Choosing the right technology for your small business is no longer a secondary consideration if you want to grow. With competitors working to win every deal and markets evolving faster than ever, being a step slow in taking advantage of technology is the difference between struggling and growth. Technology that helps employees, serves customers or protects the business is worth its weight in gold.
Effective use of technology can have a meaningful impact on both the overall strategy and day-to-day tactics of operating and, ultimately, growing business. The 2021 State of IT report indicates that most small and mid-sized businesses plan to increase their technology spending in the next twelve months to take advantage of new solutions. The ever-changing pace of technical innovation means that new tools, solutions, and systems are available all the time as businesses seek greater and greater operational efficiency.
In this post, we will take a look at the key trends in technology that small and medium businesses should be aware of as well as some key areas of opportunity for leveraging technology investments into real growth.
Small business technology trends
Technology is the heartbeat of every business now, even those that are not technology companies. As a result, the time to maximize IT investments is now. There is a technology solution for practically every challenge and now is the time to act. Deloitte found that businesses with aggressive technology utilization get benefits not available to those that put IT on the back burner.
Remarkably, the same research uncovered 80 percent of US small businesses are still not maximizing technology. Understanding what tools are available and how they can help your business has never been more critical. Here's how small businesses are investing in technology to drive growth and how you can, too.
Make Security Front and Center
Just as you purchase insurance for different types of potential loss across your business, your network security protects your business from perhaps the most catastrophic type of loss: theft of customer data, employee data, and private business data.
As such, we recommend taking an objective look at your current security status. Where are there vulnerabilities? What systems and points in the network have you neglected to address when it comes to security? Bad actors abound and malware, data theft, and ransomware are real threats to any business regardless of size.
Make sure and document an IT security policy covering password guidelines, security best practices, and network and data rules. Once documented, make sure to train your staff on the policy and enforce compliance. Additionally, data backups that are stored off-site or in a third-party location can protect your business against a disaster. From floods to hacks, having secure data backups can help you return to “business as usual” quickly and completely with minimal disruption. There are a number of tools that automate backups and properly secure the data either in the cloud or a secure facility. Talk to your IT provider about how to properly secure your data and create backups if this is not already part of your operations.
Which Tools Are Right to Get the Job Done?
The software can be a major asset to any company. With more and more tools becoming available online via software as a service, or “SaaS,” there is no shortage of applications to help your business stay on track. SaaS tools are great for small and mid-size businesses because management, maintenance and security are handled by the provider, giving your team the ability to work instead of worry. Additionally, these applications can be accessed from smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices regardless of location or time of day. Here are some different types of software that can help power your small or medium-sized business and things to look for when considering new software investments.
Software to improve productivity, thrill customers, and keep the books in order
Many different elements contribute to business growth. From providing great customer service to minimizing overhead and administrative costs, the levers a business operator can pull to improve the business are near limitless.
Improving operational efficiency is at the heart of great productivity software. From replacing laborious processes that used to rely on pen and paper to reducing the costs of hiring and training a new employee, almost any business task can now be performed with software. The most popular productivity software applications include those for office productivity (including word processing and spreadsheets), presentations, accounting, communications and email.
Customer relationship management (CRM) and professional services automation (PSA) give even more utility to businesses looking to improve effectiveness and efficiency. These solutions can integrate with other business applications like email marketing tools or inventory software to boost customer service levels and drive business growth.
Bookkeeping and invoicing software can help ensure your accounts are properly reconciled and both accounts receivable and accounts payable stay on track. These systems can work great with your existing bookkeeper or accountant, reducing the administrative workload on all parties. Additionally, these tools help you get paid faster, stay compliant with taxes, and keep you from ever hearing “the check is in the mail.”
The rise of mobile technologies
Mobile technology and cloud computing have driven an even greater expansion of software in business environments.
Accessing applications from a smartphone or tablet can deliver a multitude of business benefits that all drive growth. Consider that the Covid pandemic contributed to the increasing number of people working outside of the traditional office environment and it is clear that small and medium size businesses need the same mobile capabilities as larger enterprises.
Mobile technologies allow team members to work from almost any location. As many businesses learned in the last year, it is not just possible but also practical to have full-office capabilities and functionality while on the go. More gets done, faster as employees can access files, documents, and messages as well as key applications from anywhere.
This mobilization helps businesses recognize critical cost savings as well. Expensive office space and utility bills are no longer essential and even in a hybrid office environment, costs can be better controlled compared to having 100% of your staff in the same place during work.
Artificial intelligence as a service (AIaaS)
According to Tractica, a research firm, the total global market for AI software will grow from $9.5 billion in 2019 to as much as $118.6 billion in 2025. That growth is no longer limited to large firms like Google or Facebook. Small and mid-sized businesses are joining in on using AI as well. Just because your operation is small in size does not mean that bleeding-edge technology is out of reach to you.
For example, AI is regularly used to optimize product research campaigns and customer acquisition strategies. Analytics around pay-per-click or organic search traffic can be more easily understood when built-in AI tools help distill the information first. Additionally, AI can help determine the creditworthiness of customers and clients when servicing mortgages, auto-loans or other credit products and services.
Working together while working remotely
Businesses the world over recognize the benefits of remote work. But acknowledging the advantages of a distributed workforce uncovers challenges that must be addressed. First and foremost is how to keep the business safe and secure with a remote team. Next? How to make sure team members can collaborate effectively and work together from different places.
Technology helps make remote work and remote collaboration possible through a suite of tools available to businesses of any size. These tools include online communication platforms, advanced business phone systems, and simple video conferencing systems that work right in the web browser. With the availability and ease of use of these tools, many small businesses are rethinking not just how, but also where their workforce can be most productive.
Cloud Storage and Data Backups
Cloud storage, data backups and file sharing have been part of the enterprise for years. Only recently have small businesses started to leverage the same technology. The good news is that there are a number of SaaS applications that make the benefits of cloud storage available to businesses of any size. Even better, like most SaaS applications, concerns like security, software updates, and management are handled by the provider.
Cloud storage and files sharing systems also integrate well with other applications. Now, your emails or ledgers or inventory database can be safely backed-up to the cloud, creating a more secure and higher-performant system for your business.
In addition to the aforementioned data backups and disaster recovery solutions, cloud file storage and sharing mean that employees can access key sales collateral or other valuable company documentation from any connected device. Now, if a customer asks for an invoice or a vendor requests the paperwork to set up your account, they no longer must wait for you to get back to the office to share that information.
How We Can Help
It is impossible to make growth a priority while keeping technology on the back burner. The right IT investments and implementation are the key to long-term success. The question is, what is holding you back from leveraging technology in awesome ways?
If the answer is that you do not know where to start or what to do next, TeraLinks can help.
TeraLinks has been serving small and medium-sized businesses for years, helping technology deliver on the promise of every organization. We understand that even though not every business is technology-focused, the underlying network, software, and devices are critical to business success. From security and software to modernization and moving to the cloud, our team can help you get the most out of your IT spending.
You don’t need an enterprise-sized budget to get great results. If your technology investments have historically been more of a burden than a benefit, our team would love to explore how we might be able to help. Contact us here to learn more about TeraLinks managed IT services.
Key takeaways on how small businesses are investing in technology to drive growth:
Technology can deliver a good ROI if used in the right places.
Focus on 5 key areas: Security, SaaS, mobile tools, easy-to-use AI, and cloud storage.
Benefits include increased productivity, improved efficiency, and less business risk.