Share this article
With drastic and far-reaching changes to working practices all over the globe, now is a great time to take stock of your business technology. Use the current climate as an opportunity to look at what’s working, what isn’t, and maybe try something new. Whether you’ve just launched your start-up or are trying to keep your business at the forefront of innovation, corporate technology is constantly developing.
Keeping abreast of the latest trends can sometimes feel like a daunting task for small business owners however. Knowing what to invest in, and when, can be difficult. To help you make the right choices, we’ve put together our list of business technology trends to watch for 2020. From 5G and virtual reality, to hyper automation and cyber security, discover the latest developments to protect, improve and ultimately grow your business.
1. The rise of 5G Data.
5G networks are launching all over the globe in 2020, opening up fast connections and download speeds like never before. This means that online interactions will become more instant, allowing small businesses to really capitalise on digital and video communications. The modern workplace is no longer limited to the confines of a traditional office building, and 5G offers greater opportunities for effective online interactions and file sharing.
Exploring the possibilities of this technology, the UK government has recently launched a £65 million fund for creative, rural and industrial organisations, inviting pitches for 5G plans. With faster speeds, greater capacity, improved reliability and wider coverage just some of the benefits – 5G is set to revolutionise businesses all over the world.
2. Explainable Intelligence (AI and XAI).
The acronyms continue apace, but the message for small businesses is that improvements in artificial intelligence will continue for 2020. Knowing where to apply this technology is key however – as sometimes a “human touch” is required. Despite this, automated marketing and chatbot technology are two particularly promising areas.
AI can improve customer experience and minimize employee workload, especially in relation to frequently asked questions and data-driven marketing leads. In the advent of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), XAI is also set to be the next buzzword. AI algorithms must now be fully eXplainable (the X-AI) on how our data is collected, used and shared. Investing in this technology now will ensure that your company is protected against potential problems further down the line.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR).
Although virtual and augmented reality are still often seen as a novelty, they are starting to make massive differences to many companies. Industries as diverse as health, education, design, and even the military have found incredible uses for virtual technologies. Psychologists have used VR in the treatment of anxiety and PTSD, whilst architects and estate agents have quickly adopted the technology for virtual plans and viewings.
With a mix of the real and the digital, augmented reality also offers opportunities for training staff in complex tasks before attempting the real thing. With all these possibilities, from marketing to public speaking, designers to health and safety officers, VR and AR technology has the capacity to transform both internal and client-facing workflows.
4. Cloud Computing Software.
This certainly isn’t a new trend for 2020, but cloud-based computing systems will continue to make great strides in the coming year. Put simply, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services (including servers, storage, databases, networking, software and analytics) over the internet allowing for faster, more flexible working and economies of scale.
Combined with the concurrent trend towards remote working, anything businesses can do to provide staff with greater flexibility will help productivity. Cloud-based software allows for marketing, sales and finance teams (to name just a few) to follow-up payments, chase leads, talk to clients and create collaborative campaigns anytime, anywhere. Expensive office rents can also be a substantial constraint for small businesses, but with the rise of cloud-based working, employers are better-placed to tap into top talent no matter their physical location.
5. New Payment Technologies.
As the social media giants continue to grow, it is likely that 2020 will see the rise of social commerce and transactions via platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. There are already moves towards this, such as Instagram allowing posts to be tagged with products and linked with e-commerce sites. Early adoption of true social/commerce integration could give small businesses the competitive edge however, with customers beginning to use social media similarly to traditional businesses websites.
In terms of payment technology, close attention should also be paid to developments such as Blockchain. With online security of greater concern than ever before, cryptocurrencies have made privacy and security the heart of their offerings. As this technology has matured, greater transparency and transaction speeds are available, further reducing business costs as third parties or intermediaries aren’t required to validate transactions.
6. Hyper Automation.
Time is one of the most valuable commodities for any business. Hyper-automation is one of the key solutions to this, and an important trend to watch for 2020. Whether its accounting software that automatically follows-up on invoices, or timed marketing emails based on customer data, capitalising on this technology will be crucial for small businesses.
Marketing professionals have particularly employed such software, as its capability to integrate website, email, web analytics, social posting and CRM systems massively reduces manual workload. With greater reporting technology, businesses will also be able to better predict market trends, visitor actions and demographics – ultimately allowing for greater insights, efficiency and profitability.
7. Cyber Security.
There is no doubt that 2020 will see continued, mounting cyber-attacks. These are especially directed towards businesses, making it imperative for any organisation, large or small, to stay vigilant. It is predicted that by 2021, attacks will cost $6 trillion annually.
Whilst the shift to online is great for business overall, it does mean that one weak link in the chain can bring down your entire company. There are many things that small businesses can do to improve their digital security however, such as investing in end-to-end encryption for any online point-of-sale systems, regularly updating software, training employees how to recognise malware and phishing, and if at all possible, hiring an IT expert.
8. Going Green.
Governments, businesses and individuals alike will all be under greater scrutiny and accountability when it comes to sustainability over the coming years. This is especially the case for technology companies, given that “digital pollution” is a growing problem. ICT and data consumption will account for a growing proportion of the world’s energy consumption. This means that 2020 will see more businesses applying tech-for-good solutions, such as permanently erasing emails/data to reduce carbon footprints.
Many businesses can also claim research and development (R&D) tax relief for projects involving eco-friendly initiatives such as using more sustainable materials, reducing waste or developing more fuel-efficient processes. With energy-saving measures rewarded and less environmentally viable practices increasingly penalised, this is a trend that small businesses simply can’t ignore.