Top Technology Trends Small Businesses Should be Watching
Technology is constantly shifting and advancing, and it can be a challenge for small businesses to keep up with the runaway pace. In fact, in a survey of 500 small business owners conducted last year, 63% of respondents reported feeling frequently overwhelmed with the number of technologies available to run their business.
While it can sometimes feel like the technology you use today will inevitably be replaced by something new tomorrow, the evolution of technology and its adoption by businesses isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s therefore important to keep watch of trends and identify technologies early on that can help your business be more efficient, more productive, and more competitive in your industry.
Here are my top tech trends that I think every small business should be paying attention to right now:
Everything as a service
You’ve likely been hearing about the cloud for some time now, and we’ve written a fair bit about it on this blog. If you use any web-based email service or Microsoft’s Office 365, then you’re already in the cloud. But building on this is the expectation that everything to do with IT and computing will be offered ‘as a service’ – that is, you will access it on demand from the cloud and pay for it either by subscription or only when you need it. Office 365 is an example of Software as a Service (SaaS). If you get your computing resources from the cloud, then you are subscribing to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). If you’re developing, running or managing your own web applications via the cloud, then you’re using Platform as a Service (PaaS).
Many believe that the day is rapidly approaching that everything will be delivered as a service due to the many benefits of a cloud-based delivery model. One big development is the ability to use applications simultaneously on different devices, something already being offered by Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
Also, IT costs are a considerable investment – and managing IT infrastructure a considerable hassle – for most small businesses. The big jump in cost savings for most companies comes when they get rid of most of their on-premises infrastructure and shift to cloud-based services running on remote servers that are owned and maintained by a cloud service provider. This can offer significant efficiencies, on-demand scalability, and access to files nearly anywhere and on any Internet-connected device. Everything as a service promises the potential of making IT services as easy to access and use as electricity or water.
The confluence of cloud-enabled applications and ubiquitous connectivity with highly sophisticated mobile devices means computing is happening everywhere and all the time. It’s already been more than a year since mobile devices overtook PCs in terms of the amount of time each is used to access the Internet – and wearable devices will only accelerate this trend.
The rapid rise of mobile computing has fundamentally altered how your customers interact with you. Companies lacking websites that are optimized for mobile will be at a disadvantage when the products or services they sell are being searched for online. Consumers frequently use their mobile devices to research upcoming purchases, and can use them to discover the best deals even while they’re standing in your own store.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Connected technology is becoming embedded everywhere from climate and security controls in our homes, to our fridges, washing machines and cars, to vending machines, pacemakers, traffic signs and signals, and much more. Using existing Internet infrastructure, these physical objects can relay information and communicate with their operators and with each other.
The Internet of Things can make everyday operations in your business simpler. If you manage vehicle fleets or remote work teams or have any field-based operations like restocking shelves or vending machines, this technology promises huge efficiencies and cost savings.
Put all of the above together and you create an environment where every activity on every connected device can be tracked, creating massive pools of information that can then be analyzed for useful insights – generally using specialized software or applications.
Big data is important for small businesses because the information you are collecting can provide all sorts of intelligence about your business and your marketplace. For example, website analytics will tell you how people are finding you online, what they’re doing once they get there, and what messaging is working or not. If you have a fleet, fleet management solutions leverage big data by tracking driver performance, fuel consumption, routes, and more – helping you to reduce operating expenses by giving you the ability to more easily identify and solve for inefficiencies. The applications are almost endless.
The bottom line
While it is certainly true that the pace of technological advances is rapid and never ending, it’s important to keep close watch of what’s available to understand what makes the most sense for your business. The tech trends discussed here represent significant value for most businesses and are worth at least a good look if you’re looking to grow and become more competitive.
Are you using any other emerging technology that we haven’t discussed here? How are you using it and what value is it creating in your business? Share your experiences with us in the comments.