There is no question that new technology is here to stay and the changes we will see in the next five to ten years are beyond our comprehension today. Regional Australia has its own challenges with keeping up with the pace of technology change.
There are three key areas at issue:
1. Internet access. I have been working with a large agricultural operation in regional NSW where we set up their accounting system on Xero. In the early days, the internet connection was extremely slow so they upgraded to a dedicated internet line. This increased the speed but didn’t help on days when the temperature rose above 35 degrees. The heat “fried” the internet connection and they had no access at all.
The staff soon learned to adjust their daily workload to do as much of the data entry, Xero work and other internet based work in the morning and have non-internet based work to do in the afternoons or whenever the internet shut down. We even considered whether to revert back to a desktop or server based accounting system.
In due course, presumably, the NBN will be available and those challenges will be behind them.
2. Training. Like any new system, training is an essential component for success. Unfortunately, the availability of training courses in rural and regional areas is limited and often the only option is to revert to online courses. And these in turn are only useful to the extent there is reliability of the internet. The alternative is a trip or multiple trips to the bigger city to attend training courses in person.
New employees from the local community may not have been exposed to the new technology and will need basic training to get the foundations in place before moving onto the more skilled training necessary to undertake many of the processes.
3. What technology? Knowing the internet challenges and the issue of training and finding new employees who are capable to run your systems, the decision on whether to change to internet based systems for your accounting, budgeting, cropping projections, cash flow projections and other requirements is made even harder by the wealth or dearth of choice.
There are plenty of options for the basic accounting functions, but when you get into the detailed farm management systems, there are fewer choices and you are unlikely to get everything you want to get within one system. Finding out what is available and what your options are can be time-consuming and frustrating.
The benefits of putting the time into identifying the best solution for your particular needs, undergoing the necessary training and implementation will far outweigh the challenges in the short term. The detailed information that can be recorded within farm management systems that provides useful data from which to make decisions can make a significant difference to the overall profit you make.