2021 does not have a hard act to follow, does it? For many, 2020 was a year unlike any other for all the wrong reasons. Early signs are that the new year will bring new hope. Even if it starts off worse for many than the wretched year of 2*2*.
Many of the most successful business owners do not waste time looking back to what they cannot change. Their focus is always on looking ahead, often as many as five years into the future. Because they know they can change the destiny of their organization with careful planning now.
Staying competitive, sustainable, and profitable? That means investing in forward-thinking technology today. Tech that will cut costs, improve efficiency, ensure the business stays agile, relevant, and in a position to keep delighting customers.
But what sorts of technology are these forward-looking business owners looking at and investing in right now? This article features the latest digital tech that is trending and is destined to shape the success of small businesses in the future.
Do you want to keep pace with the innovators, and put your business in the best place to succeed long-term? Read about here about the digital trends you need to know about and be taking actions to implement right now:
Sorry haters of 2020! The year wasn’t a total waste of time for everything and everyone. If the year proved anything, it proved that digitization and has got what it takes to keep businesses and the wheels of commerce moving. Even at a time when almost everything else grinds to a halt.
When lockdowns forced the shut down of offices, retail outlets, and social venues, the world moved online more than ever. Not just for entertainment and shopping. But also for ways to keep those businesses that could maintain some kind of service, running. And automation played a huge part, helping businesses carry out tasks they would not otherwise have been able to.
Some organizations deployed bots and other automated technology to answer customer questions and queries. Many had done so pre-pandemic of course, but the uptake was bigger in 2020. And even more businesses saw the benefits of getting automated tech to carry out other manual tasks previously performed by humans. Expense management, file transfers, emails, spreadsheets, lead capture, to name a few.
Automation is here to stay. If it is not already, your business should be taking steps to adopt a digital transformation strategy in which automation is key. You just cannot ignore the money you will save and the freedom it will give your employees to focus on profit-generating tasks computers can’t handle (yet).
Recommended reading: The Benefits of Expense Management Automation
Another trend that is connected to automation is machine learning. As the name suggests, this is where tech detects and learns from patterns in data. Some of these patterns are too subtle or complex for us humans to spot with ease. Such patterns can be used to form predictive models for various situations and outcomes.
Still much a work in progress, the potential benefits of machine learning in saving businesses time and money are clear—and that’s key for future-focused business owners. Machine learning is destined to play a key role in cybersecurity (more about that later). Advanced data analysis could predict where future vulnerabilities in an IT system might be exploited by criminals, and suggest ways of preventing that happening.
Here’s another trending and transformative digital tool that is already being more and more widely adopted by businesses. It is changing the way documents are processed to such an extent, some predict that the OCR market will hit the $13 billion mark in the next few years. That is something to make any business owner with their eyes fixed on the future sit up and take notice!
So, what is the big deal with OCR? Put simply, it enables data to be extracted from a scanned document or image and converted into a format that can be immediately integrated into an IT system. This allows, for example, finance departments that apply AI workflow rules to automatically approve a transaction or receipt. OCR is also essential in expense management software if a payment is not directly imported through the use of a corporate expense card.
This removes the need for humans and making the process faster and error-free. OCR is likely to have multiple other uses for data-heavy businesses, making it a prime investment now and definitely ‘one-to-watch’ going forward.
Recommended reading: How To Choose Your Expense Management Software
This is more than letting an employee come in a couple of hours late after they have dropped off their kids at school. Much more. This is about letting employees not come in at all some days and work from home (WFH). Remote working is a technology-driven facet of business life that was transformed from a nice-to-have, once-in-a-while perk for the few to an essential for many in 2020. And it is likely to remain popular during 2021 and beyond. There is a growing call from employees to make WFH a part of every working week, pandemic or not.
Think about the benefits to your business. Happier employees for a start! And recruiting talent is no longer limited by geography. So what if your organization is based in Singapore (for example), but the best candidate is in Bangkok? Hire them. Let them work remotely. The tech exists for them to do so. Such arrangements will not work for every business, of course. But there are digital tools that will enable workers to at least spend some of their week working from home. And there is technology that makes it easy to monitor their performance remotely too.
Recommended reading: Guide to Managing Company Spend in the Remote Workplace
While a pandemic might limit social contact, it is no barrier to cyber-criminal activity. 2020 proved that, witnessing an uptick in cyber threats, inevitable perhaps as organizations moved more activities online.
Banks and other financial institutions suffered more than double the number of attacks than in 2019. Home networks did not escape the attention of the criminals either. Evidence that no one is safe, making the issue of cybersecurity all the more vital. So much personal and company data is stored online. Forward-looking business leaders know that as their tech is upgraded, there is a need to invest in their defenses too.
Recommended reading: Virtual Cards: Protection, Prevention and Payments
The groundless claims by some that 5G masts were responsible for the pandemic ensured some bad press in 2020. But it could not stop the uptake of this ground-breaking tech that promises quicker, more reliable access to the cloud. Many telecoms providers are already well into the roll-out of 5G, hastening the time when it becomes the mainstream way to access and benefit from cloud-based services and other advanced tech. As a business owner, you should already be looking at the role 5G is going to play in your company.
Big data is another keyword of our times, thanks to the huge increase in data availability in the cloud. It is estimated there will be 1 billion terabytes of data by 2025, an epic amount. And to benefit from it, businesses are going to need tools and software to store, analyze, and retrieve their share of that big data. Is your business ready?
Businesses are already benefiting from voice assistants with the power to react to voice commands and manage a meeting, order products online, book tickets for conferences, and control other devices.
Cortana from Microsoft is being integrated into business scenarios to allow users to carry out tasks such as accessing data, approving payments, and answering customers all by voice command. No keyboard required.
It’s easy to see how such tech is going to boost productivity and make business communications easier and quicker. And who cares if you cannot type 40 wpm? It does not matter anymore. Voice assistants are likely to have a major role to play in your business this decade, so what is your strategy?
While this article clearly champions the adoption of new tech into forward-thinking businesses, it is worth bearing a couple of points in mind:
With all this talk of machines and automation, it is vital not to overlook the important role the people in your organization will play in its implementation and use. Many employees will need to see the benefits a digital transformation brings before they are receptive. And it is up to business leaders to ensure digitization comes as a benefit to their employees, not a shock.
Don’t be blinded by the promotional blurb surrounding new software or an app. Look for peer recommendations and reviews, and carry out a cost-benefit analysis before migrating to any new set-up. Not all tech will be right for every business.
Keep pace with the innovators, and put your business in the best place to succeed long-term. Join the forward-looking business owners who have already opted for Volve’s future-proof corporate card and expense management software.
Volve’s corporate card comes with an automated expense management solution and reporting tool. This enables all functions of business to capture productivity growth potential from time-cost reductions, greater accuracy, increased visibility and control.
From sales to human resources to finance operations, management can look forward to shifting resources away from repetitive manual practices. People can focus on realizing strategic goals that create more value and deliver higher returns.
Experience how one single solution can improve accountability, accuracy and efficiency. Test drive Volve today free for 30 days.