Technology Solutions: Getting Your Small Business Back to Normal
2020 has been quite a year!
The global pandemic has changed every sector of our society, and small businesses have been significantly impacted. Because of the recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, we are not out of the tunnel yet, so 2021 will continue to be a time of transition and evolution. Some things will stay the same. Power over Ethernet (PoE) continues as a technology backbone of IT networks supporting small business priorities and the development of IoT.
In 2021, however, those small businesses that can not participate in digital transformation and the technology involved, will not keep up. According to Businesswire:
The corona pandemic will only accelerate these trends as organizations look to leverage technology to manage through the crises and better position themselves for the eventual recovery. At the core of these developments are what are collectively called 3rd platform technologies, comprising cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data technologies, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), AR/VR, blockchain, 3D printing, robotics, and next-generation security technologies.
The technologies listed in the Businesswire quote above, particularly when combined, are significantly changing how we make our money. In this article, we will take a look at some of these trends.
Forrester predicts that in 2021, companies will step up their digital transformation. Users need all crucial work data available on any device at any time. It is imperative that small businesses continue to adopt collaborative software, customer relationship management (CRM), and other software applications that users expect on their devices.
- Small businesses need to be looking for client-facing technologies that directly impact customers. Here are some examples:
- Zocdoc is an app that enables you to find a doctor in your insurance network and get a same-day appointment.
- Restaurants are implementing digital menus and touchless payments. Chipotle has gone as far as to launch the first digital-only restaurant.
- Electronic payments highlight the value of digitization as businesses get better access to customer information and census data.
Robotics and Automation
When you think of robotic process automation (RPA), you may conjure up visions of metal and lasers. However, RPA is not Star Wars; at its core it is a piece of robot software that reduces the number of repetitive tasks a user needs to do to a computer by imitating those actions.
RPA tools can get rid of routine tasks, such as timecard management or data entry. This technology frees up employees to engage in activities that increase productivity.
Researchers at Forrester predict that the RPA market will grow from $250 million in 2016 to $2.9 billion in 2021.
These days and clearly into 2021, customers go to digital-purchasing first—buying everything from groceries to furniture and even cars online. Here are four cardinal rules to follow if you want to succeed in this arena:
- Keep it personal: Customer’s needs and interests must be paramount.
- Use Chatbots to increase customer contact: Even though chatbots are not human, with the right tools, your customers can still feel their interaction was personal.
- Use cloud-native software for remote working: The pandemic has taught us we can work almost anywhere. Cloud-native software makes work easier for your employees and can also improve customer engagement.
- Focus on mobile integration: Customers love to cuddle up and do business from their phones. According to Statista, by the end of 2021, almost 73 percent of eCommerce sales will be made from a phone.
Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Extended/Mixed Reality
Let’s start with a definition. According to IDTechEx:
The basic definition of these terms are as follows:
- Virtual reality (VR): this replaces reality with a completely new 3D digital environment.
- Augmented reality (AR): this overlays digital content on top of the real world.
- Mixed reality (MR): adds superimposed digital content that superficially interacts with the environment in real-time.
In 2021, reality tools will play a larger role in education, healthcare, commercial, and industrial settings as companies continue to engage with their customers.
IDTechEx also points out that with the limiting of physical interaction due to COVID-19, virtual communication and interplay will be the norm for many years. They predict that the market will be $30 billion by 2030.
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet. These services include analytics, databases, intelligence, networking, servers, software, and storage. The cloud benefits are numerous and include cost reduction, efficiency, data security, scalability, mobility, disaster recovery, and control.
After some softening in public cloud revenue growth rates in late 2019, the pandemic turbocharged the market by mid-2020, and Forrester now predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion in 2021. Alibaba will take the number-three revenue spot globally, after AWS and Microsoft Azure. Buckle-up—the cloud ride is taking off . . . again.
The need to protect information confidentiality is paramount and will be a continuing concern for small businesses in 2021. With privacy-enhancing computation, organizations can share data discretion. Privacy-enhancing computation features three technologies that protect data while it is in use. The first technology provides a safe environment where sensitive data can be processed or analyzed, while the second processes the data in a decentralized fashion. The third encrypts the data for transmission.
Small business owners are beginning to realize that big data and the associated technology is not just for large corporations. This term describes the large volumes of information that a business creates while performing its normal operations. Disorganized, raw data is not very useful, however, if this data is cataloged, it becomes easily searchable, and a business can obtain a wealth of information that will give it an edge over its competitors.
The need for big data has been amplified by the pandemic and will be a business trend for 2021.
According to Statista, by the year 2025, there will be 2.61 billion 5G subscriptions. If your small business is not currently taking steps to prepare for this fifth-generation wireless technology, you better get on board. 2021 is the year the first real-life 5G use cases will go into production, and many 5G-capable devices will hit the market.
Ecommerce, omnichannel, and brick-and-mortar businesses with an online presence will benefit significantly from this ultra-speedy technology. 5G will also allow small companies to add more IoT devices, such as alarms, printers, shipping trackers, and inventory control tools.
What other small business technology trends will 2021 bring?
This may not seem like the best time to make business transformations for the future. Indeed, the next several months will not be easy, but with the vaccines now being administered, the end of this horrible pandemic could be near.
Per a recent McKinsey study, it seems likely things for our globe will be back to normal by quarter three of 2021. Now is the time to think about not just how your small business will survive the next few months, but how you can position your company to thrive in the next ten years.
Find out more about Versa Power over Ethernet Technology.