Businesses are always faced with a choice: Be disrupted by competitors or be the disruptor. But to be the disruptor, you must move quickly when new opportunities arise. Inflexible systems, long-term financial commitments, a lack of relevant skills — all of these can hold you back.

What’s needed are agility and a willingness to take advantage of emerging digital technologies and modern processes in order to forge new market niches and offer more superior products and services than competitors. This is where mid-size Australian companies may have an advantage over large companies.

New research conducted by Telsyte reveals mid-sized companies are gaining an advantage in the disruptor race. They are more able to rapidly launch new online services, exploit short-term opportunities such as pop-up stores and effectively compete with much larger companies in every sector from retail to banking and finance.

Mid-size companies are expected to increase technology budgets at a rate exceeding their top-end-of-town competitors. The motivations for increased spending span everything from creating new digital solutions to complementing traditional bricks-and-mortar services. Although mid-size spending on servers, storage and office equipment continues, it’s being augmented with an investment in mobile apps, online services and business applications, with a strong focus on integrated business applications and improving customer experience. This is a major shift from past trends, and the focus is now on meeting customers where they are, rather than trying to bring customers to where businesses are.

The trend towards customer-centric spending is further supported by a shift in those spending the money. The IT department is no longer the manager of the entire technology spend. Now, it’s customer-facing business units (focused on internal and/or external customers) that are demanding control of how the technology budget is spent.

These trends — increased technology expenditure, agility and customer-centricity, have created a perfect storm for mid-size businesses in Australia.

Develop faster, cheaper

As more mid-size businesses adopt cloud and software as a service (SaaS), they are able to develop new applications, actions and services faster than ever before. Instead of having to invest large sums in hardware and software, businesses can pay for the services needed as required. This frees up capital funds for other projects and means large volumes of cash aren’t tied up in under-utilised and depreciating resources.

Cloud systems are also more flexible and scalable. When the business is at its busiest, users can easily add processor, storage or memory capacity, and then reduce it when things are quieter. As well as saving money, this reduces the risk profile of transformation projects, as the sunk costs are far lower.

The development approach for new apps and services created in the cloud also means that benefits are delivered faster. Unlike the “Big Bang” approach of the past, agile and DevOps practices mean business benefits are delivered almost immediately. And if it’s clear the current approach isn’t right, adjustments can be made more easily, or the project may be canned before there’s been a large investment of time and resources.

Achieve value

The ability of a mid-size business to become the disruptor and not the disrupted is predicated on some key assumptions: (1) knowledge of what technology is available; (2) an understanding of what the technology can do, and (3) the ability of the business to rapidly adapt without being distracted by interesting technology that won’t bring value.

By partnering with other organisations at the right time, mid-size businesses can overcome one of the key challenges faced in transformation projects, and that’s access to skilled people. Strategic partnerships can help companies create products and solutions that can be brought to market quickly. The best partners know about technology, but also know to listen to the business, understand its needs and objectives, and ensure that the tools and solutions chosen are the best fit.