Business needs change all the time and the tech savvy pay attention to ever-evolving technology, adapting and improving their processes at the same pace as IT trends allow. Even if your business can’t embrace every new change that comes along, it’s important to keep up with the conversation so you understand the opportunities out there and where the next operational transformation or competitive advantage might lie. Here are some of the biggest trends to make waves in the last 12 months.

Paying is getting easier

Credit cards and PayPal are already old hat as mobile payment solutions like Apple Pay and Google Pay flood the market. Uber-convenience has taken cards out of the equation, allowing consumers to do more with the click of a smartphone button.

Returns are just as simple and receipts are going straight to email, making transactions paper-free end-to-end.

It’s a business-led tech trend that started out with relatively low consumer adoption, but we’re seeing a constant stream of business (big and small) announce their support for the new payment system, which will only drive customers to go the same way.

Security is a must

A business would never leave its offices unlocked at night, but a lacklustre approach to digital security amounts to much the same thing. To that end, a rise in data protection breaches have compromised millions of records worldwide containing everything from medical records to social security numbers and bank details. The upshot of which is tighter governance around data protection and the consequences for failing to comply, in the shape of the imminent GDPR regulations.

What many businesses don’t realise is that email isn’t always secure, employee mobile devices are often unprotected, malware is a constant threat, VoIP phone systems are not always encrypted and some websites have gaping holes that allow data to seep through the cracks.

Caught up in the excitement of adding new technology and the opportunities it creates, security can sometimes be an afterthought and it’s only when something goes wrong that businesses and customers sit up and take notice.

The good news is that software companies are working round the clock to create solutions that will close the gaps and ensure systems are adequately protected.

Encryption that protects resting data and information on the move, mobile device management and efforts to contain hackers are just some of the on-site and cloud solutions that have been developed, giving security the attention it deserves. Which means it’s just a matter of finding the solution that’s right for your business.

Embedded communications are making inroads

Unlock any mobile phone and you’re likely to find Skype and WhatsApp front and centre. With billions of downloads and users rising every day, there’s no doubt they’re huge successes, but they require users to open a dedicated app and that’s what Real-time Communications (RTC) and the emerging embeddable communications standard are trying to change.

Millions of internet users the world over rely on their smartphone to get online. As a result, we’re seeing more click-to-call buttons appear on websites, devices and even stand-alone machinery like ATMs. These allow customers who have questions or those experiencing difficulty to connect instantly with customer service, access step-by-step help or watch trouble-shooting videos.

Amazon Kindle and Bank of America have been early adopters of this kind of technology, taking customer service to another level. Until more recently, it was reserved for big companies that could afford it but new tech companies are changing that with affordable, embeddable solutions already available for almost any business with an app, making it a trend that’s sure to catch on.

Connected devices bring real-time updates

Inventory is a necessary evil that can be time consuming, manual and can end up costing a business money if it’s not done correctly. So, it was only a matter of time before technology took on the challenge to improve stock management software.   

The commercial world is one of instant gratification. If customers can’t find what they need within a few clicks, there’s a strong possibility they’ll move on to the next provider, with availability trumping brand loyalty or service excellence.

That’s why we’re seeing companies who move a lot of stock lean on software that self-reports when inventory is running low, haulage companies with trucks that self-track and products and machinery that notify users when they need to be refilled or serviced.

It’s smart on every level, with sensors collecting and sending real-time data, allowing businesses to avoid any breakdown in the chain of demand and supply.

Employee wearables evolve further

This trend started with the tablet, giving employees access to information on the move, like stock availability, price changes, delivery times and so on.

The trend has evolved further with wearable devices that provide real-time data for employees and employers, making their way on to the shop floor.

Companies like Hitachi are testing its functionality at every level, using it to collate information on everything from where their employees spend their working hours and who they talk to, to the distance they stand from each other.

They claim to use it for insight into how their corporate employees interact, but you can see the opportunity it creates - offering information and data on pretty much anything business owners want to test in an effort to make their operation work better and faster.

As with the dawn of every new tech development, businesses are still figuring out how wearables are best utilised, but there’s no doubt we’ll see a rise in their use in the coming years.

The cloud is taking over

Whether they realise it or not, almost every business uses the cloud for some or all of its business and the benefits stack up, with connectivity to other systems, reduced maintenance and mobility among the pros cited most often by advocates.

In the last few years we’ve seen widespread adoption of cloud computing and it is anticipated businesses will start to complete the process and move what remains of their systems from servers to hosted solutions.

Used properly, the advantages are undeniable and make the case for start-ups to old guard corporates to take the plunge with the promise of:

  • Cost efficiency
  • Huge storage capacity
  • Reliable back-up and data recovery
  • Automatic software integration
  • Easy access to information
  • Quick deployment
  • Easier management

For most businesses, it’s not a question of whether to go with a cloud solution, but how quickly they can make it happen.

The very nature of tech trends is that there’s always a new ‘latest thing’ or fresh buzz on one development or another. You won’t need or use them all, but keeping a finger on the pulse will help you stay in the know and you’ll be there when the right one for your business makes its debut.

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