Staying Ahead of the Curve: How Small Businesses Can Keep Up with Tech Trends
A study by McKinsey & Co. found that the crisis over the past two years has resulted in, on average, companies accelerating their digital adoption by as many as seven years. At the same time, the speed of digitization of internal operations, and customer and supply chain relations jumped by three to four years.
These advances may not have been as readily available to small businesses before, but digital advances such as 3D printing, VR, and remote collaboration have now become more accessible and attainable to smaller enterprises.
"To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices," according to the article.
So, how do small businesses navigate this quickly evolving digital environment and leverage technological tools to their best advantage?
In this article, we explore this accelerated advancement that is evening out the odds for small businesses that can quickly adjust to the digital landscape. Additionally, we'll share tips for determining which tools and technology make the most sense for your company.
In a recent Verizon survey, more than three-quarters of SMBs stated that they had either included or improved technologies that supported connectivity since the onset of the pandemic. Additionally, nearly two-thirds have shifted to incorporating digital, online operations.
The rise in digital adoption by more small business owners may be attributed to the belief that technology is a game-changer in success. For 65 percent of small businesses, data shows that these investments in digital operations are paying off with increased revenue compared to before the pandemic.
Avoid Being Overwhelmed: Tips to Stay Ahead of the Tech Game
Keeping up to date with the newest technology is essential to running a small business as it helps you remain competitive, retain employees, and meet evolving customer needs. Still, time is precious when you're a small business owner wearing many hats, and determining which latest software or tool is right for your operations can be overwhelming.
But the bottom line remains. Adopting these strategies, whether it's reskilling your employees with digital skills or investing in artificial intelligence software such as chatbots to reduce staffing costs, is critical in finding growth opportunities. And more businesses agree. According to the U.S Chamber of Commerce, 84 percent of SMBs shared they use at least one major digital platform to relay information to customers.
To help you gain an advantage in keeping pace with technology, here are some curated tips:
- Find the Tools that Work for Your Unique Business. There are still many small businesses that aren't accessing the available tools and apps. One way to avoid getting lost in the technological maze is to look for ways to lessen the burden of narrowing down digital solutions that best fit your operational and productivity needs. The good news is that you can partner with advisory services to guide you to the most logical and helpful software applications.
- Keep Up with the News. You don't need to be an IT expert, but knowing what technology tools and software are currently available is necessary. You can stay on top of the news by subscribing to blogs such as TechCrunch, The Verge, and Gizmodo. Podcasts, including Accidental Tech Podcast, Black Tech Unplugged, and This Week in Tech are also resources that provide expert advice.
- Consult Your Stakeholders. Your employees are a valuable resource for discovering what technology is missing to serve your customers better. Don't forget to reach out to your customers and vendors, who may provide helpful insights on the technological changes they've experienced, which may impact how well you keep up with their needs. These communications will allow you to gain knowledge, bringing more revenue opportunities.
- Reskilling Your Team. The tech worker shortage has made some companies turn inward, instead focusing on reskilling their existing IT staff. A recent survey showed that 42 percent of human resource and workforce learning professionals expect new efforts to reskill and upskill current staff. Keep in mind that the objective should be to align your efforts with the technological tools you plan to use in the long term. Additionally, align those tools with sought-after IT skills. Currently, the most popular IT skills are in the following categories: infrastructure, development, cybersecurity, and analytics.
High Stakes, Even Higher Payoff
According to the Verizon survey, SMBs will continue to make the following adjustments in digital solutions:
- 72 percent say they will add or have plans to include IT/technical support services
- 68 percent are looking to invest or have plans to invest in application development service
- 77 percent have added or upgraded technologies that support connectivity, including web conferencing tools, high-speed internet, and increased bandwidth.
"From increased efficiency to reach revenue goals, ultimately maximizing their business strategies, small and midsize businesses are taking advantage of the solutions available to them today and seizing the opportunity to grow," according to the report.
Small businesses must sharpen their tech skills as the competitive space becomes tighter. Don't make the mistake of letting your vigilance in this space lapse, as you'll risk being left behind.