As business models become more complex, it is essential for small businesses to re-evaluate and adopt technologies that can boost productivity and drive performance. Decision makers of small businesses can use this report to identify the top five technologies that they could adopt in the coming year, understand why they should invest in them, and how their businesses will benefit from this.
Technology evolves quickly and it’s not always easy to adopt it or adapt to it – especially for small businesses. According to a survey by AT&T, 75 per cent of small business owners are eager to embrace new technology, but 30 per cent of them find it hard to do so. The report suggests that while many small businesses feel they are not in a position to adopt such costly technologies, taking the brave step towards investing in such technologies can make a small business big. The question is figuring out which of these technologies will drive business success, going forward. This report will enable decision-makers of small businesses to identify the top five technologies that could potentially transform the business landscape in 2020, and consequently, help them make informed decisions on which technologies to implement.
Classifying a business as ‘small’ is dependent on its location, sector, nature, employee strength, revenue, and so on. For this report, let’s consider a standard definition of a small business as one with revenues less than US$ 10 million and an employee strength below 100.
Referring back to the survey by AT&T, it found that typically, 38 per cent of small businesses are late adopters of technology – the major reasons being lack of resources, limited budgets, fear of being dependent on technology and integration concerns, among others. But behind this curtain of ‘reasons’, what the small businesses often tend to miss out is the imperative need to adopt emerging technologies to stay abreast in the changing market.
Data and statistics
Top 5 technology predictions
2020 has arrived. So whatever tools and technologies helped small businesses sail through 2019 may not be enough to ensure success this year. It is the right time for them to re-evaluate their requirements, analyse the trends and adopt the technologies that can set the stage for more productive and fruitful business outcomes.
Based on our survey of research analysts from a number of technology research firms (Figure 1), we shortlisted the top five technologies that are predicted to deliver the highest business value in 2020. They are:
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
- 3D printing
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
- Cyber security
In this report, we take a closer look at how these technologies will deliver maximum a profits for small businesses.
The Internet of Things: In 2015, there were roughly 15.4 billion connected devices, and according to IHS Research, this number will become 30.7 billion in 2020, and 75.4 billion by 2025. This clearly depicts the exponential increase in demand and the potential for IoT in businesses. This wave of connections can affect the way we live and work. It will be more evident for small business owners whose life and work are often intertwined. IoT can actually help small business owners streamline processes and increase productivity.
So what benefits can a small business owner derive out of this technology? Well, the answer is many! According to IDC, IoT powered by cloud technology, helps small businesses to store valuable data securely, analyse it, and develop solutions that improve user experiences. Leveraging the IoT provides small businesses access to useful consumer information that helps them create tailor-made marketing and advertising campaigns for customers. This bridges the gap between consumers and enterprises, accelerates a product’s time to market, and also helps businesses to develop products or services their customers want.
With IoT, small businesses can easily track and manage projects to help them effectively oversee their inventory processes. In addition, devices that support IoT allow employees to collaborate, work and share information seamlessly, wherever they are. This technology helps better monitor employee performance and provides specific data that can help companies improve their business operations, the research team of Counterpoint has reported. And in today’s technology-driven world, IoT can provide significant benefits to small businesses across all industry verticals.
3D printing: 3D printing is a technology that is making it possible for small businesses to compete with big ones. This technology can help a small and upcoming business to produce prototypes of almost any type of product.
The cost of buying 3D printers has been declining over the past few years, making it an affordable asset for a small company. Having one can help companies save up to 70 per cent on operating costs, suggests a recent report. When using these high-tech printers, less manpower is required. This allows employees to focus entirely on other areas of production, thereby increasing their productivity. In addition, having your own 3D printer means you don’t have to outsource product development to third-party manufacturers.
3D printing, a subset of the modern additive manufacturing processes, is predicted to have an economic impact of US$ 550 billion annually by 2025, according to a report by McKinsey & Co. This indicates a parallel growth in the demand for 3D printers in the coming years. 3D printer manufacturers are designing more compact and cost-effective options, which will enable small businesses to adopt the technology more easily, opines techARC, a research firm.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning: For many small business owners, the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be a formidable challenge. Nowadays, turning a small business into a mature data-driven company may be easier than you think – at least that is what the majority of the leading research firms in India state. Many small businesses cut costs and provide a great customer experience with artificial intelligence applications. The techARC team is of the opinion that if applied in the best possible way, AI tools can support small business owners, who can create very successful operations across a range of business functions, including product development, sales, customer service and marketing.
A report by Tractica predicts the expansion of the global AI market from US$ 9.5 billion in 2018 to US$ 118.6 billion in 2025 – indicating a huge boost in demand from companies. Fortunately, for companies with limited budgets, the decision makers do not need to break the bank to start incorporating machine learning (ML) and AI into their operations. By rolling out small-scale solutions and leveraging off-the-shelf solutions, small business owners can effectively benefit from the capabilities of AI and greatly improve the performance of different departments.
Robotics: It is high time to break the myth that robots are only meant for big organisations with massive budgets. Small businesses can leverage the numerous advantages that automation has in store. The inability of robots to feel emotions (such as boredom) or physical sensations (fatigue or pain) makes them the ideal choice for carrying out repetitive and strenuous tasks and screening large amounts of data for hours without feeling tired. Moreover, robots won’t make any errors if programmed properly, industry insiders claim.
Introducing robotics doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to cut down your employee strength. It simply means that you get to elevate their job titles. Automating all monotonous tasks will allow your employees to perform their assigned tasks in a more productive manner.
Industry stalwarts are of the opinion that the introduction of collaborative robots, or cobots, have made things easier as small businesses can invest in them for 1/10th the price of actual robots, and deploy them for precision tasks or load-lifting activities. More importantly, these robots are highly sensitive to human movement in close vicinities, and stop operating on their own to avoid collision. So these are safer as well! All these capabilities make robots a perfect addition to any growing innovative or entrepreneurial firm.
Cyber security: In the cyber security domain, there are two types of businesses: one type comprises the victims of cyber attacks and the other includes companies that have not yet fallen prey to online predators. When it comes to the latter, small businesses and startups are the most gullible targets. Given a chance, hackers will use their techniques to devour small businesses in no time, suggests the techARC team.
IDC suggests that it is critical for small businesses to interact with cyber security experts and take advantage of IT services that will secure their networks. Small businesses should ensure that they put in place the appropriate practices to quickly detect malicious activity and reduce the risk of security breaches. To make the most of investments, business decision makers should choose the most cost-effective solution that can solve multiple problems at one go.
Simplifying business operations is the biggest advantage that small businesses can achieve by deploying the latest IT infrastructure. In addition, such investments will help organisations become competent enough to survive in competitive markets.
The early adopters of these technologies have already started exhibiting competitive advantages over their peers. Hence, putting off their adoption to a later date may prove to be detrimental as competition soars with every passing day.