Businesses, no matter how small, can stand to gain quite a bit in this field. In fact, Forbes predicts that automation tools will trigger a small business renaissance, helping owners save time and money while maintaining the personalized experiences with customers.
As many as 45 percent of the activities employees are paid to perform can be automated by the technology available at that time, a 2015 McKinsey report found. The report goes on to state that automation isn’t just for low-wage, menial jobs. Take, for example, Narrative Science’s artificial intelligence system, Quill, which analyzes raw data and generates reports as though a human wrote them.
Not quite sure that’s what you need? When a layman thinks about automation, something similar to Quill may first come to mind, along with the idea that drones, robots and the such will take over the job market. But it’s not just that.
Think a little smaller to the areas in which automation has already proliferated, like marketing. That can range from sending customers a birthday coupon to posting on social media. Think, even, about that notification that you might get when a customer sends your service line a question or about the auto attendant features on many Voice over IP (VoIP) phone services, like OfficeSuite UC®.
2. Data, Privacy and Security
It’s no secret that these days businesses are a gold mine when it comes to data. You need information to learn more about your customers and to target them, among other things.
Couple that with the fact that small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) are targeted quite a bit in cyberattacks: a 2017 Ponemon Institute study found that more than three of every five SMBs had been breached in the last 12 months. Wondering why? In part, it’s because many SMBs hold the same crucial data — credit card information, Social Security numbers, etc. — that enterprises do, but typically have weaker security measures in place.
And, while that may not be the case for every SMB, it’s important to note that cybersecurity threats are growing in frequency, harder to detect and becoming costlier for you. It’s safe to assume that there will be more advanced hacking attempts this year, that consumers and clients will grow more concerned about companies keeping their information private and secure, and that small and medium-sized businesses will start building a good line of defense against cyberattacks.
3. Improvements in Wireless Technology, Bringing Other Tech into the Mainstream
There are a number of reasons why wireless technology will boom this year, including a heavier reliance on data, the growing move to mobile-first and the interconnectivity of people and devices. Telecom is already starting to roll out the next generation of wireless networks, like 5G, which promises lower latency and higher bandwidth, among other things.
And, as wireless technology continues to evolve and strengthen, look for other technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), to become more prevalent. IoT has exploded in niche verticals (think: manufacturing, healthcare), but it hasn’t really expanded into the mid-market and small business realm. Some even predict that IoT adoption for the latter groups will largely depend on the success of wireless capabilities, like 5G.
4. Immersive Technologies
What exactly are immersive technologies? They’re those that mimic reality through use of digital technologies: virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
What may come to mind first is the entertainment industry, but that’s not always the case. The technologies have taken hold, particularly in retail where they’ve helped create immersive and better customer experiences. Volvo, for example, has a reality app that lets interested shoppers test drive a new SUV model that wasn’t yet available on smartphones. Retailer Anthropologie is using augmented reality to give shoppers detailed views of furniture in different colors, fabrics and lighting.
These technologies can also be used in office settings, too, through determining uses of space, improving employee training and even collaborating with remote coworkers.
5. More Moves to the Cloud and Digital Transformation
Moving to the cloud is probably a mixed bag for businesses. Some may not have started at all, while others are in the process of slowly moving an application here and another there. Cloud transformation is a trend that many businesses will vouch for because it can reduce expenses, allow for flexibility, improve collaboration and be more reliable.
Take, for example, OfficeSuite UC®, a 100 percent cloud-based phone system with geographically redundant and diverse servers to ensure that your business phone service is always running. It’s accessible anywhere with an Internet connection and on any device, giving your employees the flexibility they want and need. It includes features, such as web conferencing, that can help employees collaborate and that are available at all times. Your business can count on the same monthly operational expense determined by the number of seats you have (goodbye landline fees!).
Starting to see why businesses have flocked to the cloud?
To note, cloud computing will require more from your network, so be sure to keep that in mind as you’re moving more applications there. If you’re noticing a lagging Internet connection, you may need to look at expanding your bandwidth, hence the overall digital transformation.
For other businesses, cloud transformation is old news. Been there, done that. If you’re in this bucket, the tech trend to watch is edge computing. Where cloud computing uses remote servers to house and manage data, edge computing moves the data processing closer to where computing needs to happen — on “the edge.” While still in its infancy, edge computing is likely to become, in some sorts, the second generation of cloud computing, especially as the number of connected devices multiplies.