Top Small Business Technology Trends in 2016

As you set out to prepare for the upcoming months, it is sometimes helpful to see what the top technology trends the forecasters are predicting, and to understand what these trends can mean for your small or medium sized business (SMB) because the last thing you need to be in a situation of competitive disadvantage, as your competitors capitalize on the newest and latest technology, and you are still operating soon-to-be outdated methods. Here we speak primarily of three rapidly developing technology trends: cloud computing, mobile technology, and video technology.

Internet Cloud-Based Technology
Cloud-based technology has the potential to generate a small business revival. This is because it is now easier, and cheaper than ever, for small businesses to adapt to cloud-based technology and begin to learn how to develop customized software applications. What only large businesses could afford and have access to, is now accessible to small businesses. In other words, enterprise technology is no longer limited to large businesses. Small businesses can now have access to tools that will help their business not only stay competitive, but also thrive. Successful adaptation to cloud technology has the potential to make your company more efficient, reduce overhead costs, and increase profitability. A leading CEO and business forecaster, Scott Billows, told Business News Daily that, “…technology, in particular cloud-based technology, is going to be at the forefront in both expediting growth and efficiency, but also [in] creating a more level playing field in the market.”
Many SMBs have already begun to adapt and utilize software as a service (SaaS), which are becoming both more sophisticated but also more intuitive to operate. Even though now it may be the case that some SMBs have not adapted to cloud-based technology; nevertheless, the general forecast is that SMB owners, who don’t understand how cloud and SaaS technology can improve their businesses, will be at a sharp disadvantage when it comes to the competition. As Dr. Marc Meyer, a professor of business put it, “The adoption of cloud computing will continue to accelerate, drifting down from the large corporate segment into small businesses, making operations more efficient and [reducing] capital spending. … Startups and small businesses no longer have to invest $100,000 a year to set up data centers and hire an IT administrator to take care of the hardware” (www.businessnewsdaily.com).
For example, using freelancers and SaaS providers allows SMB owners to purchase only the amount of a service they need at any one time. When business increases, they can purchase more, or if something doesn’t work out, they can dial back how much of the service they are using without suffering the major financial costs of having enterprise or legacy business software programs.
For those who are not able to successfully manage a SaaS, for whatever reason, fret not. Also on the cloud technology horizon SMBs will be moving more and more towards private and hybrid cloud hosting. This is akin to outsourcing you cloud-technology needs and services. Most of it will firmly be in the financial reach of SMBs. A huge matter over privacy and security of data will inevitably be of concern to SMBs operating in the cloud. Therefore, forecasters see a rise in cyber-security as more and more SMBs start having everything of importance for their business in the cloud. If there would be a breach, then the SMBs data could be compromised. So, when planning to switch to the cloud, make sure you also research the latest in cloud cyber-security programs, etc. As one business consultant, Clair Jones advises and forewarns in INC Magazine, “Data security will likely be a huge focus for small businesses in 2016, as cloud technology becomes the norm. Small business owners and entrepreneurs have a target painted on their back when it comes to cybercrime, and many will learn the hard way that security is a rewarding investment.”

Mobile Technology
When in a public space it is impossible to miss the plethora of mobile devices that seem to be everywhere you look. The saturation of mobile technology has been astounding, and, nevertheless, will grow even more in the coming years. Here are some interesting statistics:
• In 2014, 2.1 billion consumers owned smartphones worldwide, according to the Internet Trends 2015 report.
• Mobile use now accounts for more than half of the total time people spend on digital devices, the report states.
• Eighty percent of Internet searches are conducted on smartphones, according to data from the Global Web Index.
• Sixty-six percent of all email in the U.S. is now read on smartphones, according to the US Consumer Device Preference Report from MovableInk.
• In 2015, mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, according to Google (data adapted from www.inc.com)

As far as SMBs are concerned, all of this means that your company website will have to be mobile responsive and even offer a mobile app to permit clients to have easier access to your services, which they could then simply access from their favorite mobile device. Look what Jon Zimmerman, CEO and top business consultant had to say about mobile technology. “The increasing influence of the millennial generation — a group that prefers quick, immediate interactions via mobile devices — is expected to significantly impact the way small businesses approach customer engagement in 2016. Service businesses in particular must be able to effectively cater to this mobile customer or risk losing the important repeat business they need to keep their organization afloat.” (www.businessnewsdaily.com).
In fact, in interviewing dozens of contractors in the liquid waste industry, I have talked with numerous contractors that have been taking advantage of mobile technology, either requiring that all of their employees own a smartphone (which most people do anyway), or they are providing the mobile devices. Mobile technology is being used to better communicate with customers and clients, as well as it being used to have much more effective communication between, for example, the office staff and drivers and technicians working in the field. What is more, proprietors of SMBS will be able to manage all key aspects of their business via their mobile device, whether at the office, in the field, or after hours. In addition, forecasters are seeing more and more small businesses dedicating time and resources to build mobile into their marketing and branding, some linking it to the social media platforms that they have already put into operation for advertising and marketing. As Bill Burnett, CEO and business forecaster told Business News Daily, “…more and more buying decisions are happening via mobile devices, particularly in the B2B space, and companies across all industries need to adapt, or they will get left behind.”

Video Technology
I have talked with numerous contractors who have a Youtube site where they can post small videos of their trucks, machinery, etc. in action. Let’s face it, the consumption of online videos has been steadily increasing for years, and the rise in mobile usage is further fueling that growth. From a marketing standpoint, video is a powerful tool. A video shared on social networks or your website can allow viewers to actually see what your product looks like and how it performs. It can also foster interaction between your business and customers by allowing them to post questions and comments on your video.

Conclusion
In looking over these trends, you have to realize that there are some bigger underlying developments – including economic uncertainty – that are driving these changes in the way SMBs operate. Oftentimes we see SMBs on the cutting edge of new technology development and incorporation into how they conduct business. Nevertheless, it is also the cases that, along with the trend-setting small business owners, there are many who are set in their ways and therefore respond to changes more slowly. But, many forecasters predict that “2016 will be the year when many of these changes start to filter down into the more traditional ranks of small business owners.”
It is often said that the SMB sector of business has to move faster, adapt quicker, and evolve more than any other kind of business. Each year we see millions of SMBs in the United States innovating and keeping up with new ways of doing business using different technologies and approaches. Keeping an eye and open mind on the technology trends reported here can be of assistance to your business, and give you that competitive advantage that leads to more profit.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

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