While it’s hard to say for certain which themes will be prevalent next year, some key small business technology trends are beginning to emerge, finds Duncan Gooding, director of major accounts at TalkTalk Business.
While most people occupy the last few months of the year thinking about the holiday season and looking forward to some time off, for those who have their own firm to consider it’s also a time to plan about what the New Year, and the future more generally, will mean for business.
When used effectively, technology can give small businesses a competitive edge, but for many it can be difficult to keep up with new technology, which can sometimes seem to change every day.
While it’s hard to say for certain what technology trends will be prevalent next year, some key themes are beginning to emerge. With the New Year approaching, we’ve identified some technology trends which you should keep an eye out for in 2017 to ensure business stays ahead of the curve.
More demands on networks and speeds
This might be one you’ve heard before, but 2017 will be another year where the demands on your internet connection will continue to increase.
The need for faster speeds shows no sign of slowing down as the files your business needs to send will keep getting bigger, and more of your data is stored in the cloud.
Your business might also be considering a higher speed connection altogether, like an Ethernet line, if you haven’t already. Very small businesses, particularly those operating out of a home office, might also see the benefits of business-specific packages.
Cloud storage becomes almost universal
A recent survey by SurePayroll showed that 85 per cent of small businesses use a cloud storage provider, with tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud proving more popular than ever.
This figure will only increase in 2017 – if your business hasn’t already started using these tools, even more features which allow small firms to be flexible and offer remote working will likely tempt you to make the switch.
We also predict that small businesses will increasingly use these services to share larger documents with suppliers or customers, but if your business is going to be one of them, you’ll need to ensure that you have a fast, reliable internet connection to handle this.
Video conferencing will become the industry standard
Most of us agree that it’s far better to do business face-to-face rather than over the phone or email. This is particularly the case for small businesses where you’ll often rely on personal relationships with your customers much more than larger businesses do.
Unfortunately, meeting in person is not always possible but video conferencing can help bridge the gap. Larger businesses around the world are now using video conferencing every day and expect it to function as seamlessly as a face to face conversation.
As more and more important deals are conducted this way, small firms will need to make sure they have the right tools and level of connectivity to keep up.
Social media opens up even more to small businesses
Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn to communicate with your customers and clients is nothing new. What is changing is the extent to which the big social media platforms are opening up their monitoring and advertising platforms.
This year Twitter allowed small business owners and individuals to be awarded the blue verification tick, while Facebook offered small businesses a more sophisticated suite of advertising tools.
This trend shows no sign of reversing, with Instagram announcing new tools for small businesses to advertise on their platform and even Snapchat suggesting that in 2017 they will make it easier for smaller advertisers to reach a younger audience.
Small businesses will be able to compete with much larger ones
Crucially though, 2017 will be the year when small businesses use technology in new and interesting ways to compete with much larger companies. We all already know that using the web is the best way for an SME to look and act like a much bigger company. Take ecommerce for example.
If you have something you want to sell, it’s easier than ever to build a website, take orders, manage logistics, communicate with customers and balance the books using off the shelf products or services.
Technology is not just making it easier to do business, it’s also allowing your small business to innovate, make the most of your local presence and give the biggest players a run for their money.
It’s impossible to make any hard and fast predictions, even just for the year ahead. We might not even be aware yet of some of the most exciting and disruptive technologies which will come through in the next year.
What can be said for certain though is that we will see more small businesses using technology to become more efficient, effective and competitive in 2017, and by staying up to date with the latest new advances, your business can be one of them.
Duncan Gooding is major accounts and carriers’ director at TalkTalk Business
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