Today, every small business owner is a technology leader. That’s because in light of the pandemic, almost every small business has had to embrace digital and online tools to survive. The past year has given long-established processes a major shake-up, including how businesses operate, where they operate, and how they reach their customers.
As we look ahead, it’s unlikely small business owners will revert to old, familiar processes. Instead, they’ll tap into their adaptable, progressive and newly tech-centric nature to continue to develop digital transformation pathways.
Here are the main technology trends we expect will shape small businesses, today and tomorrow:
When small businesses responded to the pandemic by implementing remote working, it quickly became clear that those who had existing cloud computing capabilities had an advantage. Teams could remotely work and access data and documents from any location.
With the future of work set to be increasingly hybrid, prioritising cloud technology will be essential for keeping business continuity, efficiency and productivity going.
“It’s necessary to call into question crystallized practices and embrace change in a timely, immediate manner. This is where cloud computing can be a valuable ally, because it offers maximum flexibility and allows companies to rethink processes and implement new business models.”
– Matteo Mille, Chief Marketing and Operations Officer, Microsoft Italy
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and process automation are changing the ways people live – and in turn, how businesses operate. AI chatbots are helping improve the customer journey while analytics software is making the marketing spend go further. It’s likely the next few years will see digital acceleration gear up even faster as people become familiar with its conveniences and expect it in every part of their lives.
But for most small businesses, building such systems will be expensive. Which is where outsourced tech services come into play. Third party service providers can sometimes be the most cost-efficient way for businesses to increase their productivity while keeping costs low. Making sure new technology matches up with business objectives will help ensure the most meaningful results.
“Just think about it, we’ve really trained the consumer now to do a lot more things online. Things that we either didn’t want to do or couldn’t do in the past because the infrastructure wasn’t there. Now all of a sudden, the infrastructure is there. Customers’ behaviours have changed.”
– Karl-Heinz Land, Leading consultant on digitalization
It’s in every small business leader’s interest to create a delightful brand experience. After all, who doesn’t want bespoke personalisation and seamless interactions when shopping on- and offline? But having a customer-first strategy can often mean putting the employees’ needs second. Small business leaders must balance the two priorities delicately – and technology can help.
Tech that automates repetitive tasks will free up employees’ time and allow them to focus on more rewarding tasks. Better integration across supply chains and CRM platforms will create more efficient, data-driven customer experiences – and allow backend managers greater visibility to do their job.
It’s not about technology for technology’s sake. It’s about understanding human needs and applying technology around that. Making sure both customer and employee needs are being fulfilled in their digital-physical lives will be at the heart of business in the years ahead.
“Industry 4.0 gives us humans the biggest opportunities because man is at the centre of the revolution. And our ability to adapt to our environment is our core strength which we can nurture.”
– Henrik von Scheel, Leading authority on digital strategy
Continuing to adopt remote work capabilities is going to be essential for small businesses in the coming years. And this means more than just finding a video conferencing platform that doesn’t crash. According to a report by Spiceworks, small businesses with 100 employees or less are set to increase budgets to continue to support a remote workforce according to the following percentages:
- 31% for hardware
- 33% for software
- 25% for hosted and cloud-based services
- 11% for managed services
With work no longer having a set physical location, tools that encourage clear and efficient communication will remain paramount. But so too will advanced cybersecurity and data sharing platforms.
“The digital world has made us understand how much collaboration and sharing is vital. We need to re-train our people – upskilling and re-skilling are key to adapting the mindset of our employees to new ways of working.”
– Davide Dattoli, CEO and Founder, Talent Garden
The pandemic has pushed many small businesses to adopt digital transformation earlier than planned. As technology continues to be a key part of small business processes, understanding the big trends will help small businesses plan their future activities, discover new opportunities and drive future growth.
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