Microsoft's head of World Wide Small Business sales recently published an article on relevant technology predictions for Small Businesses in 2015. This is an informative article that every small business owner and technology leader should read.
2015 is shaping up to be the year where cloud and mobile technologies become real drivers of small business productivity. Solutions will move outside the consumer realm, powered by well-known services like Google Drive, DropBox, Box, and One Drive. The business productivity solutions that best connect to those services will have an enormous impact with small businesses. They'll provide seamless solutions and enable business leaders to build their IT infrastructure themselves.
With this in mind, we want to share three recommendations to think about your 2015 tech investments:
1. Maximize Your Existing Infrastructure
One huge hesitation in making technology investments is that it always seems that the existing infrastructure is underutilized. The bad news for most technology vendors: it's probably true.
In all likelihood you may already be a cloud services customer through an Office 365 subscription or Google for Work license (if you are not, then 2015 is the year to evaluate and choose your cloud provider). The main providers of cloud services for consumer applications include storage and web applications that are highly valuable for small businesses. The trick lies in actually taking those benefits. Start by moving some business processes to the cloud-- it's simpler than it seems, and most of the time it means saving your files with the cloud provider in a synchronized folder in your computer.
Before you jump into another provider or upgrade your current licenses, evaluate what you already own and compare it against your 2015 goals. Some providers already have generous cloud storage and applications for collaboration that can fit your 2015 needs. It will be easier to grow once you have proven the fit of the cloud solution with your business; then evaluate new investments that work with your workflows.
2. Make Data Work for You, Not the Other Way Around
If you could only answer 5 questions about your business every day, what questions would those be? Are you collecting the data that allows you to answer those questions in a way that doesn't distract you from executing on what you learn?
A nice and shiny dashboard that doesn't give you any insights for your day-to-day and long term actions can be worse than no dashboard at all. The process of identifying the right data, collecting it, and then taking action on it in a cost-effective way is one of the biggest challenges for 2015, but one that you cannot ignore. We like how companies like the Small Data Group are thinking about the data approach for small businesses and teams. They think about data that is actionable, in the right scale, and that is truly enabling. Check their blog for more insights-- it's worth the read.
3. Simplify Investments
This is the era of "Bring Your Own IT". Team and businesses are building their own solutions trying to avoid slow deployments from a centralized office. The situation on its own is risky. For one, teams can grow systems that may not be capable of expanding into the broader organization. Data integrity and security is a valid concern, too. But the fact is, if employees are trusted and encouraged to find their own solutions, increased productivity becomes a likely byproduct. BYOIT is also a great way to learn what works in your business if you take action to simplify processes and avoid redundancy to justify the purchase of an underutilized cloud solution.
If your sales force is using certain solutions to track customers and update pipelines (and then manually plugging information into a CRM system), you can take this as an opportunity to reevaluate the needs of your team to be more productive. If you see a potential for the team to increase revenue by being able to use their own devices and applications, then find a way of simplifying the process, avoid the sunk-cost fallacy, and remove duplication by finding a way of making the team-preferred solution the actual CRM.
No matter what stage your business is in adopting cloud and mobile solutions, 2015 will be a key year to make the most of what you already own and truly define the type of data-driven business you want to have.
Given your current investments, what solutions are you planning to grow, and which solutions are you planning to leave behind?