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Spotlight on Small Business Technology Trends for 2017

24 Mar 2017 by Michael Lazar

What small business technology trends should you be watching as we head into 2017? The short answer is: As many as you possibly can. But since we can’t all be Superman, it’s wiser to stay focused on burgeoning trends that can help us keep our businesses a step ahead.

We live in an exciting era where small business technologies are literally evolving before our very eyes. New technologies are seemingly revealed on a near monthly basis, making it even more difficult to stay abreast of what’s new. As we round out yet another record year in technology, the following trends are among the best of the bunch.

Microsoft is reshaping the small business office

As one of the leading providers of SaaS (Software as a Service), Microsoft has become a mainstay for small businesses. In the official Microsoft blog, several emerging small business technology trends to keep an eye on in 2017 are highlighted:

  • Visual and condensed data
  • Mixed computer-to-human experience
  • Augmented and virtual reality technologies
  • Cloud computing
  • Instant translation technologies in chat
  • Business health monitoring
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

Cloud accessibility will become the norm.

An SMB Group white paper explains that while the cloud is still “hazy for SMBs,” cloud solutions are already being widely used by these entities. Their 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study finds that a drastic increase in cloud usage – ranging from collaboration to file sharing and Everything as a Service (XaaS) – will become the new norm by the end of this year and beyond.

A Microsoft infographic gives us even more insight on just how many SMBs are using the cloud. An estimated 9.6 million businesses are currently using cloud-based services, with 98% of them saying it’s a critical factor to their success. Between 2009 and 2012, cloud usage for SMBs grew from 14% to 35%. According to Figure 1, Cloud-based services grew by 13.5% in 2015, generating nearly $1 billion dollars in revenue.

A bar graph showing the market growth forecast for public cloud services worldwide from 2011 to 2020.
Figure 1

As we enter 2017, cloud computing will become the mainstay for SMBs. A Forbes report predicts that U.S. companies will spend an average of $1.77 million apiece on cloud over the next four quarters. What’s more, by 2018, at least 40% of SMBs will rely on cloud services with an on-premise system. Larger companies, those with 1,000 or more employees, are predicted to spend $10 million or more on cloud services. Moving forward, the leading trends in cloud, as projected in the 2016 Cloud Computing Executive Summary, include data and analytics.

Distributed, co-creation outlets will become new SMB marketing trend.

SMBs are finding new ways to market and thrive, and one of those methods is via co-creation. According to McKinsey & Co, it’s one of the top small business technology trends to follow into 2017.

“Recent advances in open-standards-based computing (for example, computer-aided-design programs that work well with other kinds of software) are making it easier to co-create physical goods for more complex value chains in competitive markets.”

A Trend Watch report concurs, and agrees that co-creation can span the gambit between large and small to medium-sized entities. They list five reasons why.

These include:

  1. Status and people helping spread the word about something they took part in creating.
  2. The quality guarantee and word-of-mouth that comes from the “bespoke” approach.
  3. A popular way to find the best candidates for the job, especially in a small business.
  4. Making a brand fun, engaging and popular.
  5. The possibility of co-creation innovators earning accolades or a financial reward.

A variety of technologies are helping these businesses create such outlets. They range from CRM systems to social media enhancement technologies, custom applications, customer service software solutions, polling services and more. And they all share some commonalities: For the most part they are cloud-powered and nearly all of them fall under the Everything as a Service (XaaS) classification.

Small business technology spending will skyrocket.

Small businesses are spending more on technology, says a report by Aabaco Small Business. Over the past five years, spending has increased by a healthy 10%, primarily in the office technology area. Over 500 small business owners were asked what the primary driver was behind this increase in spending. The simple answer was that they were “less stressed” about the state of the economy.

Only 42% of those surveyed “felt stressed” about the current state of the economy, a 16% decrease since 2013. Of those surveyed, 62% were already using cloud services, while 38% said they’d consider small business technology spending on new hardware and services. Just 20% were interested in upgrading mobile devices, while 13% wanted to invest in new desk phones or VOIP services.

As we look ahead to 2017, think tanks are making big predictions. A Fortune report highlights this, showing that business tech spending is set to increase by 6.7% this coming year, accounting for $2.1 trillion overall. SMBs will account for a healthy percentage of this overall spending, too, and will underscore the most import trend to look out for in 2017: Increased spending and modernization of computing and digital infrastructure for businesses of all sizes and scope.

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