Is your business using technology to its fullest? j2 Global just released its predictions for the top tech trends that will affect small and midsized businesses in 2013.
Here are three predictions, plus my take on the challenges involved in implementing each.
1. Mobilization will make small businesses more productive. In 2011, according to Canalys, the number of smartphones sold surpassed the number of PCs sold for the first time ever. While small businesses are already using smartphones and tablets for email and Web browsing, in 2013 j2 Global predicts businesses will begin truly leveraging smartphones and tablets to enhance productivity by:
Using mobile business systems such as CRM to input and access sales information on the go, wherever they are.
Using mobile collaboration tools, such as conference calling and Web conferencing, that were previously limited to the office to respond more quickly and strategically to immediate business needs.
Using a wider variety of mobile work-related apps, including mobile faxing and communication apps for making VoIP calls.
Challenge: It’s easy to see the benefits of mobilization for almost any kind of small business, from a construction crew staying in touch with the office to restaurant servers taking orders on tablets. However, if (like many small businesses) you let employees bring their own devices to save money, you could be exposing your company to risks that will cost much more than you save. Make sure you set policies and procedures to protect your networks, your data and your customers’ data on mobile devices.
2. Small businesses will embrace the cloud. SMBs will finally embrace the cloud as they recognize the cost savings and mobility that cloud-based technology offers. As cloud-based solutions proliferate, offering everything from business communication services like phone, fax and Web conferencing, to accounting and legal, to hiring and payroll, more SMBs will adopt cloud services. In fact, j2 predicts that two out of three SMBs will be using the cloud in 2013.
Smaller businesses have been slower to adopt the cloud, but even micro-businesses will increasingly see cloud computing and anything-as-a-service (XaaS) as the “default options” when they’re considering purchasing new technology. Lower costs, greater flexibility and the ability to support virtual or remote workforces are some of the advantages cloud services can provide these businesses. Phone, fax, Web and mail server and data backup are among the cloud services SMBs will adopt in greater numbers in 2013.
Challenge: Small businesses took a while to warm up to the cloud, but consumers’ increasing comfort level with cloud storage for everything from music to photos has helped ease entrepreneurs’ fears. As with mobile, though, the challenge lies in security. Make sure you understand your cloud service provider’s security and backup policies before you entrust them with mission-critical data or rely on them for essential business processes.
3. Integrated systems will help businesses work smarter, not harder. We’ve seen this on the horizon for a while now, but in 2013, j2 Global predicts that currently disconnected business systems will become fully integrated, simplifying SMB operations. It will start with sales and marketing, which will get easier as fully integrated e-mail marketing and CRM services enable SMBs to execute campaigns and track results using a single application. Similarly, social media tools will become integrated into CRM solutions, speeding up the sales cycle, lowering the cost of acquiring new customers and making it simpler to build long-lasting customer relationships through social media.
Challenge: Integration is a dream come true for SMBs that have hoped to realize the promise of driving sales with social media. In this case, the challenge lies in the human factor. Getting salespeople to embrace CRM has long been difficult. Will you be able to persuade your team to truly use a new technology that might take a bit longer to learn at first? You can lead the horses to water; hopefully, you can make them drink, too.
Now more than ever, technology is becoming a key factor in giving a small business a competitive edge.
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