Invest in these five technologies now and watch your small business go from strength to strength in the future.
Planning and establishing your business is an exciting time. It takes a lot of energy to even get an idea off the ground - so much so that people often don’t put much thought into what happens when their business goes through periods of growth.
Do you have a plan in place for when you expand your market to a new region, win a new client with a lot of business, or introduce a hugely successful product line? In a matter of weeks, you might need to double your staff, ramp up your production and transform your office space.
This guide will help you plan for growth and set your infrastructure and workflow up for success in the future. Best of all, as a small business or start-up, you’re in the best possible position to adopt new technology and use it to transform your entire business: you’re smaller, more agile, and not tied down with old systems and programs that are incompatible with emerging trends and tech. Let’s get started below with the five essential technologies you need to grow.
The five technologies you need to grow
The cloud isn’t a new technology, but not enough businesses use cloud services to their full potential. As a network of online servers that remotely hosts your data, the cloud is accessible anywhere you have an internet connection. It gives you the ability to scale your business across multiple offices or even countries, which is the dream enabler for flexible working.
Cloud storage is also expandable, meaning a sudden increase in resources would be instantly scaled. If you provide technical services for example, then no matter how many people access your services at any one time, you can use remote servers scale to accommodate the extra capacity. This means you need to negotiate a deal that matches your requirements – if you sign a contract with a finite amount of storage space or bandwidth then you can be charged extra for going over.
AI and machine learning
We generate a huge amount of data in the world - so much that it’s almost impossible for humans to properly analyse it to discover tangible information. A business that generates a lot of customer data, for example, could benefit from running that data through AI and machine learning to process it and give you invaluable insight into how, when, where and why your customers buy.
AI has been around for a long time in various forms but it’s now coming into its own in the form of chatbots. This affordable form of AI has been programmed with text recognition and preset responses, becoming an automated customer service agent. Just one chatbot could increase the capacity of your customer service team tenfold, freeing your team up to focus on higher value tasks, instead of the daily grind of processing hundreds of queries individually.
Broadband is the backbone of many businesses. Imagine running a business without the internet – it’s unthinkable. Many small businesses start out using a personal broadband connection, but as you grow beyond a couple of employees, such a connection isn’t really fit for purpose any more.
Upgrading tobusiness broadbandgives you a faster and more reliable connection. Not only that, as your business grows you can talk to your provider about increasing the speed of your connection, and whether a private line with less lag, or latency, could benefit your productivity and service to customers.
Other benefits of business broadband include dedicated service from customer service teams – you’ll spend less time waiting on the phone, and engineers will be dispatched faster should you have a problem - which means the impact on your staff and your customers will be minimised. Another benefit of taking business services from your broadband provider is getting access to their expertise in managed IT services, extra security and business apps.
Customer Relationship Software (CRS)
CRS helps you keep customer contact information organised in one place. So, when you’re looking for a software supplier, make sure their solution integrates with your existing marketing software. That way you can create an automated marketing cycle in which all of your data points are linked to your CRS, which will then be able to send emails based on customer behaviour and look for opportunities to cross-sell. It’ll save you time, make you money and free up employees for more creative and strategic tasks. But be warned - though the free versions might seem tempting, they don’t offer the same long-term scalability or ability to customise as paid options.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things is a technology which connects devices to each other, enabling them to perform more actions. This could be anything from remotely turning on your boiler when you’re 30 minutes from home, or triggering targeted messaging on a customer’s phone when they walk within range of a sensor.
Businesses can benefit from connecting their devices involved in the supply chain or manufacturing stage. For example, IoT enabled shelves which connect to inventory records could mean your purchasing becomes more focused, waste is lessened and you’ve freed up the valuable time of the person who previously managed the time intensive task.
As a business grows, adding more and more people and devices to a network, even the best leaders and owners can lose sight of key touchpoints. Having IoT connectivity helps keep track of everything and allows for a level of automation that stops things from slipping through the cracks.
Your business might be small and perfectly formed, but with the right preparation you’ll be able to set the groundwork for great things in the future. For more tips on technology, running a successful business, and much much more, take a look at our other Insight articles