This week, Kiwi team members attended the first Business Technology Forecast event put on by our friends at AtNetPlus, a local IT leader. Not only did we learn what’s ahead for the tech industry, we also got to meet some great local companies that we’re excited to keep in contact with!
So, what did we take away from the event?
Looking at real-life examples, we learned what technology is needed for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to stay relevant and safe in today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven environment.
Maximize your Workday with Business Automation
Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are training consumers to expect a personalized experience. In 2018, expect B2B software to dive further into the next wave of AI, machine learning and, ultimately, mass “customization.” Software providers are not only using AI to automatically personalize the user experience, but they’re also making it easier for users to tailor their systems for their own unique business operations.
For example, when we log into Netflix, we know we’ll see recommendations based on titles we’ve already watched.
For SMBs, workflow automation tools are more readily accessible than AI and still deliver the personalized feeling that buyers have grown to expect.
For instance, marketing automation—like a series of follow-up emails—is now the consumer expectation, even if they don’t recognize that a technology is running “behind the curtain.”
For example, when someone wants to download an eBook, they expect to have to fill out a form to access the asset and for a copy to show up in their inbox. Or, let’s say someone wants to try a free trial of your software. They don’t want to wait for a sales rep to call them—they want to dive in immediately.
Building out automated workflows does require time up front, but once the infrastructure is in place, you’re letting the technology do the pre-sales nurturing for you. And, the automated workflows can also support your inbound marketing efforts.
Chris Finnecy from TrellisPoint emphasized that effective sales enablement is like a three-legged stool:
If one leg is missing, the whole stool falls down.
But, sales automation and enablement technology is evolving faster than ever, so it’s important to keep an eye on the tech that will make your team more efficient and your future clients happy.
Don’t have the time or resources to build out the workflows, emails, alerts and landing pages? You may want to consider an agency to help. (Psst…we’re here if you need us.)
The Next Generation of the Cloud
We’re sure you’ve heard of “the cloud,” but have you heard of “the fog?” Kevin Goodman from BlueBridge explained the differences between the sections of SMB infrastructure:
- The cloud: stores your data and SaaS applications off of your premises, making it accessible from any device, anywhere
- The fog : the storage node that is more accessible, but not onsite. The fog is commonly used for business-critical data that needs to be accessed quickly.
- The edge: the data and applications that are stored on site on your own devices.
For example, an insurance company may store sensitive client medical history in the fog at a local data center, but still back up to the cloud.
So, you may think twice next time you say, “just put it in the cloud!”
Backups are Vital
And, here’s a doozy! If you haven't considered it already, you may want backup your cloud to the cloud (yeah, you read that right). When data and your SaaS solutions are business-critical, you can’t afford to put all your eggs in just one basket.
Because cloud computing in constantly evolving, it’s a good (and easy!) idea to join online forums and social groups and follow key industry contributors to make sure you stay in-the-know.
Cyber Security in 2018
Michael Stovsky from Benesch Law gave us the scoop on the key cyber security and legal implications to be aware of in 2018.
Blockchain is already starting to steal the show. A recognizable form of blockchain today is found within crypto currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum. In short, blockchain is a vendor-neutral series of records that cannot be altered. IBM is actively promoting their blockchain R&D, and there are countless blockchain startups in the Cleveland and Akron region.
While blockchain probably won’t turn SMBs on their head this year, it’s time to start the discussion on how to use it. Blockchain will only become more prevalent overtime, and we’ll see it impact every industry.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
SMBs will also need to be aware of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), going into effect this spring. While the GDPR is a European regulation, it will affect businesses worldwide with vendors or clients in that region. The GDPR was designed to give power back to consumers. Previously, standard practices in the US, like buying or selling emails addresses, will be strictly forbidden under the GDPR. If you do any business internationally, even if you are just using international vendors, you may want to consider tasking your Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) with ensuring you’re in accordance.
Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs)
And, if your organization doesn’t already have a CISO, 2018 will be a good time to evaluate the need for this position for your unique business operations. Depending on the complexity of your organization and product offering, it may make more sense to hire a dedicated CISO vs. contracting a firm who specializes in information security.
Technology is already integrated into nearly every area of your business. The interconnectivity will only continue to increase, which means that the security of any single system becomes that much more important.
A big thank you to the AtNetPlus team for breakfast, good company and putting on a great event to share the latest trends in tech. We look forward to learning what will happen in 2019!