The Digital Age and Blue Ocean Opportunity in Newcastle & the Hunter


Recently Gordon Whitehead of the Lunatick Society of Newcastle took the initiative that I believe Local & Federal Governments should have played a lead role in our region. Gordon established Digital Newcastle was to seek opportunities to promote the digital businesses and economy of Newcastle & the Hunter and find opportunities to grow and nurture the digital economy of our region. I have myself been in the game of economic development for most of my working life helping businesses grow and contribute to the wider economy by growing their market and employing more staff. With my business I have been active in providing small to medium sized businesses with website development, technology consulting, and marketing services enabling the smaller sector to compete online on a level playing field. Over the last 12 years of this business i have seen the speed of technological change take place and opportunities that are brought with it come and go. The National Broadband Network is next and a reasonable amount of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and Maitland are on the nearer term roll out radar.

Businesses need to be alert to the benefits of high capacity broadband and how to take advantage of the opportunities it will bring before their more digitally aware competitors leave them behind. I fear this technological latency will be prolific in Newcastle & the Hunter Region. So I thought I would share my views on the current environment of business and technologyand the future opportunities that businesses need to be thinking about.

These opportunities for the most part fall into three categories: e-marketing, e-operations, and e-services. For competitive advantage, business will now need to be looking to not only capitalise on the three ‘e-opportunities’ but to do so in a way that creates an uncontested market-space and disrupt their industry to form new markets, new business models, and new industries.

Your business will have a position on a line of digital adoption on the scale of improving your existing marketing, operations & services to transforming your marketing, operations, and services toward redefining your e-opportunties.

Hopefully most businesses are aware of their place in the improvement stage. The digital age provides opportunities to increase your marketing reach, exploit new sales channels, reduce costs of delivery, reduce the production cycle time, improve your customer service, increase speed of brand awareness, increase customisation of products and services, and enhance direct advertising opportunities.

These opportunities are available now with the current technology available in Newcastle & the Hunter Region, however with the coming of the NBN and super fast broadband, these opportunities will be accelerated, more available, and the ability to maintain any competitive advantage in any areas of e-opportunity will be diminished due to an increase in the speed of adoption to match.

In the transformation stage, we have seen the likes of Amazon, eBay, iTunes, transform the way products are accessed by digitalising previously physical products and providing global marketplaces for the exchange of goods & services creating a Consumer2Consumer marketplace. The digital age requires businesses to learn and adapt quickly to new technologies. This is already happening in NBN activated regions, it will be extremely important that Newcastle & Hunter businesses do not stand flat footed while their competitors in other regions take advantage of their markets using technology enabled supply chains. New products, new services, and new business models arise from this stage, the economic benefits to a region from having their businesses participate in this pre-disruptive stage are enormous, results are the creation of new jobs, an increase in income and local investment supporting the traditional business base as well as leveraging the new digital business base.

The last stage is redefining organisations, I am been reading Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne which is as relevant now to our region as it was when it was published 7 years ago! Where new and improved product capabilities, goods and services we can not yet imagine can be created when a business looks beyond competitive advantage and toward the creation of their own uncontested market where competition does not exist. What is physical that could be digital? What supply method can be improved by high capacity broadband, how can high definition video improve your service delivery, where are areas that can be sources of data analysis. Innovation is key here, as is a focus toward the increasing customer value and decreasing costs of production.

Entire industries will be transformed, think of the stock exchange where the industry of traditional human stock brokers has been disrupted by online trading. The increasing availability of information and the ability to directly distribute it will lead to new business models.

Here is the goal for your business in the digital age, to look within your business, to look to your competitors, and your industry to see what can be improved, transformed, and further created to create value to a particular market and decrease your operating costs. Innovation approached in this way leads to a sustainable disruption to an industry and long-term business growth.

If you are interested in the activities of Digital Newcastle, get in touch with Gordon. If you have a business who needs assistance in planning or strategy for the digital age, please contact me, Brendan Brooks, on 0414 362 557.

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