6 trends shaping the future of small business
17 November 2015
3 min read
Small and medium sized enterprises, or SMEs, are under more pressure than ever to grow fast and outwit corporate behemoths - or risk getting swallowed whole.
Just look at the mergers and acquisitions activity over the past year. Deloitte says that North American companies are increasingly looking to Europe to build multinational empires, committing $147 billion as of this writing.
Despite this, as a group, independent UK small businesses are growing fast. According to research from Citrix, 33 percent of British SMEs have added employees since 2013. Of those, eight percent have grown by 50 percent or more.
The UK economy is on the upswing as a result. A study from the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) found that small business hiring returned to pre-recession hiring levels as of last year. As positive as that is, SMEs that hope to keep that momentum need to pay attention to the technology trends driving how business gets done. These six, in particular:
Getting information quickly is key to success in a fast-paced economy. Voice-activated "assistants" such as Microsoft's Cortana let you use voice commands for tasks such as checking email, setting reminders, searching the web or finding documents stored on a hard drive or in the cloud. Cortana goes the extra step by analysing speech data and device usage such as call logs, so that suggestions and alerts displayed are personalised to the user. It's available on Windows 10 PCs, tablets and phones.
For every 11 people in the UK there is one WiFi hotspot. Worldwide, that number expands to one hotspot for every 150 people. That's remarkable coverage when you consider how many places on Earth are still not online. Outfit your SME workforce to take advantage of increasingly fast wireless internet with HP detachables that use the faster WiGig standard to wirelessly dock to a keyboard or connect to a monitor when "hot desking."
Cloud computing isn't just for enterprises. Hundreds of millions of users have signed on to cloud services such as Microsoft OneDrive to store documents and OneNote to collaborate on documents and ideas with colleagues across multiple geographies. Give your team the tools to stay engaged - with clients as well as each other - and they will.
Working parents live double lives dealing with underlings at home as well as at work. Don't let their talent slip away just because they can't fit company tasks into the typical 9-to-5 straitjacket. Instead, outfit them with flexible technology that adapts to the workspace they're in. For example, HP's Elite Series convertible notebooks with Windows 10 can work simply as voice and touch-activated tablets when on the road, and reattach keyboards into PC mode when at an office desk.
The end of passwords
With the Ashley Madison breach highlighting a long list of high profile attacks, personal security has never been more important. Newer systems such as Windows 10 are going so far as to eliminate passwords entirely in order to keep sensitive data safer, testing password alternatives such as 3D face scanning. Other services such as Clef use a smartphone camera for two factor-visual login - the symbol on your computer must match the one Clef expects to see on your phone. That way, a remote hacker can't log in by cracking your security questions and stealing data at will. Whatever method you choose, make sure you know what data is important to your business, find out where it's stored and then secure it with the best technology you can find.
Apps drive engagement
Hundreds of millions of users have smartphones. They outnumber desktops and even tablets. In the UK, research says that 81 percent of users have their smartphone on at all times. Make sure your SME is accessible to customers who spend the majority of their time with apps - develop a company app where users can research, browse or buy your products or services. Prospective customers will be more likely to find you as a result.
UK small and medium sized enterprises are growing fast. But even the best-positioned companies are occasionally disrupted by emerging technology. Don't let that happen to your business -- pay attention to these six trends, and if you can, cash in on them.
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