Technologies to transform your business and gain a competitive advantage
Growing a small business requires intelligence, tenacity, persistence, creativity and technology. Today, technology has become as essential to success as a great idea. Technology is the great equalizer that puts a small business on equal footing with the larger players.
Having the leverage, agility and reach afforded by today’s technology tools allows small businesses to get started with less capital. Technology enables rapid growth and increasing returns to scale. Business process automation, anywhere access and outsourced IT present entrepreneurs with more time and opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Making the most of the available technology will increase the likelihood of realizing your vision. Below we explore the current technology trends that can help transform your company into an amazing small business success.
First, let’s check in on the major trends of the past few years:
- Cloud computing continues to grow as organizations move more of their applications to public, private and hybrid clouds. Anywhere, anytime access to business software and data is becoming the norm.
- Business continuity solutions remain popular. With highly publicized hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, disaster preparedness is on everyone’s minds.
- Data security is a top priority. As data security breaches continue to dominate the headlines, even small businesses have learned that they are not immune to attack from hackers and other threats.
- Sustainable solutions are still important. The drive toward sustainable or green technology has brought some improvements but may be getting less attention.
Now, here are the trends identified by the experts that will be having a major impact on small business in the coming year:
Technology Trends to Transform Your Business in 2015
1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
Going mobile in business now means the ability to pick up any device and have instant access to all of the settings, data, and applications that seamlessly follow the user across devices. Windows 8 and Windows 10 (coming next year) provide solid platforms for enabling business mobility without sacrificing security or usability.
In retail, growing online sales from mobile devices will make it more difficult for small businesses to compete without participating. Sales involving multiple devices such as tablet plus smartphone are increasing. Finding ways to profit from the flood of mobile technology will be a top priority for SMBs.
Mobile device usage is also increasing at the checkout aisle. More than 20 percent of worldwide payment transactions are made with a mobile device. The U.S. lags behind other countries in usage of mobile payment systems. But with high-profile payment systems recently added to the mix, we are sure to make up ground. Companies must be prepared to accept mobile payments.
To service increasing numbers of digital shoppers, companies will need to optimize their websites for mobile and make sure that customers can finalize transactions through their devices. They must also find ways to engage customers via mobile by providing useful mobile content.
2. Virtual Workforce
Tools like Microsoft’s Office 365 Small Business and Lync video conferencing make collaboration from anywhere easier than ever before. Concerns about the economy and healthcare will expand the reliance on virtual employees.
Many companies are completely virtual with geographically dispersed employees and no physical office. As more people work remotely, the variety and depth of outsourced talent available to small businesses will improve competitiveness and resilience through economic cycles.
3. Less Hardware
Today’s technology requires less hardware to be purchased by customers. Modern multi-function devices combine phone, computer, scanner, camera, camcorder, radio, TV, Remote, PDA, MP3 player, GPS, fitness gadget, game platform, voice recorder, mobile hotspot, flashlight, watch and more.
The trend is increasing the speed and ease of new product adoption. With less hardware to buy and remote delivery of service and upgrades, the opportunity for digital products and services is vast. With increasing returns to scale, companies offering digital products can grow more rapidly with less capital invested.
4. Outsourced IT
More companies will engage Outsourced IT partners to cut costs and focus more time and attention on growing the business. Savvy outsourced IT providers double as business consultants who help companies identify technology-driven revenue growth opportunities.
Companies will be hard pressed to beat the lower cost, efficiency, monitoring and management tools, and breadth of technical resources available with outsourced IT. The reduced overhead and capital requirements will help companies compete in the new business technology landscape, which favors a pay-as-you-go, outcome-driven model.
5. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The rapid proliferation of objects connected to the Internet, including everything from appliances, light bulbs and wearable technology to artificial hearts, environmental sensors, cars and transportation systems is creating an ocean of opportunities for business.
The value to innovative companies arises from the cost saving potential of sensors, monitors and smart machines, combined with a high level of interest from a generation raised on gadgets. Small businesses that are first to introduce new Internet technologies in niche markets can dominate their segments.
6. 3D Printing
3D printing is finding a home in business as entrepreneurs capitalize on the speed and flexibility of the technology to produce customized products for customers. Growing at an annual rate of more than 20 percent, 3D printing can provide a competitive advantage to small businesses with a need to produce rapid prototypes, individualized products and replacement parts. A modest investment can give companies an edge in markets dominated by mass-produced items.
7. Marketing Automation Tools
Combining existing marketing activities like email, CRM, website optimization and funnel management, marketing automation tools promise to increase sales by delivering customized messages to prospects at the right time and at a relevant location.
Comprehensive marketing platforms designed for small business are becoming more prevalent. They offer powerful features to increase awareness, traffic and sales, allowing business owners more time to focus on what they do best. Microsoft recently merged Dynamics CRM and marketing automation tools to create an all-in-one CRM/marketing automation platform.
The ability of organizations to derive increased productivity, innovative product offerings and improved service has been greatly enhanced by the power of today’s technology. Those companies who take advantage of the opportunities will prosper.
Forward-thinking organizations increasingly partner with IT service providers to gain a technology edge, (see trend number four). The consummate IT services provider quickly masters emerging technologies, continually training engineers on the latest IT innovations to benefit businesses.
Acting as IT consultants they spot business opportunities and assemble the right technologies from industry-leading partners to create IT environments designed to conquer today’s business challenges and maximize growth.