It really wasn’t that long ago that a small business referred to a local entity that set up shop in a brick-and-mortar building selling their wares. Nowadays, even small businesses can’t get by without relying on the abundant web of technology supporting our society. As such, even small business owners who thought they could get away with remaining analogue forever are finding themselves enslaved by–and then liberated by, after they figure it out–technological advancements. If you’re an entrepreneur or SMB owner pursuing the quickest path to profit (or are looking to become one), you’ll want to pay close attention to these 5 areas in business technology.
1. Unified Communications
When looking at the way technology has changed business, and even how it’s changed the larger world around us, it basically gets boiled down to the fact that now the entire world is connected. Working from home, for example, has become much more common that it was even six or seven years ago, and globally connected offices are becoming the norm. Even small business are now able to draw from a world-wide talent pool, but only as long as they’re able to facilitate communication between their teams. Applications such as Skype and Slack can help with this immensely. Pro tip: UC software doesn’t communicate for you–so make sure you’re communicating with your team clearly, concisely, and consistently.
2. Big Data and Targeted Marketing
With the growing IoT and diminishing cost of things like sensor and other connected measuring devices, it’s never been more viable for small businesses to set up their own big data marketing campaigns. When it comes to operations, Big Data can help you both boost efficiency and cut costs, among many other benefits. When it comes to marketing, for example, Netflix is a great example of how collecting data on users can lead to a better customer experience. Any time you’ve picked up an awesome show because it was “recommended to you”, you have a combination of Netflix’s algorithm, the data they’ve collected on you, and your own viewing habits to thank. In the same way that Netflix is able to correctly predict what their customers will like by sorting through data, you too can analyze customer and even prospective customer data to make sure you’re retention rates are high, and your slice of the acquisition market is that much bigger.
3. Custom Applications
Small businesses that own or rent data warehouses can dramatically increase growth by correctly analyzing that data. Some companies use data to many different ends, while others use it in unique ways that are outside the scope of mainstream Big Data–either way, many small businesses may find themselves in a position that dictates creation of custom applications. The most innovative businesses will be analyzing data in ways that don’t necessarily fit standard models, and that’s when custom development software like FileMaker comes in handy. Unfortunately, FileMaker can be pretty complex, on top of data warehouse integrations and the like. But, fortunately, you don’t have to be the FileMaker development experts to enjoy the benefits of the technology. Hire a small firm and get your custom applications whipped up like that. Don’t hold yourself back just because you think something doesn’t exist; instead, make it yourself.
4. E-Learning and Adaptability
While hiring out services such as app development is fine and dandy, what shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that the future is going to be full of new applications that businesses will be using, building, hacking, and the like. On top of that, many businesses are taking it upon themselves to learn these systems instead of hire them out. A small business might take it upon themselves to do their own marketing in house instead of paying per project that comes up–for somebody like an events coordinator, this would be ideal. Instead of a lifetime of invoices from a graphic designer, that events coordinator may instead embrace E-Learning and MOOCs to simply learn a program like Photoshop themselves, saving massive amounts of money in the long run. New business platforms and application advances also means that employees will have to be constantly learning, so buckle up and embrace E-Learning systems earlier rather than later.
5. Security Measures
You wouldn’t build a house without a lock on the door, would you? And you especially wouldn’t build a brick-and-mortar store without one–so why would you even think about running a digitally connected business without sometime of cyber security measure? With PCI DSS compliance, HIPAA, and the threat of cyber vandalism or even ransomware attacks, technological security measures have never been more important. On top of that, the research shows that businesses who suffer major data loss disasters go kaput about 70% of the time. With all of that data existing in the cloud, it’s easy to have an “out of sight, out of mind disposition” towards it–however, once you realize that everything valuable exists there, it makes cloud security much more pertinent.
Although some see the fact they they’ll have to be adaptable and always learning in the future to be a hassle, they’re usually just not seeing the forest for the trees. The amount of flexibility in operation endowed to business owners, big and small (sizes of the business, as well as the owners!) by disruptive technology, requires that whomever respond by being flexible. The fast pace of this digital age is a double-edged sword; failure to adapt and adopt means being left behind. However, fully realizing the potential of tech power means that SMBs can compete with corporations and enterprises for international business, all while operating out of that local brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shop you always have.