Investing In These Technologies In 2020 Is A Do-Or-Die For Small Businesses: Experts Predict

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-- By Baishakhi Dutta

As business models become more complex, it becomes essential for small businesses to re-evaluate and adopt technologies that can boost productivity and drive performance. Decision-makers of small businesses can utilize this report to identify the top five technologies that they should adopt in the coming year, understand why they should invest in them and how their businesses will be benefited.

Technology evolves quickly and it’s not always easy to acclimate to – especially for small businesses. According to a survey by AT&T, 75 percent of small business owners are eager to embrace new technology, but 30 percent of them find it hard to adopt. The report suggests that while many small businesses feel they are not in the position to adopt such costly trends, a brave step towards investing in such technologies can make small business big. The question is – 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 will potentially transform the business landscape in 2020, and consequently, help them make informed investments in those technologies as required.

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Classifying a business as a small business is dependent on its location, sector, nature, employee strength, revenue and so on. While the definition changes along with these parameters, we will accept a standard definition of a business with revenue less than $10 million and employee strength less than 100 as a small business globally for this report.

Referring back to the survey by AT&T, it found that 38 percent of small businesses are late adopters of technology – major reasons being lack of resources, limited budget, fear of being dependent on technology, integration concerns, among others. But behind these curtain of ‘reasons’, what the small businesses often tend to miss out is the ‘need’ to adopt emerging technologies to stay abreast in the changing market.

Top 5 technology predictions
2020 is just one month away. Whatever tools and technologies helped small businesses sail through 2019 might not be enough to bring success next year. It is the right time for them to re-evaluate their requirements, analyze 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  (fig. 1), we found the top five technologies predicted to bring the highest business value in 2020. They are:

  1. The Internet of Things (IoT)
  2. 3D printing
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  4. Robotics
  5. Cybersecurity

In this report, we take a closer look at how these technologies will derive maximum profit for small businesses.

(Fig. 1, Top Technologies for small businesses as predicted by experts from five research firms)

1) The Internet of Things
In 2015, there were roughly 15.4 billion connected devices, and according to IHS research, this number will reach 30.7 billion in 2020, and 75.4 billion by 2025. This clearly depicts the exponential increase in demand and involvement of IoT in businesses. This wave of connections has affected the way we live and work. It is 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 a small business owner can derive from this technology? Well, the answer is many! According to IDC, IoT, powered by cloud technology, helps small businesses to store valuable data securely, analyze it, and develop solutions that improve user-experiences. Leveraging the IoT provides small businesses access to useful consumer information which helps them create tailor-made marketing and advertising campaigns for consumers. This bridges the gap between consumers and enterprises, accelerate a product’s time to market, and also helps businesses to develop products or services their consumers want.

With IoT, small businesses can easily track and manage projects to help them effectively manage 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 monitoring of employee performance and provides specific data that can help companies improve their business operations, states the research team of Counterpoint. Mention not that in today’s technology-driven world, IoT can provide significant benefits to small businesses across all industry verticals.

2) 3D Printing
3D printing is a technology that is making it possible for small businesses to compete with big businesses. 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 your company. Having one can help you save up to 70 per cent on operating costs, suggests a recent report. This is a significant part of any small company’s income. 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 $550 billion annually by 2025, according to a report by McKinsey & Company. This indicates the parallel growth in demand of 3D printers in the coming years. 3D printer manufacturers are designing more compact and cost-effective market options, which will enable small businesses to adopt and start using the technology without further doubt, opines techARC.

Hence, the importance of 3D printers to a small business should not be overlooked at all costs. These gadgets make it possible for you to experience cutting-edge technology while expanding your business at the same time.

3) 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, is what the majority of the leading research firms in India states. Many small businesses cut costs and provide a great customer experience with artificial intelligence applications. techARC 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 depicts the expansion of the global AI market from $9.5 billion in 2018 to $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 leverage the capabilities of AI and greatly improve the performance of different departments.

4) Robotics
It’s high time to break the myth that robots are meant for big organisations with high budgets. Small businesses can leverage the innumerous 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 candidate 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 is what a leading industry influencer of a robot manufacturing firm has commented.

Bringing in robots 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 sincere manner.

The industry stalwart is of the opinion that the introduction of collaborative robots, or in short, 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 vicinity, and in turn, stops on its own to avoid collision. In simpler words, these are safer as well! All these abilities coupled together make robots a perfect addition to any growing innovative or entrepreneurial firm.

(Fig. 2, Top 5 technologies for small businesses – Why adopt?)

5) Cybersecurity
In terms of cybersecurity, there are two types of businesses: one is a victim of cyberattacks and the other is a company that has not yet become prey. When it comes to the latter, small businesses and startups are the most gullible targets! If given a slight chance, hackers will use their techniques to devour small businesses in no time, suggests techARC.

IDC suggests that it is critical for small businesses to discuss with cybersecurity experts and take advantage of IT services that will secure their networks. Small businesses should ensure that they have the appropriate practices to quickly detect malicious activity and reduce the risk of security breaches. To make the most of investment, 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 an IT infrastructure. In addition, such investments will help organizations become competent enough to withstand competition and survive in hostile markets.

The time is ripe
In today’s fast-paced world, small businesses must incorporate appropriate technologies to their business processes in order to sustain themselves and move ahead. In this environment, adopting new technologies must become an integral part of their business strategy. The forerunners of this change have already started depicting competitive advantages over their peers. Hence, putting off technological adoption at this point might prove to be detrimental as competition soars with every passing day.

Major contributors:

  • Aroop Zutshi, global president and managing partner, Frost & Sullivan
  • Navkender Singh, research director, IDC India
  • Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst, Counterpoint Technology Market Research
  • Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst, techARC
  • Pradeep David, general manager-South Asia, Universal Robots

Data and statistics contribution by :

  • Report by Forbes
  • Report by McKinsey & Company
  • Report by Tractica
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