The beginning of a new year is one of those occasions when humanity collectively pauses and reflects. This past decade has seen such rapid adoption of new technology that it’s not unreasonable to claim that the past 10 years could be the most significant since our ancestors started to record history. Nowhere has this impact been greater than for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Technology has leveled the playing field
The rise of mobile platforms and B2B tools has leveled the playing field, making it possible for startups with limited resources to compete with their larger competitors and work as equals with large corporate clients.
Online conferencing shrinks the world
To work internationally companies no longer need satellite offices in different cities. Online tools make it easy to jump on a quick video call with a customer in Paris or the US or a colleague working from home in the same city.
Customer experience is king
Affordable tools provide the data analysis businesses need to improve customer experience (CX) and increase revenue and profits. Organisations and individual staff members can now make decisions based on real data, rather than on assumptions or trial and error.
Empowered employees improve the workplace
Online communities now make it easier for people to research the culture of a prospective employer, to compare workplace stories with employees in other companies and to get the support they need with online tools. An empowered workforce has great potential to create a better, more productive workplace.
What’s next? The decade ahead
So what’s in store for the next decade? As the pace of innovation continues to soar, we’re already beginning to see adoption of new technology that could have even greater impact on the next 10 years. There seems to be a shift, though, away from technology for technology's sake towards the end result: how innovation can help organisations focus on greater business goals. Instead of asking: ‘What can the technology do,’ people are asking ‘Why do I need this technology? What can it do for me?’
Virtual and augmented begins to impact business
Over the past decade personalised experience has inched its way into our online lives. Smartphones are the norm. In fact, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t carry one of these small personalised computers in their pocket, tracking their steps, managing their calendars and connecting them to the people in their lives at all times.
Virtual reality (VR) takes this personal experience a step further, often using mobile technology, to allow users to step into their own digital world. Augmented reality connects users’ real-world environment to this virtual reality.
This all sounds like an elaborate form of entertainment but we’re already beginning to see the impact on business in training scenarios, prototyping and design and customer service. Innovation that further links VR to practical applications could be a big growth sector for this decade.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning shifts
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (MI) have the potential to radically transform business in the next decade. However, this will be the decade where the hype is separated from reality. For example, radical medical discoveries enabled by AI will only be as transformative as the practical day-to-day application of treatment available. Self-driving cars are trending in the media, but an upswell of public opinion could shift this innovation towards a different goal, for example, creating low-cost, zero emissions vehicles.
The internet of things could combine with AI
From cars to watches, to smart homes, the internet of things (IoT) is everywhere. Gartner predicts that 20.4 billion IoT devices will exist this year. This number is expected to increase exponentially over the coming decade. Futurists are predicting a whole new boom in this area: the artificial intelligence of things, combining AI with IoT.
To benefit from these opportunities businesses will be challenged to develop strategies to address possible barriers such as costs, security concerns and new legislation due to changes in political climate.
Meeting the expectations of empowered employees
The next generation of workers are digital natives in every sense. Gen Z, often called Centennials, have been exposed to technology from a very young age. They tend to be technologically proficient with an expectation for high-quality content at all times. They may have less tolerance for uninteresting or stressful jobs and will expect a better life-work balance. This will bring new challenges for leaders in the workplace.
Micro-automation fills the gap
So how can SMEs navigate the minefield of cost vs resource vs need?
Many of the barriers of implementation of large-scale transformation can be addressed with micro-automation. By reframing automation, away from resource intensive technology, such as AI and IOT, micro-automation makes automation accessible to all organisations, no matter what the size.
With online automation solutions, such as AUTTO, SMEs can automate day-to-day business processes within an hour. Routine tasks that may seem simple but in reality cost a lot in time and resource can all be automated, with no technical expertise needed. Tasks such as HR onboarding, approval processes, creating and signing contracts and NDA’s and regulatory compliance processes can easily be automated, giving staff time to prioritise tasks that provide the products and the service that can transform a business.
Using simple automation in this way can revolutionise working practices.