With people beginning to head back to work after Christmas and New Year, we asked each of our columnists to share their thoughts on the small business technology trends they think owners should be prioritizing in 2020.
‘The top priority for SMEs should be to get their approach to recruitment right! With 1 in 3 new hires failing to pass probation, SMEs are getting hit, unnecessarily, for £000s a year. By harnessing technology and shifting your focus to the flexible workforce, you can start the year with a competitive advantage.
‘Unlike in the traditional workforce, the freelance workforce doesn’t suffer from a skills shortage. Rather, it’s ripe with highly skilled talent. The benefit of hiring freelancers is added flexibility and agility in the face of turbulent times and access to specialized skills. Going into 2020, we’ll see work being increasingly focused on specific projects rather than roles. That’s why freelancers can give SMEs that competitive advantage. Online marketplaces are a great place to source for this kind of flexible talent. Look for marketplaces utilizing AI to do the matching to make sure you utilize the most efficient and accurate tech solutions out there.’
All those ‘digital’ things that they have been putting off in their businesses because they just didn’t consider it a priority should now be addressed and brought up to date. Website, communications, admin software etc. All these things that can now be streamlined should be. It’s really just about understanding what technology can facilitate and then going about making a plan to make it work for you.
Your website is now not only just a brochure but can be working for you and your business while you sleep. If you get it right! If your website is not up to date and not representing you in the best light then you could be losing business you didn’t know you could get. Our competition is just one click away. Make your website updates a priority for 2020. Be the best you can be out there and make sure that your best clients can find you.
Once your digital world is planned, coordinated and in place, business life will be so much better.
Technology has certainly evolved at a rapid pace in the past twenty years. These days, businesses and consumers alike enjoy the use of Web-based innovations that make their lives easier. There is no denying that each day brings a new invention that aims to change the world.
As an SME owner, you know that it’s vital to evolve with the world around you. But which technologies should you be using? And are there any worth investing in to make your business more competitive in 2020?
Here are some of the most significant innovations in technology that you should consider for your SME:
Gone are the days where your business would need to invest in expensive IT equipment. Cloud computing reduces upfront costs and offers flexibility as your SME grows.
Examples of scalable cloud computing services worth considering include:
- Microsoft Office 365 (email and productivity software);
- Amazon Web Services (data storage and computing power);
- Dropbox (file storage and collaboration);
- Skype (messaging and video conferencing).
Augmented reality (AR)
AR is an innovative and practical way to help brands engage with audiences. IKEA, for example, offers AR apps to help consumers visualize furniture for their homes.
Using machines for repetitive or data-led tasks frees up humans to carry out high-value work. Automation technology helps many SMEs to increase productivity and efficiency.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is a useful tool in converting leads into customers. Many e-commerce sites use AI to “guess” what other products consumers want to buy. For instance, Amazon’s AI on their website helps customers decide which products to buy. Plus, it also suggests product combinations based on previous purchases.
The problem with priorities is that the low ones never get done until they start damaging the business – by then, it’s often too late to tackle them. For an SME, the highest priority is usually to get orders – so tasks like upgrading equipment, redesigning websites, reviewing service contracts fall by the wayside. It is important to mix in low priority jobs in the work schedule.
Looking to 2020 IT specifically, the last three years have seen a big swing away from in-house IT infrastructure to hosted Cloud services, made possible by low-cost, high-speed Internet, and a massive increase in the range and availability of Software-as-a-Service.
Priorities for 2020 should be to review your use of dedicated applications (eg MS Word) and email and look at replacing with Cloud-based offerings. Similarly, if you use an in-house telephone system, consider changing to a Cloud-based PBX.
There are some downsides to moving to the Cloud but the major upsides are no capital outlay, automatic software maintenance and the freedom to scale up or down very quickly. In all cases, make sure you understand how the Cloud provider uses your data. Keep IT understanding up to date and don’t forget marketing and HR.
With 50% of searches predicted to be screenless by 2020, voice search should be part of your wider search strategy if it isn’t already. With traditional text based search, ten results are returned and if you happen to rank in any of those positions, you’re in a position to drive traffic to your website. With a screenless smart speaker, just one result will be returned so you’re either the voice result or you’re not in the game. To capitalise on the growing number of voice based queries, it’s important to ensure that you have the correct strategy in place to maximise your visibility in places such as featured snippets and Google My Business which the Google Assistant uses to help surface information for its users.
Voice search typically involves long-tail, specific queries of a conversational nature and with Google’s recent roll out of BERT, we should start to see more accurate answers as a result of Google’s ability to better understand natural language and the way in which people search with voice. Thinking about the tone of your content though, ensuring that it satisfies user intent and trying to work out why certain webpages have gained featured snippets will always be a good use of time (a study carried out in mid-2019 showed that around 60% of all voice results returned by the Google Assistant were derived from featured snippets).