How channel partners can leverage the nbn network to help deliver transformation and digital innovation to Australian SMBs

2020 was a year of severe disruption, which caused organisations to re-think their entire approach to technology, both in terms of how they use it internally, and how they interact with their customers.

Research shows that overall IT budgets are expected to decline in the wake of the impact that COVID-19 has had on businesses. Despite this, IDC data suggests that spending on digital transformation projects will grow 10.4 per cent for the year.

It’s easy to understand why transformation might be of interest. For many SMBs there is an opportunity to find new business opportunities and revenue streams at a time where there is a downturn to traditional revenue streams. Australian SMBs that achieve advanced levels of connectivity are 50 per cent more likely to grow revenue, seven times more likely to export, eight times more likely to create jobs, and can expect as much as 60 per cent more revenue per employee. For those businesses that aren’t already at that point, this becomes a strategic opportunity vastly superior to making cutbacks in-line with the reduced traditional business.

Of course, SMEs often face constrained resources with regards to IT. Skills shortages make it difficult to find in-house technology employees, and with the rate of technology innovation, it can be difficult to understand where the best investments into technology are for the business. Deloitte research shows that just 55 per cent of SMEs in Australia are considered to be at a “high” or “advanced” level of digital engagement, meaning that there remains a lot of room for channel organisations to step in and help articulate to these businesses the value of undergoing the necessary transformation exercises.

For SMBs seeking to invest in digital transformation strategies, change can be enabled by access to quality connectivity.

Helping lift Australia’s small and medium business capability

Australia’s SMB community is broad, and their internet requirements are equally broad in kind. Some sectors have faced the need to rapidly scale their broadband services in line with COVID-19. Healthcare and education, for example, have had an exponential increase in demand for the provision of video services. According to the CSIRO, prior to COVID-19, Australia averaged just 8.8 telehealth consultations per 1,000 people, but in April and May 2020 alone there were close to six million telehealth consultations conducted. Meanwhile, as noted by PwC, during lockdowns, as few as three per cent of Australian students were attending school as normal, with the rest relying on eLearning and the delivery of classwork over video and the cloud. This has placed a great strain on the internet services of many educational institutions which had previously relied on a majority of students to be located physically in the school.

Other businesses have looked to the changes that COVID-19 have forced on their operations as a strategic opportunity to undergo digital transformation activities and prepare their businesses for the “new normal” ahead. As mentioned in a KPMG report: “Previous economic crises, however, have also shown us that their effects will be felt for years to come and could lead to structural changes in the business environment. How then can companies prepare for and adapt to a post-COVID-19 world, and remain focused on the here and now at the same time?”

SMBs are very keen to understand their role in the post-pandemic world, where many of the habits that have been learned around social distancing and a preference for digital interactions will remain. To deliver these digital services and engage in the digital economy effectively, SMBs need broadband services that not only flexible and reliable, but also accessible and affordable.

With the initial build of the nbn™ network now complete, nbn is working hard to meet the evolving needs SMBs in line with the company’s purpose to lift the digital capability of Australia. Taking advantage of the momentum it has established in building the initial network, nbn recently announced a new Business Fibre Initiative which will involve the creation of up to 240 nbn™ Business Fibre Zones, including a presence in 85 regional centres. All businesses within these zones will have access to nbn’s wholesale premium-grade business offering, business nbn™ Enterprise Ethernet, with wholesale prices for service providers significantly reduced, in some cases by up to 67 per cent. These zones are expected to cover more than 700,000 business premises.

In addition, when a service provider places an order for Enterprise Ethernet, for an estimated 90 per cent of business premises in the national nbn™ network footprint, nbn will not charge the retailer for building the fibre. Plus, if a service provider signs up for a three-year Enterprise Ethernet plan, nbn will not charge the provider an up-front connection cost.

What is business nbn Enterprise Ethernet?

Enterprise Ethernet is nbn’s fastest symmetrical wholesale product and premium-grade business offering. It has options for prioritised traffic, high capacity and symmetrical upload and download wholesale speeds from 10Mbps to close to 1Gbps51,5, as well as enhanced 24/7 support through the business nbn™ Operations Centre with a dedicated team located in Australia.

Through business nbn™ Enterprise Ethernet solutions from a service provider, business can invest in services that help meet their needs and can be scaled rapidly, from wholesale speeds of 10/10 Mbps designed for a business with modest Internet needs or those at the start of their transformation journey, through to wholesale speeds of close to 1 Gbps designed for high-growth companies, that are fully transformed and now making heavy use of video, AI, edge computing, and other demanding digital applications. By investing in a business nbn™ Enterprise Ethernet solution, an SMB will not need to worry about capacity as it grows.

Working with ICT professionals

Transformation and the drive to engage in the digital economy is driven through solutions. Organisations need to take a holistic and comprehensive look at their environments to capitalise on the breadth of opportunity that technology enables. As noted in an article titled Digital Transformation Is Not About Technology in Harvard Business Review:

“Leaders who aim to enhance organizational performance through the use of digital technologies often have a specific tool in mind. “Our organization needs a machine learning strategy,” perhaps. But digital transformation should be guided by the broader business strategy.”

With the majority of digital transformation initiatives still failing to achieve their goals, there remains a significant opportunity for channel organisations to be involved at every level of a transformation project, from the audit and design, through to the holistic and interlocked approach to technology solutions that deliver successful results.

In providing the technology foundation of digital transformation – the high-speed broadband network that will power the complex mix of networked solutions, nbn developed a business nbn™ ICT Channel Program that seeks to enable ICT professionals with the full suite of capabilities to leverage business nbn™ as the bedrock of a transformation exercise.

The business nbn™ ICT Channel Program has three separate “tiers” that range from the entry-level Registered for participants just starting out with nbn, through to certified and finally business nbn™ accredited adviser. These tiers each provide additional training and support resources as the participant scales their investment into the program:

One example of participants being able to leverage business nbn™ with technology vendors to deliver innovation and transformation to a customer can be seen with ACFS.

A shipping and logistics specialist, ACFS has needed to leverage technology to deliver faster support to customers and, through business nbn™ accredited adviser, CustomTec, has been able to turn technology into a point of competitive differentiation.

CustomTec supplied ACFS with a Cisco Meraki solution over business nbn™ wholesalesolutions. “Bringing together Cisco Meraki with business nbn™ has allowed us to deliver to ACFS the kind of solution they need to be agile and deliver things quickly to their customers,” CustomTec CFO, Anthony Higgins, said.

“We are now able to set up a warehouse wherever whenever,” ACFS CIO, Anthony Tzaneros, added. “I’m not aware of anyone else in the industry that can setup a warehouse quicker than we can. It’s a game-changer. As we’re a medium-sized business, CustomTec has been incredibly importing in bringing us partnerships that we didn’t even know we needed. Cisco and business nbn™ solutions from a service provider has taken us to the next level.”

Delivering business value with business nbn

Businesses, across all sectors and sizes, need to be preparing themselves for a renewed wave of technology innovation and disruption. Given that research from Hays found that jobs related to transformation, including cloud engineers, were one of the most in-demand roles for 2020, businesses, especially SMBs, will be relying on their partners to help develop and execute on the transformation they need to participate in the future digital economy.

Internet connectivity will be core to that, as organisations increasingly invest in cloud, edge computing, IoT, AI and other solutions that require robust, fast, high-bandwidth connectivity for performance. The business nbn™ ICT Channel Program is focused on equipping technology advisers with the knowledge and tools to help businesses transition to services over the nbn™ network and embrace a digitised future.

Become the trusted adviser that customers desire as they undertake these transformation exercises. For more information on the business nbn™ ICT Channel Program, or to register your interest in the program

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General note:

nbn is very happy with ACFS and CustomTec’s experience with the nbn™ broadband access network. Of course, end customer experiences may vary. An end customer’s experience, including the speeds actually achieved over the nbn™ broadband access network, depends on the nbn™ access network technology and configuration over which services are delivered to their premises, whether they are using the internet during the busy period, and some factors outside of nbn’scontrol (like their equipment quality, software, chosen broadband plan, signal reception, or how their provider designs its network). Speeds may also be impacted by the number of concurrent users on the nbn™ Fixed Wireless network, including during busy periods. Sky Muster™ satellite end customers may also experience latency.

nbn™ and other nbn™ Brands are trademarks of nbn co limited and used under licence.

Resource centre

  • nbn™ Business Fibre Initiative

  • nbn™ Business Fibre Initiative and Enterprise Ethernet Fact Sheet

  • Enhanced Service Level Agreement Fact Sheet

  • Connecting business nbn™ to your conversations

  • business nbn™ Operations Centre Fact sheet

  • A guide to the business nbn™ ICT Channel Program