Six tech­nol­ogy trends for SMEs to track

The Star Early Edition - - DIGITAL ECONOMY - Klaus-Michael Vo­gel­berg

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.

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