Every year Gartner releases a top ten list of small business tech trends that businesses should be exploring throughout the year.  Well, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and analyzed their trends to give you a short, candid review of what’s to come.  Overall there are some very interesting things happening, but save yourself some time, cut through all the hype, and read below to see what you need to focus on.

  1. Hyperautomation

    Basically, this is just the next step in automating tasks and processes within a business. It’s core distinction from every day automation is that it ties machine learning (ML) to the automation process.  Machine learning is simply feeding a ton of historical data into a piece of software so it can make some basic determinations.  If you “teach” the software about what happens in 500 sales meetings, it will be able to make some guesses as to what will happen in the next 100 meetings.  Leveraging that with a little AI to automate certain steps would be hyperautomation.

    Our Take:  As far as small business tech trends goes, this will have little impact on SMB’s.  Most work here will be from software vendors and large enterprises, and will trickle down to SMB’s as tools or apps. We recommend using the word hyperautomation to impress friends, but don’t spend much time worrying about this one.

  2. Multiexperience

    This is pretty much exactly what is sounds like, and most businesses are already doing this in some form or fashion.  Clients expect to engage with businesses in a number of different ways, and adjusting to provide those touch points are a part of normal operations.  The “Multiexperience” trend in this case is an expansion of that concept into more digital spaces, with more customized and personalized responses. You can see an example of this within Domino’s Pizza. They invested a lot of money to allow customers to order pizza in several different, hyper-convenient ways. The systems recognize who they are, and make the process quick and easy, without human intervention. Consumer experience always drives business expectations, so this will continue to creep into SMB’s, both B2C and B2B.

    Our Take: This will impact you at some point, but that really depends on your market.  B2C is already feeling this small business tech trend, while B2B is a little further out.  Take the time to learn about your customers experience with consumer equivalent services.  If you provide tax services to businesses, what are the B2C providers offering?  If you provide landscaping services, what are other on demand consumer providers adding.  This is worth your time to investigate.

  3. Democratization

    This, again, is pretty common, but apparently needs a new buzzword!  To put it simply, Democratization is making things simple! Take stock trading as an example.  Something that initially was virtually impossible for the average consumer to do is now as easy as point and click with an online trading site.  The same concept is happening with high-tech concepts.  Tools are being released to allow more people to develop applications without development training, or allowing them to better analyze data, or create a website.  All of these advances allow more people to take advantage of technology in new and creative ways, which is better for everyone.

    Our Take: Unleash your more technical team members on this small business tech trend.  Let them play around with new tools and software and build intelligence in this arena.  Try giving them business specific challenges and have them find creative ways to solve them.  The more experience that’s gained here, the more competitive advantages can be created.

  4. Human Augmentation

    This might be a little too science fiction for us.  Of course, there are things like augmented reality glasses and other cool new technology to help people do more, see more, and accomplish more.  But outside of a few niche areas, this is far away from mainstream for businesses.

    Our Take: We’ll keep microchips out of our heads for now, thank you very much.

  5. Transparency and Traceability

    Here we agree, for the most part.  Consumers are expecting more visibility into how their data is handled, shared, and exposed. But this is tied to a larger trend of consumers looking for businesses with consciences. People are cause driven and want to feel proud to tell their friends who they choose to do business with.  Again, as consumers experience it, businesses will expect it.  People make decisions after all, not businesses.

    Our Take: Take the six elements of trust to heart.  Build a culture that promotes and rewards ethics, integrity, openness, accountability, competence, and consistency.  Customers will follow.

  6. Empowered Edge

    Think IoT devices like your smart phone or Apple watch.  The empowered edge is just the recognition that devices are getting more powerful and more capable, and therefore can do more heavy lifting when it comes to collecting and processing data. The edge is basically the point at which the data is generated, and the empowered edge just means that more intelligent processing is happening closer to that point than it used to be because computers are getting smaller and more powerful.

    Our Take: This is a small business tech trend that will continue to happen.  More devices will come into the business and will do more work.  Make sure you have solid redundant Internet and update old BYOD policies.  Devices will come into the workplace – take advantage of this while protecting your business with better data security.  Don’t shy way from it.

  7. Distributed Cloud

    Currently when people talk about cloud, they generally mean public cloud like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure, or private cloud, which would be built and managed on-prem (at the business).  Some companies choose to use public, some others go private, and the ones that use both are considered hybrid. Some providers see this as an opportunity to create solutions that are the best of both worlds. New cloud infrastructure and equipment could be located at the business so they’re somewhat private, while the management and operations could be done by the provider, reminiscent of a public cloud.  You might already see this in some storage and backup “cloud devices”, with more likely to be released over the next few years.

    Our Take: Only a few businesses will likely need a service like this, and virtually no SMB’s. As public cloud adoption continues to surpass security concerns, businesses become more distributed, and edge devices get more powerful, the on-prem cloud will go the way of the dodo bird. Not much time needs to be spent investigating this trend.

  8. Autonomous Things

    I’m pretty sure everyone is familiar with the concept of autonomous cars – they’ve made the news continuously over for the last few years.  But autonomous vehicles have been around much longer that that. In fact, some factories have been using them for over a decade. The technology is actually becoming more and more mature, and this will continue.  The more powerful edge devices (see above) become, the more capable autonomous vehicles become.  They go hand-in-hand.

    Our Take: Expect this small business tech trend to continue, and even accelerate. Shipping and receiving systems, baggage handling, painting and other material handling industries have taken advantage of the most growth, but other industries and applications will follow.  Even B2C companies are exploring autonomous delivery vehicles, though that is still a bit early in the cycle to expect much.

  9. Practical Blockchain

    Blockchain is really just a distributed ledger that boasts immutability, decentralization, encryption and tokenization. Although the technology came from Bitcoin, it is now being tested in a number of different applications that need an immutable ledger of activities. Blockchain As A Service (BaaS) websites are popping up, allowing different industries and developers easy access to test new ideas. Some commercial apps have even been launched for things like shipping and chain of custody situations.  Although not much has happened commercially in the last 5 years, we expect to see some new apps and online systems coming out soon.

    Our Take: If your industry has any aspect that needs an immutable ledger of events, activities, records, etc.  you really need to investigate blockchain technology. Especially industries that are ripe for innovation like real estate, title companies, financial services, and transportation and logistics.  In the long term, distributed ledgers could sneak their way into general record keeping and communication, but it’ll be a while before that happens.

  10. AI Security

    Unfortunately, as technology advances, so do the opportunities for scammers. With the ability for scam artists to create hyper personalized fluid attacks at a mass scale, systems need to evolve to protect businesses. Companies need to evolve and advance to keep up and AI security is a new path towards that goal.

    Our Take: It’s no longer safe to rely on old security technology, and little to no security policies.  Companies need to take the time to build security policies and processes, educate employees, and utilize up-to-date security systems or security services organizations.  Data loss can be disastrous for a number of reasons, so spend time here understanding your risk and putting some safety measures in place to protect your business, employees, and customers.