The world of business changes so quickly that it can be difficult for small businesses to keep up. Successful entrepreneurs need to know how they can get moving.
Whether it’s using technology in new ways, adopting agile processes, understanding new pieces of software or protecting your business from sophisticated cyberattacks, small businesses must be on the ball when it comes to adopting new ways of operating.
This isn’t about copying the crowd – it’s about keeping up and making sure you’re prepared for the year ahead.
Take a look at the trends likely to impact your small business in the coming year.
Although small businesses might think they’re immune to online attacks, the figures suggest otherwise. According to Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, there has been a steady increase in cyber attacks on businesses with less than 250 employees in the last five years. In fact, SMEs were victim to 65% of ‘spear phishing’ attacks in 2015, in which hackers attempt to pass off malicious information-gathering emails as legitimate.
The nature of cyber attacks is changing. With major governments now using cyber as a tool for warfare, small businesses and other services have the potential to become targets. In the UK, for instance, over 90% of attacks target SMEs.
Earlier this year, the Australian government announced that the real impact of cyber crime could be $17 billion annually. Any business that holds private information, whether you’re selling retail goods or partnering with government services, could become a target.
That means in 2017, small businesses should spend a lot more time focusing on securing their business from attack.
Harnessing the Power of Big Data
Small business owners have probably heard of ‘big data’, but they may struggle to understand how such massive changes could impact small enterprises.
More businesses are adopting data platforms that allow them to capture huge amounts of information. According to Gartner, global revenue in business intelligence and analytics will grow from US$122 billion in 2015 to US$187 billion by 2019, an increase of more than 50% over five years.
By 2020, it claims, predictive and prescriptive analytics will gain 40% of net new investment in the industry, so business intelligence software will be a worthwhile investment.
It’s becoming more important for small businesses to start using low-cost tools and dashboards to plug in and figure out what their users are actually doing. Those businesses plugged into data will be able to make more accurate, informed decisions – and leave the competition in the dust.
Email Will Start to Disappear
The rise of business communication tools is eliminating email from the workplace. Some companies are already trying to get rid of email altogether. Take team communication apps like Slack, for instance. The company claims its usage reduces email by nearly half and is now one of the fastest-growing software tools around.
Expect to see more growth of these tools. As companies adopt them, the expectation that you’ll do the same to polish your internal processes will grow.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction. More companies are using AI and machine learning to create tools that actually become better at doing what they are designed to do. They are being used in everything from your smartphone to support sites to automating tools like small business accounting software.
A recent MIT Sloan Management Review article found 76% of businesses with more than $500 million in revenue said they are targeting machine learning for higher sales growth.
It won’t stay at the high end forever. Expect to see more businesses adopting machine learning and AI at the small business level in the year ahead.
The Growth of the Gig Economy
Most businesses would already be aware of the growing trend of remote workers, and may even manage a number of people who work from home. But there’s another trend that’s growing in popularity alongside it – the growth of the gig economy.
On-demand services like Uber are allowing more people to create careers that work according to their schedule. A 2016 report from the Ai Group found 32% of Australia’s workforce had participated in freelancing between 2014 and 2015. That number is expected to grow, with 63% saying they plan to freelance in the future.
This trend coincides with more businesses slimming down their internal processes and needing less to do more. Instead of hiring more full-time employees, businesses may determine that freelancers are more appropriate.
Not only does it save costs, but it makes your business more flexible. In response to the increase in freelancers being used in the workforce, companies such as Intuit have developed apps and software such as QuickBooks Self Employed which will help contractors and sole traders to manage their expenses and automatically track their mileage with ease.
The business world is changing quicker than anyone could have anticipated. Small businesses have an advantage to move faster and make more informed decisions than those at the top.
Small businesses need to harness the power of these trends and adopt them to ensure their business doesn’t just survive in 2017 – but thrives.