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September 2023

Business Radar 2023 Understanding the businesses that drive Australia’s economy

Pitcher Partners Business Radar canvasses the trends, challenges and opportunities experienced by Australia’s mid-market businesses. Independently commissioned, our recent snapshot conducted in September 2023 surveyed over 150 business owners and leaders.

This is the third in this year’s series that deep dives into business leaders’ confidence, considering their organisation, their industry and the economy as a whole. It also delves into their view of the economic outlook and how they may, or may not, be preparing for what’s ahead.

The 2024 report is also now available from here.

  • Mid-market business confidence has softened against peaks seen in June 2023 but still remains high compared to prior years.
  • The mid-market has moved on from COVID-19 – it is no longer in the top five most influential factors, with ESG (seemingly) making a first-time appearance.
  • Many mid-market businesses have turned their focus to building resilience, but how they’re tackling it varies, depending on a range of factors.

You can also catch up on key insights into generative AI and cybersecurity, gathered in our Business Radar surveys in June and February 2023.

Read on to learn how you can proactively address these challenges and ensure your business continues to thrive or access a PDF version here

Business confidence

A slight reset, but still bursting with optimism


"Mid-market businesses are still optimistic about their future, and it’s people who are making the difference." - Business Radar September survey

Business confidence down from June peaks but still above year-on-year average

Is there anything that can knock the confidence of Australia’s mid-market businesses?

While our September results show confidence has dipped slightly from June’s unexpectedly high figures, they’re still comfortably above yearly averages since 2019.

The June figures were high against a backdrop of economic uncertainty for Australia, but this month’s economic markers align more with the confidence numbers. Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows an unexpected boost to the economy since June 2023, driven by an increase in foreign visitors and massive government spend on infrastructure.1

1.https://www.reuters.com/markets/australia-economy-gets-boost-visitors-infrastructure-splurge-2023-09-05/ ,accessed 27 September 2023

Confidence holding strong, especially for bigger businesses

Respondents gave an average score for confidence in their future success of 8.14 out of 10, a drop from June 2023’s 8.44, but still well above February 2023’s 7.73 and 7.69 in 2022. The pattern repeats when considering their confidence in the current success of their business – 8.11 out of 10, which, while showing a drop from June, still towers over the previous surveys.

Again, these figures speak to the resilience of the mid-market overall, but an interesting split appears when comparing location, size of businesses (by number of employees) and the respondent’s age.

As in the June survey, medium (100-200 employees) and large (200+ employees) mid-market businesses say they’re more confident in their future success (8.5 and 8.18, respectively) than their smaller (under 100 employees) mid-market counterparts (7.65). This is perhaps unsurprising, with smaller businesses less likely to have the cash reserves, market spread and operational buffers that make it easier to ride out troubled economic times. Nor the human capital and management breadth to work through less immediate challenges. This makes them less likely to be able turn challenging times to their advantage – instead of out manoeuvring competitors, they may be battening down the hatches.

When we split results by age of respondents, it shows that ages 35-49 are more confident (8.29) than those aged 18-34 (8.04). Two factors could explain this result – older managers may be more likely to oversee those larger, more confident businesses and be more likely to have experienced – and survived – economic bad weather. They feel proven and believe they can continue to deliver results.

The results show a surprising split by location, with businesses based in Victoria rating their confidence in future success at 8.37, while in New South Wales, it’s significantly lower at 7.84. This may be partly due to a higher representation of financial, admin and support services in the survey in Victoria, compared to NSW’s higher prevalence of retail businesses, which are more likely to be impacted by the cost-of-living pressures.

Victoria has had a few headwinds in recent times with the long COVID lockdowns and government budget challenges but despite this, it remains a strong economy leading to confidence in planning for the future.

We have seen this reflected in our client base, where retail, hospitality, recreation and arts organisations are dealing with a noticeable drop-off in demand, while clients in financial and services industries like education and training aren’t encountering the same declines.

Greg Wilkins, Client Director, Pitcher Partners Sydney

When asked about 12-month growth prospects, we see business leaders’ confidence in their industries and the Australian economy take a dip from our June report (8.23 to 8.00 and 7.53 to 7.37 respectively), but still up from previous years. When asked about the global economy, confidence has nudged up slightly (7.22) on the already high May responses (7.20).

So long COVID-19 – tech and inflation are making waves

Asked about the external positive or negative factors impacting business, mid-market leaders show they’ve finally stopped worrying about COVID-19. It’s dropped out of the top five.

Changing interest rates and environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives fill the void. Delving deeper into the data we see there may be low understanding of ESG or its lack of clear definition leading to misinterpretation – a number of respondents considered government policies as opposed to internal governance as an ESG factor. This could mean ESG importance could be slightly inflated.

While interest rates have had both a positive (19%) and negative (23%) impact on business confidence, inflation is only seen as a hindrance. Over a third named inflation as having a negative impact. Conversely, consumer preferences had an entirely positive impact – identified by 31%.

People and relationships are making the difference

While the previous two 2023 reports name business basics of cashflow, people and process efficiency as core drivers to business success, in this quarter, strong customer relationships sit way out in front. A third (33%) of respondents say this is the main success driver. Talent remains important – 25% said having high-quality talent is a driver of their success, and 32% say attracting talent is a major barrier.

While supply-chain management remains a headache for the mid-market, the next four barriers appear to be about financial management and its outcomes – lack of capital (23%), low investment in marketing (22%) and technology (21%), and cashflow problems (21%). It’s interesting to note that the barriers are all short-term, existential questions – ‘Do I have the people, supply and capital to keep the doors open?’

By contrast, the drivers of success appear to be future-focused. The top factors, such as strong customer relationships (33%), high-quality talent (25%), investment in technology (26%), operational efficiency (25%) and a clearly defined vision and strategic plan (21%), deliver results in the long run.

What comes up, must come down – but not yet

While our mid-market respondents’ business confidence has remained high over the last two reports, there are signs that market conditions are now beginning to match their optimism. It may be that we can look forward to calmer – although not exactly buoyant – economic conditions.

As we continue to track, it will be interesting to see how business confidence fares against these shifting conditions – could mid-market business leaders be more accurate predictors of economic conditions than the experts?

Business Resilience

Businesses are still optimistic about the future, and many see opportunities ahead. But what are they doing to prepare?


"Australian mid-market business leaders are mindful of ongoing economic challenges, with larger businesses focusing on long-term strategies to see them through while their smaller counterparts are focused on financial belt-tightening." - Business Radar September survey

Australia’s mid-market thinks it’ll get through 

Reflecting the seemingly unshakable business confidence of the Australian mid-market, many businesses see opportunities ahead.

When asked about the outlook for the Australian economy, many businesses continue to feel optimistic and see prospects for growth, with no drop in the percentage of ‘high-confidence’ businesses.

This is tempered, to a degree, by concerns about the increasing cost of living and high interest rates, with some respondents still foreseeing a potential downturn. While predictions are mixed, many businesses are preparing to build resilience in case turbulence and uncertainty continue for a sustained period.

Businesses think they’ll be ok

While not all respondents are predicting a downturn, business leaders remain wary about the impact it could have. 50% predict it would have a moderate to significant negative impact on businesses in general.

As we’ve seen play out in business confidence figures, respondents are more confident in the resilience of their own businesses than in others – only 13% believe a downturn will have a significant negative impact on their business, compared to 20% for other businesses.

While 1 in 10 respondents think some will see a benefit from a downturn, most respondents expect that consumers (27%) and small businesses (25%) will be most impacted.

Businesses need to plan ahead, especially if they are not financially well supported in terms of a contingency plan. Poor financial management is one of the top contributors to business failure in this country so it's an important factor.
Carmela Ayliffe, Client Director, Pitcher Partners Melbourne

Larger mid-market businesses are less worried and can focus on the long game

Leaders managing smaller (under 200 employees) mid-market businesses are more worried than those managing larger organisations.

More of our smaller mid-market businesses feel they would be negatively impacted (64%) than our larger (200+ employees) mid-market businesses (41%). This may be due to the greater resources and reserves larger businesses can call on to sustain them through turbulent times.

Smaller mid-market businesses’ most immediate concerns in a downturn are all financially focused. Topping the list of worries are supplier price rises (47%), declining revenue and cashflow (47%), debt and repayments (44%) and higher operating costs (44%).

In contrast, larger mid-market businesses still have an eye for the future. Beyond weaker consumer demand (37%), these businesses are most concerned about the prospect of stricter government regulation (33%), employee retention (33%) and de-prioritising innovation (29%).

These concerns, should they materialise, have far reaching implications for businesses in the future. Stricter government regulation, while benefiting some sectors, also creates barriers to entry which can lead to higher costs and a dampening of business progress.

Equally innovation is the life blood of a dynamic, adaptable and growing economy. In a globally competitive environment, deprioritising innovation could set Australian businesses back in the medium to long term.


Seeing opportunity in adversity

Many mid-market businesses (45%) are channelling their concern into preparing their business operations to see them through turbulent times.

More confident businesses tend to feel more prepared – while 45% of respondents overall say they are mostly or very prepared, for high-confidence businesses that number jumps to 64%.

Other businesses that are more prepared tend to be:

  • Larger in scale with a higher turnover providing a perceived buffer
  • Led by middle-aged managers who’ve likely been through it before, and
  • Based in Victoria. Strategic planning is the key element here and it could be said that Victorian-based businesses have actively engaged in planning since the upheaval of the COVID-19 response. We also saw proportionally higher representation from financial services respondents compared to other states, with this sector currently less impacted by the cost-of-living pressures and changes in consumer spending.

When asked what they’d focus on to prepare for a downturn, most businesses said it was all about business fundamentals: strengthening customer relationships (29%), building cash reserves (26%) and reducing operating costs (26%) were top of the list.

Those businesses that felt prepared for a downturn had a different outlook from those that didn’t. These leaders see an opportunity to strengthen their market position and operations. Beyond building cash reserves (30%), they’re expecting product/service diversification (29%) and productivity improvements (28%) to see them through challenging economic times.

Compared to less prepared businesses, they’re also far less likely to reduce headcount (10% vs 20%), and more likely to increase marketing (25% vs 13%) and debt repayments (22% vs 10%).

It seems early preparation may give these businesses the luxury to chase opportunities and gain market share in a challenging time, emerging stronger than when they entered it compared to the competition.

When asked to consider their greatest assets, businesses rated a strong customer base (35%) and skilled workforce (32%) as the top two. Followed by diverse revenue streams (25%), strong brand and reputation (24%) and effective debt management (23%).

More prepared businesses have a slightly different top five, with effective debt management coming in higher at number three (28%), followed by market research and insights (22%) and innovation and creativity (22%).

Having manageable debt seems to free these businesses to focus on areas that will set them up well for the future. Market research and insights are crucial to informing business strategy and decision-making, from building understanding of what’s going on in the market – with customers and competitors – through to identifying opportunities for more effective marketing, whether that be improved pricing, expansion opportunities or product/service development.

Armed with these insights, businesses can channel their creativity and innovation efforts into areas that will have the greatest impact and help them stand out in the market.

Taking into consideration what respondents see as their greatest asset, it’s logical, then, that businesses see protecting customer relationships (33%) and retaining employees (23%) and key people (23%) as core areas to protect in turbulent times.

Rebuilding a customer base and recruiting and training new people are key drivers that can hold businesses back from being able to capitalise on improving business conditions. Being able to secure your share of the market as it expands again, along with having the people to deliver your products or services will go a long way to ensuring your business is not only resilient, but on a strong path to recover as economic conditions improve.

Unsurprisingly, our more prepared businesses are also looking to protect their future planning and strategy processes. This yet again reinforces the long-term outlook that these prepared businesses value so highly during challenging times.


Insights for business

For resilience: hang on to your people and customers

In usual form, mid-market business leaders retain their confident and optimistic attitude, while keeping an eagle eye on the economic outlook.

Some of our mid-market businesses seem to be taking a slightly happy-go-lucky approach, hoping either that Australia avoids economic downturn or that they’ll get through with a strong customer base and skilled workforce.

For all businesses, turbulent economic times present both challenges and opportunities, and it’s important to take both defensive and offensive actions to set your business up for the greatest chance of surviving, and even prospering, during a downturn.

Strong relationships will be fundamental; actively managing your relationships with your customers, your people, your suppliers and financiers will be key to future success.

10 Actions you can take: 
Beyond the obvious focus of streamlining operations and reducing input costs, here are the steps you can take now to ensure your business is ready for any economy:
  1. Keep a close eye on changes in behaviour of customers, suppliers or stakeholders. This may foretell challenges they are facing and provide you with an opportunity to insulate or minimise any potential negative impact on your business
  2. Negotiate more favourable terms with suppliers and financiers, or consider looking for other providers.
  3. Double down on your customer experience. By actively engaging with your customers, you will have a greater chance of retaining them, and attracting new business.
  4. Segment your customer base and focus on those that value your offering and are likely to buy from you again.
  5. Look at how you can broaden your offering – what extra products or services would be low-cost to implement but greatly valued by customers?
  6. Review team responsibilities – can you make better use of your people? This can yield a much better result than reducing head count ensuring you can adapt and respond as the market builds again.
  7. Keep a close eye on competitors. They may offer you a chance to improve your position and take market share. Alternatively, they may pivot to outpace the market – you need to react fast to stay in the game.
  8. Maintain your marketing efforts, so customers know you’re still there. If your competitors are cutting marketing investment, your same budgets will deliver a higher share of voice and provide an opportunity to grow.
  9. Investigate technology options – understand what is available in the marketplace, and how technology can optimise your business systems and processes.
  10. Explore merger and acquisition opportunities for synergy realisation, diversification, market share growth or access to talent and technology.

Generative AI

Use of GenAI tools in mid-market businesses has been swift, but many are underestimating the associated challenges and risks


As with any new and potentially disruptive technology, business leaders are still trying to navigate the possible applications, benefits and risks of building it into business-as-usual operations.

GenAI is here – are business leaders ready?

Risk, rewards and challenges of building GenAI into business-as-usual

The arrival of ChatGPT and its trailing competitors in late 2022 pushed generative AI (GenAI) into mainstream consciousness, democratising AI tools in unprecedented ways.

For the first time, GenAI is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. ChatGPT’s 3.5 model is currently free and intuitively usable to even the least technical people. As with any new and potentially disruptive technology, business leaders are still trying to navigate the possible applications, benefits and risks of building it into business-as-usual operations. However, its users and the world are moving at pace – ChatGPT reached 100 million users in just two months – an extraordinary uptake speed.

One thing’s for certain: GenAI is here. Is Australia’s mid-market ready for it?


What is GenAI?

GenAI creates new content – text, video, audio and more – by drawing from learned patterns of understanding and reassembling it to suit the human-issued prompt. GenAI was used in software before the launch of ChatGPT. It was this tool, however, that brought GenAI into the mainstream and has become the most famous and accessible of these tools. Its responses are often only as good as the person providing the prompts and can be poorly worded or even plain wrong, but it represents a huge leap forward in both usability and possible uses.

We asked: How do Australian mid-market business leaders feel about generative AI? Tell me in 20 words.

ChatGPT: Australian mid-market business leaders generally have positive attitudes towards generative AI, seeing its potential for innovation and productivity improvement.


GenAI? Yeah, they know it.

Almost all business leaders we surveyed claimed at least some knowledge of GenAI – with 98% saying they’re aware of the technology and 83% saying they’re familiar with it (either a little or a lot).

Unsurprisingly, over a third of respondents say they’re already using GenAI in their business, with another four in 10 preparing to do so. Segment the responses to just those businesses with high confidence in their future success, and the figure shifts, with over half – 51% – saying they’re already using GenAI.

This indicates mid-market owners and decision-makers are dialled into new and disruptive technology and are well-practiced at pivoting operations to make better use of it. Using GenAI to improve efficiency and output could soon become not just a competitive advantage but an existential requirement.

A small start to something big

Despite the wide-reaching potential of these technologies, when asked about existing or potential uses, our business leaders generally limited their thinking to back-office support – admin, analysis and content creation.

This suggests that most businesses have not fully operationalised the technology into business as usual. They are using it – or think they could – to help write reports, communications and marketing materials, as a research alternative to Google or for non-specific ‘admin’ work.

Business advice and guidance, training, knowledge management, innovation, and bookkeeping and accounting are among the lowest uses named by respondents. This perhaps can be attributed to the risk around data security and the complexity of these functions.

These responses show us that despite the buzz, the mid-market’s use of GenAI is still very much in its infancy. This makes sense. While the barrier to entry is almost nil for the ad hoc use of ‘public’ GenAI tools, fully operationalising them into business processes can be a long and expensive undertaking. Significant investment is often required to adapt and apply the tools to your business’s environment and to recruit people with the skills to both develop and maintain them.

“As a recruitment agency, we utilise ChatGPT to support us in basic recruitment coordination support; writing compelling job adverts, creating interview questions and candidate preparation for unique roles and support in writing documents such as job descriptions and progression pathways. Whilst these language models can be extremely useful in taking time out of writing bulk text, we utilise the recruitment coordinators in our team to use critical thinking and proofing skills to ensure every finished product is to the standard we expect, and has our considerable input into the content.”
Sinead Connolly, Lotus People, Pitcher Partners' client

A rose-tinted outlook

On average, 77% of our business leaders feel GenAI will have a positive overall impact on their business, with high net positive scores for impact on products and services (82%) and industry (83%). The impact on employees (68%) and personal life (68%) was seen as being less positive driven by a larger portion of leaders who felt it would have no impact.

Most respondents see positive applications for business, agreeing or strongly agreeing that “It will lead to new products and services” (84%), “It will streamline operations and processes” (82%) and “It will free up more time to focus on business strategy” (79%).

The impact on the types of jobs that are available (78%) and the reduced need for human labour (75%) – could be seen as either positive or negative, depending on your perspective.

The negatives were predominantly around adding complexity for management (60%) and the corresponding need to upskill (80%).

Unsurprisingly, positivity scores jumped even higher for those already using (87%) or planning to use (84%) the tools and those businesses that scored themselves confident in their future success (84%) against an average of 77% across all respondents.

"We use GenAI for a chat Zendesk-style customer service operation, it has a few kinks here and there but is allowing us to save money and time and maintain happy customer relations."
Survey respondent

Challenges, risks and preparedness

Business leaders know that GenAI comes with challenges. Those who plan to, but aren’t yet, using the tools name data security and accuracy as the biggest of these – 39% have yet to fully trust either. Those using GenAI see things differently, with 37% saying cost is their biggest challenge. This cost is often incurred as businesses move away from ‘public’ GenAI tools to develop their own applications, and therefore sidestepping issues of data security and privacy.

36% of all respondents named data privacy concerns as their biggest challenge, and 19% named putting safeguards in place. However, the survey also suggests many business leaders are underestimating risks to their business, as we saw in our previous Business Radar survey on cybersecurity. Only 12% agree there is a risk with implementing GenAI and that they’re concerned about it. Almost half said they weren’t worried about the risk (33%) or that there was no risk at all (16%). The biggest group, 39%, agreed there was risk, but couldn’t yet define it.

A quarter of those already using GenAI say they haven’t put in any safeguards, and a further 25% are only thinking about it.

These statistics are worrying, especially when you consider the probability that most businesses will have staff already using GenAI on their own initiative. And that’s a problem – confidential customer or business information is entered into tools, making it available in the public domain. Even businesses that aren’t or won’t ever use GenAI need to address and mitigate the risks it poses.

“We are absolutely aware that this is new technology that we don’t fully understand yet. We don’t feed ChatGPT confidential client information and use it mostly to bulk out content that we then tailor ourselves. Internally, the entire team are aware that nothing that Chat GPT produces is a finished product and we use our expertise and experience to ensure that everything aligns with our brand and to our standards.”
Sinead Connolly, Lotus People, Pitcher Partners' client

Insights for business


Even if you could avoid GenAI, it’s unwise to do so.

It’s time to be proactive and ask what processes, systems and training your business needs to extract the huge benefits from these tools, while safeguarding your business, data and clients against their risk.

As more businesses build the tools into their business as usual, they’ll set new standards for customisation, delivery and cost.

This is an inevitable paradigm shift. What you do now could be a matter of survival.

“While there's a significant potential upside for businesses that successfully embed Generative AI into their business systems and operations, it does come with a certain level of risk. It's important that it's tried and tested before being fully implemented, and there are safeguards in place to ensure appropriate and safe use of the tools.”
Matthew Basham, Client Director, Pitcher Partners Sydney
8 Actions you can take:
  1. Familiarise yourself with the GenAI tools available to find your best business fit.
  2. Identify use cases that could help your business achieve its goals.
  3. Build policy and limitations around GenAI use – communicate clearly with your people, create approval processes for platforms you want to use, and consider blocking the rest.
  4. Explore private GenAI solutions to minimise security and privacy concerns.
  5. Include GenAI in your risk management framework and controls.
  6. Train your people on the strengths, limitations and risks of GenAI tools, particularly data privacy and security.
  7. Implement a review and vetting process for any GenAI outputs to ensure accuracy.
  8. Prepare your business for the inevitable impact GenAI will have on your organisation and culture.

Find out more about Gen AI and what it means for the mid-market

Discover how Generative AI is being utilised by mid-market businesses, potential areas for cost savings and how to ensure responsible and ethical AI implementation in this webinar.



Mid-market businesses could be more at risk than they think
“Unfortunately, cyber awareness in Australia still remains low amongst organisations, and threat actors will strike when we are least prepared. The best defence is stay resilient by implementing key prevention initiatives such as strong passwords, multifactor authentication, regular back ups, staff awareness training, and implementing the latest security fixes”
Tesh Patel, Delta Insurance Australia, Pitcher Partners’ client

Cyber INsecurity in mid-market businesses

Study shows businesses could be more at risk than they think

Cyberattacks are low-risk, high reward crimes requiring nothing but basic tech skills and a lot of persistence. As more major attacks hit the news and Australian regulators hold C-Suite executives responsible for data security, cyber security has become a more urgent topic for discussion.

It’s more likely a question of when an attack will happen, rather than if, but has this translated to action among Australia’s mid-market business owners and leaders?

Data – worrying but still worth it

A whopping 84% of our respondents are concerned about the chance of their business experiencing a cyberattack, with 48% saying they’re very or extremely concerned.

And they’re right to be concerned. Last year the Australian Cyber Security Centre reported a 13% increase in cyber incidents on the previous financial year, with mid-market businesses suffering the highest loss per attack at $88,407.

Understandably, just over half (53%) of surveyed business leaders agree or strongly agree that how they capture and store data is increasingly becoming a liability.

Split these results between those businesses who feel confident in their current success and those who don’t, and an interesting picture emerges. Higher confidence businesses are much more likely to see data storage as a liability (65%) than lower confidence ones (38%), potentially highlighting a greater awareness of the risks of storing endless amounts of data, much of which may not be required for day-to-day operations.

Nevertheless, 76% of high-confidence businesses still agree or strongly agree that the benefits of capturing and storing customer data outweigh the risks. That’s compared to the 68% of all respondents who agree or strongly agree and the 58% of lower confidence businesses.

Concerned but maybe not concerned enough

While 81% of businesses are allocating budget to cybersecurity and 80% are considering it at a strategic business level, only 55% have it as a regular agenda item at management meetings.

Almost half of businesses agree or strongly agree that their business, “isn’t an attractive target for a cyber-attack, so the risk of an attack is low.” This suggests that many businesses see cybersecurity as a risk in general, but one that doesn’t much apply to them.

After recent high profile cyber incidents, mid-market businesses may feel that larger organisations are more attractive for cyber criminals, but the reality is much different. Many mid-market businesses are not direct targets, but simply the victims of random phishing attacks, meaning they’re still vulnerable and may not realise it.

Even so, the number of businesses insured against an attack (65%) is encouraging, but less confident businesses are less likely to be insured (58%) versus those who are confident (71%).

Those who don’t have insurance say it’s because they didn’t have the funds, didn’t know about insurance options or didn’t think they were at risk.

While it is pleasing to see mid-market businesses taking the right steps to protect themselves in the event of an incident, if businesses don’t have cyber as a regular agenda item for discussion, they need to ask themselves, why not?

A worrying overconfidence

While respondents are generally confident in their protection against cyberattacks, the results show a potential disconnect between perception and reality.

60% say they have a strong cybersecurity culture, with security ingrained in every aspect of the workplace. However, this culture may only be theoretical. When asked who has some level of responsibility for cyber security, 54% name their IT team and 40% their managers and supervisors.

Those in the company who should also bear responsibility in a strong cybersecurity culture were named by very few respondents: board of directors (16%), executive leadership (31%), all employees (31%) and owners (19%).

Additionally, 41% of businesses are also working without a response plan in place and 45% aren’t confident that they could recover from a significant attack.

Outsourcing your IT doesn’t outsource your risk

Worryingly 45% of mid-market leaders believe outsourcing the IT function removes the risk for their business. While making use of experts can reduce your risk through improved prevention tactics, it doesn’t remove it entirely. It is still your brand and bottom line that will be damaged if any attacks successfully get through the measures put in place by your providers.

For any outsourced services utilised it’s important to ensure they apply as rigorous cyber security protocols as you do.

“It is logical to leverage the expertise of people outside your business, but it is important to critically analyse what they are telling you and also what they are doing for you. While you need to place your trust in an expert, it is important to remain vigilant - keep circling back and making sure that trust is warranted.”
Adam Irwin, Managing Partner, Pitcher Partners Sydney

Insights for business

While it’s pleasing to see cybersecurity high on the radar for most business leaders, the results show worrying inconsistencies that may indicate that some businesses are less prepared than they think they are, and underestimate the risks they face.

Perhaps most interesting and more concerning, is the high number of businesses who see outsourcing IT as a way to remove risk (not just decrease or limit it). This isn’t true both legally and practically and could show a contradiction to respondents’ confidence in their management’s expertise and awareness.

It’s worth remembering that even small and medium sized businesses can be targets – potentially representing an easy access point to much larger fish in their supply chain or holding volumes of highly sensitive data themselves.

Business leaders would do well to look at their business as usual approach to cybersecurity to ensure people at all levels of the organisation understand their role and their responsibilities.

Less worry, more action

While it’s clear Australian leaders of mid-market businesses know they should be considering cybersecurity risks, in many cases this has not translated into practical defences or planning. Their responses suggest that a lack of understanding may be causing businesses to feel they’re better prepared than they are.

As cyberattacks continue to increase and businesses become more and more reliant on connected networks and data, it’s time for businesses to take a clear eyed, informed look at how they’re preparing for and protecting against the inevitable.

8 Actions you can take: 
  1. Create a documented incident response plan.
  2. Ensure you have clear processes in place to contain the breach and remediate the damage.
  3. Address the million-dollar question – to pay or not to pay for a ransom? Discuss with management and boards, scenario plan and workshop possible threat situations. Determine whether it is legal to pay a ransomware demand.
  4. Be aware of your processes and obligations for reporting an incident internally and to any relevant regulatory authorities.
  5. Develop a communications plan that covers:
    ● Communication to clients/ customers – draft holding and pre-prepared statements.
    ● Limiting brand damage – identify a communications specialist to work with, ensure they understand your business and they have the experience you need to respond in high-pressure situations.
    ● Communication to staff – how are you going to communicate, who is going to communicate and what are you going to communicate.
  6. Identify external consultants, like IT providers, communications specialists and cybersecurity lawyers with a strong understanding of your business.
  7.  Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse your response plan.
  8. Conduct vendor assessments to evaluate the cybersecurity posture of suppliers against industry standards, security policies and established security practices.

Mid-market businesses range in size, employing from 20–200 people with an annual revenue of $2–$500m. They include private, public and not-for-profit organisation, across the whole business lifecycle – seed, growth, mature and transition.

While their size and operating model vary, one thing they have in common is a growth mindset and the ability to adapt quickly.

Our experts

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Chris Hanna



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