


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Australian sustainable packaging startup Planet Protector Packaging has been one victim of the Chinese-Australian trade tensions, after their deal to provide the packaging of rock lobster exports was put on hold. 

Planet Protector Packaging (PPP) was established in 2016 in response to the global plastic waste crisis. Their product aims to eliminate polystyrene from supply chains by replacing it with environmentally responsible WOOLPACK Insulated packaging made from sheep waste wool.

With an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year, and 42 per cent of this plastic emanating from the packaging industry, CEO and founder Joanna Howarth said she was eager to build a packaging product that did not rely on polystyrene.

“Our solution consists of two interlocking liners that slip inside the cardboard carton. The carton is recyclable, and the wall is biodegradable,” she said. “If you were to plant the wall or put it in compost, within six months it would have broken down and returned valuable nutrients to the soil.”

Large corporations DHL and Blackmores are now using the Planet Protector Packaging solution, as well as smaller clients Loving Earth and Bondi Meal Prep.

In early 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, PPP spent nine months conducting trials with the lobster industry to export rock lobsters from Australia to China. 

Joanne Howarth, CEO and founder of Planet Protector Packaging

A $10 billion dollar industry, Ms Howarth said the company would have had $2-3 million worth of revenue coming from Australian lobster trade. 

“We worked with the industry to create a 100 per cent plastic free solution, that would keep the lobsters alive while they travel,” she said. “We wanted to get ahead of Chinese New Year, but then COVID struck.” 

China has put a pause on Australian imports of rock lobsters, and are currently inspecting between 50 and 100 per cent of them, citing concerns about trace elements of metals. However, the halted lobster trade is said to be part of China’s response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison lobbying for an international inquiry into the origins of the virus.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has threatened to take the matter to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if China does not comply saying: “We expect China to play by WTO rules and if they don’t we’ll have to make consideration with industry around what our next action is around the independent umpire.”

Due to trade tensions, Ms Howarth’s deal with the lobster industry has been put on further hold, as “tonnes of lobsters are just sitting on a dock in China now.”

“The whole lobster industry is shut down,” she said. “As an entrepreneur you learn to be resilient, but this was really something none of us foresaw.”

“The tension between Australia and China is going to have enormous repercussions across jobs, globally. What are the different sectors supposed to do – wind, timber, coal, sugar wheat? 

“That’s $8 billion of our GDP, gone.”


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In the fragmented home-care space, San Francisco-based startup Honor is trying to bring together more caregivers under one company. The idea is to reach a scale where it can coordinate with health systems and insurers while meeting a common standard of care.

“Home care is hard. There is no one that has more than half-a-percent of the market on an owned and operated basis. It’s that fragmented,” co-founder and CEO Seth Sternberg said on a call. “By creating a singular network, it creates some interesting opportunities around how we can interface with medical providers.”

To meet that goal, Honor raised $140 million in series D funding, led by investment firms Baillie Gifford and T. Rowe Price Associates. To date, the company has raised more than $255 million in funding.

“We believe investing is about identifying companies that can deliver transformational growth on the back of long-term structural changes,” Baillie Gifford’s Anika Penn said in a news release. “Honor has demonstrated their ability to leverage technology to elevate and expand services to older adults who want to remain in their homes and to improve conditions for home care aides.”

Last year, CNBC reported that SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 was in talks to invest in Honor. But that deal did not materialize, along with several other planned SoftBank investments, according to Axios.

Currently, Honor works with more than 40 home care agencies across California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Ohio, and Michigan.

The startup contracts with these companies, managing their back-office functions such as administrative work, compliance and recruiting in exchange for a portion of revenue.  Sternberg touted a platform the company uses to help manage its network, such as calculating caregivers’ preferred schedules.

“We use a lot of machine learning to figure out why people behave the way they behave,” Sternberg said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Honor has seen an uptick in demand. Sternberg said the average hours per week per home increased from 35 to 45.

Honor also has built symptom checkers and sourced hundreds of thousands of masks to reduce exposure to the virus.

“Covid’s going to be here for a while. For a long time, things like infection control protocols and symptom checkers, they’re going to be important,” he said.

In the longer term, Sternberg sees opportunities to look at more details to improve care, such as making sure there’s fresh food in the fridge, to something as simple as making sure the lightbulbs in a patient’s home are not burned out.

“There’s so much we can do fundamentally caring for someone, and building a national network is the first step,” he said.

  Photo credit: jacoblund, Getty Images 

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Linktree, the trusted tech platform that connects audiences to a user’s entire online ecosystem, has raised US$10.7 million in Series A funding, led by Insight Partners, an investor in Shopify, and AirTree Ventures, an early investor in Canva.  

The funding will accelerate Linktree’s expansion in international markets, including global team growth, and the evolution of Linktree’s product and functionality in new ways to deliver valuable user experiences.

Linktree allows its customers to build a microsite that houses their digital ecosystem, making it easier than ever to connect with their audiences, wherever they are.

“The internet is becoming more and more fragmented,” said Linktree co-founder and CEO Alex Zaccaria. “It is becoming really important for businesses to unify all their digital revenue streams in one place, and link out of any platform in a unified way.”

“There are so many different places you can access to build your audience, and so it’s necessary for businesses to be able to send their audiences whereever they need them to go.”

Jeff Lieberman, Managing Director at Insight Partners has echoed this sentiment saying: “As the internet becomes increasingly fragmented, brands, publishers, and influencers need a solution to streamline their content sharing and connect their social media followers to their entire online ecosystem, ultimately increasing brand awareness and revenue.

“Linktree has successfully created this new “microsite” category enabling companies to monetize the next generation of the internet economy via a single interactive hub.” 

Linktree lets businesses unify their online resources for the ease of the customer. Source: Supplied.

Linktree has been bootstrapped and profitable from day one, focusing on product-led growth and word of mouth virality. Linktree achieved widespread adoption and exponential growth since launching in 2016, exceeding 8 million global users, 28,000+ sign-ups per day and over half a billion visitors to Linktrees in September alone. 

“The product itself is in its very nature is sharing,” said Mr Zaccaria. “Customers click the Linktree logo at the bottom of the profile of a business using the tool which leads to very viral, organic growth.”

“Because of this, we’ve been hyper-focussed on building the best possible product we can, and making sure that the product really solves the problem for users.”

The funding will allow Linktree to grow its global team, building a distributed workforce to join its CTO working while on the road in Australia, its Senior Engineer dialling in from Dublin, its growing team in LA and the rest of its Australia-based workforce. 

“[We’ve] achieved a lot in four years with a lean, Melbourne-based team,” said Mr Zaccaria. “I am incredibly proud to announce this raise alongside our incredible investor partners, and look forward to leveraging their expertise to create something truly unique in the tech sector.”


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