Last week we looked at a number of ways in which small business technology will alter the landscape in 2018, with the help of some of the industry’s pioneers. Here are the other big developments that will revolutionise our sector in the next 12 months.
Big data will become truly accessible for small business
In 2018, we will see “big data” moving from being the preserve of the big businesses and corporates to truly being accessible to small business owners and advisors everywhere according to Richard Francis, CEO at Spotlight Reporting.
“Xero reports provide one layer of insight already, but the Xero API allows the likes of Spotlight Reporting to empower accountants and CFOs to give reports, forecasts and more to business owners globally. The extent and quality of data is growing fast whilst unit costs are falling – this is ‘democratising’ access and putting it in reach of all businesses in an affordable and easy-to-consume way,” Francis said.
Small businesses will surpass big corporations as the best places to work
As technology becomes more accessible, it will also make it easier for small businesses to offer employees flexibility such as remote working, and perks on par with bigger corporations. According to Mike Triantos, Head of Partnership Development at Gusto, this will see small businesses surpass big corporations as the best places to work.
“We see small businesses leveraging technology to offer comprehensive benefits to employees where previously this was not possible. With the use of modern software such as Gusto, or Guideline, small businesses can now easily administer employee savings plans, such as 401K and 529, as well as offer health insurance,” Triantos said.
The rise of artificial intelligence will lead to better decision making
We see a rise in robots (think chatbots, not the Terminator) coming in 2018 that’s going to change how businesses can get insights and make smarter decisions, according to Vaughan Rowsell, Founder at Vend.
“In retail for instance, this means more artificial intelligence being integrated into back-end systems, which can provide retailers with real-time tips and advice based on their current sales data and activity, which may suggest running customer promotions or reordering popular stock. At Vend we recently ventured into this space with an in-app smart assistant, called Dott, and we’ll be seeing more of this tech in 2018,” Rowsell said.
Data = gold
Guy Pearson, CEO at Practice Ignition, ties together how some of the biggest trends in tech including big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and moving to the cloud, will come together to see the accounting industry go through a period of rapid change.
“We’ve seen a shift the world over, with banks, software and even tax departments releasing APIs allowing SMEs to connect and centralise data from all sources for analysis. Now it’s time to put it to work! In 2018 we’re going to see the impact of this smart data.
“A humanised interface (AI) will be searching your big data from your cloud-based systems and looking at what decisions you’ve made in the past (machine learning) to suggest the best outcome. Process workers are to be replaced by systems and we’ll get closer to the mainstream adoption of connected systems in SME and the accounting sector. We’ll finally be crossing the chasm of cloud-connected systems. It’s such an exciting time to be in business as we see the accounting market going through a year of rapid change! Finally,” Pearson said.
Governments will provide incentives for small businesses to adopt cloud technology
Xero research shows that 87 per cent of SMEs in Singapore use business-productivity software. This is one of the highest rates in the world, and reflects ongoing government support for small business, including a new program announced in 2017, SMEs Go Digital, providing funding for productivity software and implementation services.
We’ve seen the investment by the Singapore Government pay off with cloud adoption and productivity gains for small businesses there. Around the world, governments recognise that a vibrant small-business sector is the backbone to a healthy economy, but many business owners are slow to adopt tools that generate efficiencies and growth.
In 2018 we expect to see more governments provide incentives to drive technology adoption, and ultimately productivity growth, in the small-business economy.
Nick Houldsworth, GM Ecosystem, Xero