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With technology advancing at pace, small businesses need to understand which innovations will help to support their business as it evolves over the coming years. It has never been more important for a small business to think longer-term when buying technology, which is why it’s vital that every small business has a view on what the future will look like and to plan accordingly, so that technology helps you to get there, rather than holding you back.

The speed of tech innovation is breath-taking. In recent years, we’ve seen the dominance of tablets over PCs, and the emergence of connected watches and a whole host of wearable tech, apps and cloud-based tools. In the months and years ahead, we’d expect to see a range of new technologies appear that are designed to revolutionise the way businesses operate and help employees become more efficient. For small businesses in particular, the challenge comes in distinguishing the tech trends that will support it in the longer term.

A business printer is a great example of evolving technology. Printers today can do far more than print; they can be intelligent, connected machines that are becoming office hubs in their own right, providing direct access to cloud-based sharing sites such as DropBox, or allowing for printing direct from smartphones or tablets. Even with a printer, the level of functionality your business will need over the coming years could change significantly. If you are buying a printer for the next two or three years, as the average small business plans to do , then you need to make sure you make the right decision. The same can be said of any technology choice. As a small business, you need to opt for a technology that will both meet your immediate needs and also support your business as it changes in the future.

The small business of tomorrow

We’re seeing a clear shift in the way that small businesses and their people are operating. Workplace cultures are slowly changing, in part down to new Government initiatives delivering more rights to work flexible hours and greater freedom for small businesses to operate from home. As such, the ’physical’ office is changing shape, with the prevalence of remote working resulting in smaller formal office footprints.

The habits of our employee habits are also evolving, to the extent that Gartner research vice president, Matthew Cain, has coined a new term, that of the ’business consumer’. He suggests that business consumers “often make more consumer-like choices in their workplace computing tools and styles to increase efficiency.” This could be anything from using their own devices (BYOD) or apps in the workplace – essentially consumer tools that they are most familiar with – to enable them to work more efficiently. As such, there has never been a better time to engage your employees in decisions about key IT purchases, to ensure equipment is both required and will be adopted by those that you need to use it most.

Positioning for growth

One of the strongest forces for change comes in the form of growth. If you are able to imagine your business on a path to growth, then you’re in good company. 74% of SMEs that aspire to expand over the next two to three years – according to the No Stone Unturned: in Pursuit of Growth independent report by Lord Heseltine. If you also consider that small businesses are also receiving record levels of funding (some ¬£1.25bn was lent to small firms in September, up 55% on the year before according to the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB)) as a result in a surge of new lenders on the market, then this growth really does start to seem possible. Technology can be a vital part of this process.

Every small business will benefit from forward thinking when it comes to tech investments. While technology is often seen in the most positive way – as a catalyst for growth – the wrong technology investment could suffocate growth in the longer term. That’s why it’s vital that every small business has a view on what the future will look like and to plan accordingly, so that technology helps you to get there, rather than holding you back.

Research conducted by B2B International, July 2014. Results based on sample size of 208 UK SMBs (1-10 employees).

Blog originally from Canon Business Bytes