There is nothing or little small about small businesses anymore. Cloud and collaboration tools have made it possible for many businesses to compete against large enterprises.
In fact, a recent study showed that small businesses are adopting the cloud more quickly than larger enterprises, which means they will adapt faster and enable employees to work anywhere at any time at a fraction of the cost.
Last year, small businesses gained traction in both the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. They also gathered momentum in mobile technology, made advancements in business intelligence, and made forays into mobile payments.
So what about this year? What new changes does technology have in store for small businesses?
Prediction 1: More young workers will do their jobs virtually/remotely
The BYOD trend will continue to thrive in 2016. This year it is expected that more young adults will enter the workforce via virtual jobs than through traditional posts in employer-owned workplaces.
To meet the needs and expectations of this younger workforce, SMBs will need to be increasingly flexible. Businesses that enable remote working, through both the policies they draft and the tools they provide, will be more attractive to the next generation.
Of course, there will still be offices and in-person meetings in 2016. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by Microsoft revealed that millennials find good team collaboration most valuable in their ideal workplace.
This underscores the need for advanced and secure technology. With tools like Office 365, small business owners can arm their employees with the technology needed for real-time collaboration — both in the office and away from it. Office 365 also provides automatic monthly security updates, so small business owners can ensure they’re protecting their data and safely, enabling their remote workforce without even having to think about it.
Prediction 2: The rate of cloud uptake will increase
Businesses will adopt the cloud without any legacy IT infrastructure. For example, Botswana Oil had major success by moving straight to the cloud, allowing them to overcome challenges such as limited resources, a widely-distributed personnel base, and pressure to start operating quickly.
"Cloud computing was my answer. The fact that we didn't have to acquire much infrastructure to be able to deploy quickly was very significant. The cloud also provides a much less expensive way of managing ICT services.” Said Galeboe Mmelesi, ICT Manager, Botswana Oil Limited.
Prediction 3: More small businesses will manage their operations anytime, anywhere from mobile devices
This year, mobility won’t be limited to the workforce. The very operations of small businesses will be increasingly mobile. New apps, cloud storage and more powerful devices will allow business owners to run more and more of their business processes from anywhere.
This dramatically shifts the old paradigm of running a business, where you constantly feel stretched in multiple directions. This year, more business owners will be able to perform all their tasks on digital devices. Whether it is joining a conference call through Skype, or using OneNote to co-author and -edit documents at the same time with other collaborators.
The technology available this year will allow small businesses to more effectively compete with larger competitors. While it is clear that small business owners have to wear several hats, and weighing all the different possible technology investments can fall to the bottom of their priority lists, this is one decision that should not be postponed.
Often, it is small shifts, like adopting the right technology at the right time that can make all the difference.