Technology is constantly evolving and innovation sits high on the national economic agenda. But what has really changed for small businesses? When push comes to shove – when you’re contending with summer holidays, kids underfoot, skeleton staff, seasonal opportunities and taking the time to look toward 2017 – what technology evolutions can you lean on to make this summer even better than the last?
Let’s take a look at some of the key changes you can leverage:
The rise of the cloud
What is it? The adoption of cloud technology. We’re moving away from site-dependent systems into accessible, connected platforms.
How has it changed this year? Cloud technology itself is nothing new. But the changing level of its uptake is — and that’s significant for small business. “In the short run, at least, the biggest change in cloud computing may be on the human side rather than the technological,” Business Insider recently reported, following an interview I had with them about next-wave innovations. “More and more aspects of society are subsumed into it — from word processing to storage and even taxation.”
Why does it matter to small businesses and their advisors this summer? Mainstream adoption of the cloud works in favour of small business. They can thrive off its nimble, flexible and connected ecosystem. As the cloud becomes a ubiquitous part of life, small businesses can more easily connect to others. They can leverage rich sources of data, manage remote teams, collaborate with advisors and use an ecosystem of business apps – from anywhere. Who doesn’t want that flexibility during the summer season?
The benefits will only grow with demand. The number of connected devices is expected to grow from 7 billion now to upwards of 50 billion by 2020. And as Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon Web Services told The World Today, “Almost anything that draws a current will eventually become connected to a network.”
Direct daily bank feeds
What is it? Bank feeds let small businesses and advisors automatically import account transactions into a cloud accounting service, like Xero, from their bank or other financial institution. Once bank feeds are up and running, you no longer need to download and import bank statements to get transactions into your accounting service.
How has it changed this year? It’s easy to gauge the current pace of change when you consider that some accounting services still only offer monthly bank feeds. Soon, Xero will have access to daily direct feeds for some 100 financial institutions in Australia, meaning it’ll be connected to 98% of the banks that Aussie small businesses prefer to bank with. This technology shift is happening right now.
Why does it matter to small businesses and their advisors this summer? We have started to expect bank feeds as a standard feature from our bank — in real-time, anywhere, on any device. Consider the impact that this transparency can have during a period of change, such as the summer holidays, when typical sales trends may be upended. Already, you’re looking at access to more accurate business insights and a broad range of financial services. My advice would be to see if your institution supports bank feeds, and see if it saves you time.
The evolution of app ecosystems
What is it? The evolving collection of third-party apps that integrate into one key operating system — like the iPhone App Store or the Xero App-Marketplace, for example.
How has it changed this year? The beauty of third-party app ecosystems is that they’re always evolving to respond to market needs. No matter your industry, from retail to construction, or the type of help you’re after, from CRM to time tracking — you can find an app to give your business some extra muscle. This year, we redesigned the Xero marketplace to make it even easier for small businesses and their advisors to find the right app for their unique business needs.
Why does it matter to small businesses and their advisors this summer? Whether you’re engaging in seasonal-specific activities that alter the business apps you require or taking the time to focus on your reports, figures and processes in the run up to 2017, you want choice. Xero customers can choose from more than 500 time-saving apps for business. Don’t like it, found a better one or don’t need it anymore? Change it. The idea is to build the ecosystem that works best for you.
Emerging technology partnerships
What is it? Sometimes technology exists that can solve your problems, but it doesn’t integrate well with other existing systems. This creates a the barrier to achieving what you want. Technology companies can change this with key partnerships that power-up their service.
How has it changed this year? A good partnership reflects a current need, which means a lot can change in a year. Take Square, for example. Xero expanded its long-running global partnership with Square to Australia this year, making it easier for small businesses to accept card payments wherever they are.
Square’s technology enables businesses to sell to anyone, anywhere with a card. That means in-store, at a pop-up market, or on the side of the road. By integrating with Xero, a small business doesn’t need to manually enter data or ensure their accounting lines up with their point of sale. It’s all there at a glance.
Why does it matter to small businesses and their advisors this summer? No matter what your summer strategy is, newly connected technology offers opportunities and efficiencies that are worth investigating. Whether your summer strategy is to set up shop at a Christmas market and use Square and Xero, or you’re going to sit down and work out your plan of attack for the year ahead.
As summer draws in and business conditions shift, prepare yourself for the year ahead. Try using some of the latest time-saving technology to your advantage.
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