Ten years ago all the people I interacted with were located in the same office/cubicle farm setting, or we communicated by telephone. We had video conferencing, but it was in its infancy – an expensive set-up so prone to inexplicable interruptions and technical difficulties that it was hardly worth trying to make it work. Now I work from a home office and routinely hold video conferences from my desk with other entrepreneurs located literally around the world in their home offices, using a $35 webcam.
More differences: Ten years ago the most social I ever got online was to leave a comment in a discussion forum a couple of times a month. Today I devote at least a half hour of each day towards being “social” online. Every day I am twittering and responding to Facebook comments and blog comments and passing along videos.
(1) All software will be accessed online – Except for my computer’s operating system and a few “helper” programs, I can image most if not all of my software being accessed over the Web instead of residing on my computers. I’m almost at this point today. What we gain are improved internal processes, lower costs, and nearly unlimited range of choices of software to fit our precise needs. Small business owners are just beginning to experience the tremendous leverage to be had from automating internal processes. Years ago the latest technology used to be almost out of reach for small businesses. Small businesses tended to be tech laggards due to the high cost of adopting new technologies and the work involved. But no longer, not with monthly-priced software-as-a-service options that do not require an IT department to install and configure.
(2) Intelligent apps will communicate with one another, and update and perform functions automatically – No more downloading data or manually exporting from one software program to another. No more updating or syncing files or remembering to take this action or that. In the future this will all be handled for us. Today we already see this with QuickBooks automatically updating information from financial institutions. Or online file backups that are automatically scheduled and synced. Or anti-virus programs that automatically update and scan. Imagine this for every software program we use, touching every process in our workday. Especially for small businesses, which tend to be thinly staffed, the improved efficiencies and cost savings from minimizing manual activities will be dramatic.
(3) Computers will get closer to becoming disposable – I’ve been getting new computers at shorter intervals – from 5 year-intervals ten years ago, to barely 18-month internals now. I can foresee the day where a computer lasts a year or less before the advantages – and the low cost – make it a no-brainer to trade up annually. This will become important as we see advances in voice recognition and other interface advancements that rapidly improve how we use our computers.
(4) The borderless organization becomes a reality for small businesses – When Jack Welch popularized the term “borderless company” in the 1980s and 1990s, it was applied to large corporations that operated without regard to global borders – or internal structures. In much the same way small businesses will reach the point of being borderless, both globally and without regard to their company structure. By partnering with other small businesses; outsourcing projects and functions to talent anywhere across the globe; and using PayPal to quickly and easily pay for outsourced help no matter where they are located, we’ll soon reach a time where the borders” of the small company – even a sole proprietorship – will be fluid indeed.
(5) The ROI of being social pays off – Social is the future of work. We’ll increasingly spend time being social online. The fragmented landscape that we see today will start to standardize and become easier to manage. The ROI of being social becomes so apparent that it will be a job requirement for hiring new staff. Not only will new people be judged on their education and subject-matter skills, but also on their interpersonal skills, their online social skills and the power to get things done through their virtual networks.
These are just five ways that work will continue to evolve and change, especially for entrepreneurs and small business people. Welcome to the brave new world.