It’s easy to dismiss trends because they either aren’t affecting you yet or you believe will never affect you. We don’t blame you. You’re smart for thinking that.
But there are some things that need to be given attention. They are things that are transforming the way business is conducted. As you’re aware, you must embrace change if you want to stay relevant. Lean in, to change, as you might say.
And the Internet is currently abuzz with talk about new devices, processes, and technologies that are going to be game changers if and when their potential is harnessed.
Here are three particularly important business tech trends you should keep watching this year to ensure your business is ready to leverage them when the time is right.
Again, it’s wise not to pay attention to all tech trends. But these seem here to stay. So say hello.
Tech Trend 1: Cyber Security Gets Real
If you paid any attention to the presidential election last year, you know that hacking has serious implications. That, along with a host of other seriously damaging network security breaches – the theft of sensitive data at the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, and the calamitous breaches at Target and Sony – clearly illustrate that the stakes for securing your company’s (and your customers’) data have never been higher. And the risk is growing as well, with hacking of all companies, including small businesses, on the rise.
You can expect to have to invest more in cyber security in 2017. This will be either by choice or in order to remain in regulatory compliance. You will also have to train and educate your employees on these threats more than in the recent past; some of the most infamous data breaches of the past few years have been the result of simple phishing attacks.
You may believe no one would want to tamper with your carpet cleaning business. But think like a criminal. Your records include information such as payment methods, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. That’s a lot of juicy information for a hacker, no matter its root source. Some hackers may target your business specifically because your clients are likely home owners who earn more money than, say, college kids.
All of this is likely to lead to a dent in your bottom line, but a necessary one; failing to safeguard networks is costly, and some businesses can never from the damage a hack causes.
Tech Trend 2: Business Apps Come of Age
Mobile devices have become indispensable in our personal lives. They have notoriously fallen short when it comes to being useful in business. 2017 may be the year all of that changes. New business apps will enable companies to increase productivity, reduce costs, and collaborate much more effectively.
NetSuite OneWorld, for example, will enable you to manage critical administrative functions like generating expense reports, and use a “dashboard” to maintain situational awareness of your business’s activities while on the road.
Apps like ClickMeeting take staple video conferencing capabilities to the next level, and will allow your employees to share screens and data during mobile teleconferences, schedule meetings, and record events.
And Salesforce Cloud Lightning Professional will take your desktop-bound customer relationship management tools, and then pack them into your smartphones and tablets. The app will let you build and track leads, manage a marketing campaign, and help you deliver sales more effectively.
There are hundreds of other apps to put your smartphones and tablets to work. Real work.
Long gone are the days when you were looking at your phone and people assumed you were playing Tetris or texting your BFF. People now know if you’re on your phone you could be doing amazing things for humanity.
Embrace apps that will help your business and ultimately your clients. Test drive a few and choose whichever one(s) you deem worthy.
Tech Trend 3: Artificial Intelligence is Everywhere
Tesla believes that by November/December of this year, their Model S, Model X, and Model 3 will be able to drive cross-country with the occupants never needing to touch the steering wheel. And if there’s something we all know about Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, it’s that he delivers on his promises. In spectacular fashion.
While this isn’t the most fundamental form of AI, it shows you how pervasive it is.
We’ve all talked and talked about AI for years. But haven’t really seen the en masse practical application of it in business so far. Once again, 2017 may be the year that AI comes of age in the business world.
The analytics that your business uses to review trends, and develop forecasts for the future will almost certainly grow. It will grow more powerful due to AI. You can expect services like Google Analytics and InsightSquared to be even more essential to your daily operations. They will deliver even better analysis as AI continues to grow in capacity.
Improved and mass marketed AI technologies may also enable you to streamline parts of your business, and even cut costs.
Competent chatbots, for example, may be able to supplant some of your customer service activities that currently require employees to do, and other AI-based tech may help you to manage warehouses and assembly lines much more efficiently and effectively.
As your own company interacts with other businesses in routine activities, such as securing additional credit at a local bank, you can expect to deal with AI much more than you have in the recent past as well.
Besides Tesla, Google and other companies are quickly pursuing artificial intelligence. When companies of this scale are paying attention to AI, it’s worth it for everyone else to look as well.
Artificial intelligence no longer belongs primarily to the sci-fi flicks of the 1990’s. It’s everywhere. Cyber security is something everyone must pay attention too — even if you’re a humble carpet cleaning service in Georgia. Apps are also no longer mere child’s play.
Keep a pulse on these trends. Use what you’ve learned to help you business. Since these trends are here to stay, a little time investment early on will pay for itself over time.
Enjoy the embrace.