For small to medium-sized businesses, investments in technology need to be justified by clearly understanding the expected advantages. However, in an ever-shifting world where technology changes on a daily basis, figuring out which tools will offer the greatest benefits can be a challenge.
While predicting the future is notoriously difficult to do, we’ve looked into the crystal ball to identify which business technologies we believe will most benefit SMBs in the near future.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The concept of the Internet of Things first gained traction in 1999 when it appeared a distant futuristic ideal. However, in the past few years we have seen dramatic increases in smart technology, particularly within the home. From 3D TVs to voice recognition devices such as the Amazon Echo, connected tools are now becoming part of our everyday lives. And while this technology is not yet as ubiquitous in most office environments, it is likely to increase in the near future.
Internet-connected technology with voice activation has the potential to change the work environment, freeing people up to work more flexibly. The general look of your office could change as well—in fact, Samsung predicts that in the future computer screens will be often invisible, appearing only when needed.
While voice and speech recognition is still often littered with errors, the technology is growing at a remarkable rate and is getting more sophisticated every day. Businesses will soon see voice play a much greater role in the everyday working environment, especially as it becomes increasingly integrated with prediction technology. That means that tools you use today, such as conference room technology, thermostats, and lighting systems, will be able to “listen” to conversations to predict and deliver required services before you even ask. For SMBs, this might seem somewhat unnecessary at present, but consider the productivity advantages that automation could offer companies with limited resources.
Cloud technology offers SMBs huge storage resources, as well as backup and archiving, without the need for costly systems located in your office. While cloud technology has been around for a while now, we believe that we are seeing only the beginning of what it can offer. Cloud technology must be a part of your business IT strategy going forward, so make sure to investigate how your business can benefit.
Previously seen as exclusive to large companies, an increasing number of ERP solutions now specifically target SMBs. In the past, many small to medium-sized businesses have been reluctant to acquire ERP technology, worrying that much of it would be unused. However, these new SMB solutions are designed with smaller enterprises in mind, enhancing productivity, decision-making, and financial control and enabling greater collaboration across the business. We’re likely to see more SMBs investing in these products in the near future.
Preparing for the future
Too often, SMBs consider adopting new technology only when tools break down or are no longer able to keep up with business needs. However, research by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that 31% of business leaders worry that new technologies, not business needs, will dictate their company’s future direction and management. More than 37% of those questioned also believe that by 2020, organisations will be unable to keep up with technology and will lose their competitive edge.
Therefore, it’s vital that you start to consider now how technology, including the examples cited here, will benefit your business and how you can prepare for the changes that are fast approaching.
For more insight on balancing business strategy with technology adoption, see Everything SMBs Need To Know About Digital Transformation.