Dec 09 2019

5 Small Business Tech Trends to Watch in 2020

From breaking down the barriers to AI to expanding data analytics, these are the business tools SMBs should look out for.

All businesses are constantly trying to become more efficient, but for small businesses, keeping costs low and productivity high is critical. For them, getting the most out of employee work and trimming the fat around operational costs can be the difference between being able to scale their business or being forced to shut their doors for good.

Luckily, technology continues to make that process easier. Advancements to efficiency-boosting technologies such as automation and data analytics are now more accessible to small businesses with limited IT staff resources. As technology continues to evolve, here are trends to be on the lookout for in 2020.

1. Business Will Deploy Artificial Intelligence as a Service

The widespread emergence of AI has been a boon for businesses. It’s helped organizations make sense of the seemingly infinite amount of data collected about customers, while performing basic tasks that free up employees for more complex work. But there’s long been a financial barrier to its benefits, one that’s being knocked down by the emergence of AI as a Service. Infrastructure as a Service has paved the way for cloud providers like Microsoft Azure to allow customers to use AI technology without having to invest in infrastructure, giving them access to machine learning in simple ways. Not only does it save small businesses money up front, but it also allows employees who don’t have a strong data or AI background to reap the benefits. Expect more organizations to take advantage of it next year.

2. IT Departments Will Expand Their Use of Automation

The growing uses of automation have helped organizations grow more efficient in meaningful ways. Automation is helping many IT organizations free up limited resources for more mission-critical problems. 

Security, data storage and data analysis are three areas in which automation could be particularly beneficial for small IT shops. It can be almost impossible for employees to manually review network logs for security issues, but platforms such as Microsoft 365 have automated checks built in that will alert users to irregularities. Automating data storage and backup can similarly save employees a lot of time and allow for more regular and uniform practices. There may be growing pains in adjusting to process automation, but the payoff can be lucrative. More small businesses will turn to automation to maximize efficiency.

3. Small Businesses Will Focus More on the Mobile Experience

A website simply isn’t enough for an organization anymore. As customers move away from their computers and to their smartphones and tablets, businesses across all industries have to make sure their mobile experience is up to snuff. Mobile apps can increase engagement, provide personalized marketing and establish an on-demand marketplace that customers have come to expect.

Some small businesses may see a mobile app as an extravagance, but there are services that are making app development more accessible than ever. Expect more SMBs to take advantage of these options as they look to grow in 2020.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Read about the top retail tech trends to watch in 2020.

4. More Small Businesses Will Harness Data Analytics

Data analytics are a must for every organization, providing a wealth of actionable insights, from internal information about how the business is running to customer data used for marketing.

Tools such as IBM Watson and Tableau can allow customers to gather and visualize all of their information to power business decisions and achieve organizational goals efficiently. Small businesses can outsource the process and deploy Analytics as a Service. With each person expected to generate 1.7 megabytes of data per second next year, the number of options for SMBs will only grow.

5. Small Businesses Will Utilize Blockchain Technology

Cryptocurrency — the most popular use of blockchain technology — is exploding. Decentralized currency isn’t just for black-market purchases or ransom payments to hackers; more and more, consumers are also buying in. The number of users on leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase jumped from 400,000 in January 2017 to an astounding 5.6 million by June 2018

Using blockchain can help businesses save on payment processors and maintain secure records of those transactions, but there are a lot of other ways the technology can be useful. The shared ledger for transactions can be helpful for transmitting financial contracts or data, and the built-in verification can keep it safe and accounted for, all without having to go through a middleman. As the technology becomes more accessible, small businesses stand to gain.

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