Six technology trends for SMEs to track
Sage chief technology officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg sees six major trends in 2017 that could make a big difference to the way business builders will work in 2017 and beyond.
Trend #1: Chatbots and autonomous interfaces
Autonomous interfaces such as chatbots or digital agents will become increasingly common on different devices and user interfaces which entrepreneurs use to manage and control their businesses.
These interfaces will dramatically change the way humans and computers work and interact with each other. While, in the past, people used a keyboard or mouse to interact with their PCs, they will gradually start talking with their systems, or using gesture control such as hand, head or eye gestures to interact with them.
The user experience will not only become more convenient, but also more enjoyable – these systems will work autonomously and have self-learning capabilities.
Eventually, software could act without user intervention, or ask a certain question only once and use this information for all further activities. Trend #2: Artificial & collective intelligence
Artificial and collective intelligence is another major trend, even for smaller companies. With mushrooming data volumes being generated by all sorts of sensors and devices on the one hand (see trend #6), and computer power and special analysis software and intelligent agents becoming increasingly affordable and powerful on the other, companies need to find ways to extract knowledge from today’s wealth of Big Data. SMEs must “team up”. If small and medium-sized enterprises join forces and – while considering their corporate data protection policies and personal rights laws – share, for example, computer power and data with other companies in a structured and systematic manner, they could profit from this collaboration by receiving a better and larger data pool and superior data intelligence.
Similar to crowdsourcing mechanisms, this enriched data pool would enable companies to better understand how customers behave, what they need, what to offer them and the business areas to invest in. Trend #3: Blockchain – or how to create trust in the digital age
According to Sage, business builders should also carefully analyse if, and how, the new blockchain technology could impact their current business models. Particularly all those industries which work as intermediaries between two parties – such as lawyers, notaries or real-estate or financial brokers – could be affected by this new, innovative approach.
Bookkeepers and accountants may be affected in the way they do business in future, as blockchain has the potential to eliminate a significant part of the workload – such as checking and booking transactions, transferring money or paying invoices – handled by these professions today. Trend #4: Revolutionising the movement of money
The way people use money and transfer their payments from one account to another has already changed dramatically: at the front-end, in-app payment solutions nowadays enable users to effortlessly make one-click payments and purchase goods via mobile devices or websites.
This functionality is already available in many apps today. But at the back-end, systems such as accounting software are less user-friendly and less integrated. For example, companies currently have almost no capability to make one-click invoice payments or easily manage their financial transactions between partners, suppliers and their bank with a fingertip.
In 2017, more and more new solutions will allow companies to establish an end-to-end payments value chain with their suppliers and customers. Trend #5: Platform-based infrastructure
In 2017, more and more SMEs will replace their standalone, on-site software systems with integrated, cloud-based software solutions that operate on global Cloud platforms such as Salesforce.com, who are offering their users access to a wealth of business apps and integrated services. Moreover, companies will also benefit from mobile-app platforms such as the one operated by the Apple Mobility Partner Program.
The big benefit of these platforms is that they give even smaller companies access to innovative business software solutions and services which these companies would not have been able to afford five years ago. Trend #6: Internet of Things will create new services and job profiles
Small and medium-sized enterprises should be on the lookout for new possibilities that emerge with the realisation of the Internet of Things. Multiple data streams originating from sensors built into, for example, machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes or even human beings (e.g. for medical monitoring purposes) will result in a true treasure trove of data, thus creating new services.
SMEs should think about how to use these data streams to grow their business: · Mechanics will develop new services such as predictive maintenance for all sorts of technical infrastructures. · Logistic companies will optimise e.g. the navigation of their truck fleets by using traffic data from many different sources, including smart city data from traffic lights, streets or other vehicles. · Concierge services will develop all sorts of surveillance services with new, smart home technology. · Retail companies and shop owners might connect to smart home devices such as refrigerators, or Amazon-style dash buttons, to supply customers automatically and predictively with goods and services. · Mobile medical care services will innovate their work with the assistance of all sorts of new devices, such as improve their support of elderly people living alone at home.
In 2017, every business will need to start thinking of itself as a technology business. To stay competitive, they will need to grasp the opportunities that this development brings with it and change almost every aspect of today’s more or less traditional ways of working.
The good news is that this technology means we believe that very soon, business admin could become completely invisible, as easy as messaging a friend, or even completely automated, as machines learn like humans. This will empower entrepreneurs to stay focused on building businesses, driving growth in the economy and contributing to their communities – not basic admin.