Emerging countries in the Asia Pacific are showing Australian SMBs how innovation and technology are keys to success

Tuesday 9 June 2015 – Sydney, Australia: A new Microsoft study has revealed Australian small and medium businesses (SMBs) have the potential to grow as fast as their Asia Pacific counterparts in emerging economies if they fully embrace new technologies and innovative ways of working.

The Microsoft Asia Pacific New World of Work (NWOW) Study found SMBs in emerging Asia Pacific economies are proving to be highly agile as they leverage multiple technological platforms such as mobile and the cloud.
Australia scored 36 on the NWOW Index, slightly below the Asia Pacific average of 40 out of 100, and New Zealand scored 23. Indonesia recorded the highest score of 62. The study found Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam have some of the most flexible and digitally productive SMBs in the region while Australian and New Zealand scored below average on a country comparison index.

The study involved 2000 SMBs from Asia Pacific, including 200 from Australia and 200 from New Zealand. It generated insights on their current work and life needs, the gaps that exist in enabling them to thrive and showed that both Australia and New Zealand rated below developing nations on the NWOW Index. The Index provides a market comparison on the capacity of employees to work flexibly and productively in the digital workplace and the support employees receive from leaders, workplace cultures and technology.

“The research shows small and medium businesses in the Asia Pacific have a terrific appetite for new technologies,” said Steven Miller, Applications and Services Group Lead, Microsoft Australia. “They are bypassing more traditional platforms such as desktops and laptops and being more creative through the use of mobile and cloud solutions to really get ahead, often on limited budgets.” “It’s an approach that Australian and New Zealand small and medium businesses could really learn from to stay competitive in the region and globally.”

New World of Work Index

Market Rank NWOW Index
Asia Pacific wide 40.33
Indonesia 1 61.67
Philippines 2 61.00
Vietnam 3 44.33
Thailand 4 42.33
Malaysia 4 42.33
Hong Kong 6 36.67
Australia 7 36.33
Singapore 8 34.67
New Zealand 9 23.33
Taiwan 10 21.00

The study findings clearly show that the traditional notion of work is changing:

  1. Business at the speed of light: 64% of Australian respondents and 59% of Kiwis said they are required to respond to internal stakeholders within four hours; and 58% of Australians and 53% of New Zealanders said they are required to respond to external customers within four hours.
  2. Work doesn’t end at 5pm: 64% of Australian respondents and 52% of New Zealand respondents said they are required to be contactable outside of work.
  3. Employees are still in cubicle: Australian respondents said the top two reasons they need to be present in the office was access to important equipment or tools (57.5%) or important information (42.5%). New Zealanders sat at 53.5% and 33.5% respectively. The majority of Australians (65%) stated they are most productive in the office, which could be as a result of limitations of working remotely such as access to collaboration tools and information.
  4. Achieving work life balance is still challenging: 85% of Australians and 81% of New Zealanders said that work life balance is a very important aspect of their job, but only 56% of Australians and 49% of New Zealanders felt that they had adequate balance today.
  5. Bring-your-own-device and bring-your-own-service culture is increasingly pervasive: 45% of Australia’s employees and 43% of New Zealand’s employees are using personal devices with the remainder using employer-issued devices to get work done today.

Microsoft worked with Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy helping companies solve the people and organisational challenges of growth, to design the study and gain insights from the data.

Dr James Eyring, COO of Organisation Solutions said, “The nature of work has evolved and now requires more remote collaboration. Progressive companies have changed their workplace, policies and capabilities to better succeed in this environment. By enabling employees to work anywhere, at any time, these companies improve employee collaboration, innovation and productivity. In turn, they better serve customers and grow their business.

“These companies also provide more flexibility to current workers and better attract young talent who are used to a connected and mobile environment. This survey provides valuable insights into the people, place and technology practices that enable business success and attract and retain talent.”

In Australia, a good example of how SMBs can accelerate their growth through technology is DB Results, an independent professional services consultancy that specialises in the delivery of transformation programs and systems integration.

With 220 employees and offices in Hong Kong, Canberra, Sydney and plans for the USA, they have an increasing workforce who all need to collaborate. The organisation recently selected Office 365 to deploy across their network which has enabled them to create a seamless global and flexible workforce. DB Results additionally use tools such as Microsoft Project, Visio and Surface Pro 3.

John Demelis, Shared Services Manager, DB Results said, “Cloud technology, when working with a global, contracted workforce, is imperative to enable workers to access documents and collaborate on the go – while avoiding ongoing capital investment from our servers and software. The recent deployment has improved the team’s way of working, making them more responsive and agile.”

Cloud services enable organisations to drive work place transformation and can help address business needs from the largest enterprise to the smallest business. According to the Boston Consulting Group, businesses that use cloud and mobile technologies far outperformed their peers in the marketplace.

The NWOW study shows that there is an inherent flexibility amongst SMBs in the emerging markets’ model of success.

“They are embracing mobile and using the resources that they have, the creativity and tenacity of their people. Rather than being chained to a desk, they are able to leverage that inherent agility,” said Steven Miller.

“That is something that Australian small businesses can really learn from – they can learn that SMBs have inherent advantages in the nimble and fast ways for operating enabled with mobile technology to help them to compete for business and compete against bigger businesses.”

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View the Microsoft Asia Pacific New World of Work infographic.

Further findings from the study

To support the index, the study presented these key observations:

  • Employees in emerging markets feel they are better supported for a new world of work, are open to harness productivity tools to work better and smarter. They also bring their own devices and services to the workplace to help them become more connected and productive.
  • Employees in mature markets live in a world where advanced productivity tools are more readily available, but do not harness online productivity tools as much as their counterparts in emerging markets.
  • Only 35% of respondents in Australia and 50% of those in New Zealand use at least 4 to 5 online services to enable their work needs (email, social, collaboration, virtual meetings and cloud-based file sharing services). The level of usage was lower than the APAC level of 52% – in Australia’s case, significantly so. The difference between emerging (67% average) and mature (44% average) markets was stark.
  • When ranked, the top 5 online services being used by employees in SMBs for work are:
  Asia Pacific Australia New Zealand
1. Email (89%) Email (86%) Email (71%)
2. Social tools (66%) Collaboration tools (49%) File sharing services (41%)
3. File sharing services (62%) Social tools (49%) Social tools (41%)
4. Document collaboration tools (61%) File sharing services (48%) Document collaboration tools (36%)
5. Virtual meeting tools (56%) Virtual meeting tools (41%) Virtual meeting tools (35%)

Alarmingly though, in Australia, there is still very limited availability of technology in SMBs:

  • Only 35% of respondents are using 4 or 5 services polled – the lowest in APAC
  • 51% do not have document collaboration tools or are unsure
  • 52% do not have file sharing capabilities or are unsure
  • 59% do not have virtual meeting capabilities or are unsure
  • 51% do not have social tools or are unsure

Study methodology

The Microsoft Asia Pacific New World of Work SMB Study was conducted in March 2015 with 2,000 respondents working in small and medium enterprises with less than 250 employees in 10 Asia Pacific markets including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Microsoft worked with Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy helping companies solve the people and organisational challenges of growth, to design the study and gain insights from the data. The NWOW study was conducted by YouGov and involved online interviews with representatives from 200 SMBs from each of the 10 nations involved. Each organisation had few than 250 employees with 24% from 1-9 employees, 52% from 10 to 99, and 24% from 100 to 250. Respondents ranged in age from 21 to 65, with 48.8% being male and 51.2% female.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services, devices and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

For more information, please contact:
Roxy Sinclair, Ogilvy PR, Roxy.Sinclair@ogilvy.com.au

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