For years now, technology has been helping small businesses close the gap between larger competitors. As our society becomes more and more digital, that technology is only getting better — which is a very good thing considering the labor shortage we’re only getting deeper and deeper into.
Small business owners who are looking to attract and retain employees, grow their business and set themselves up for future success are paying attention to these five big tech trends of 2020.
1. Mobile connectivity and collaboration tools
Did you know you can bundle your email, phone system, instant messaging, video calling and conferencing system into one cloud-based application? Many small businesses are getting rid of a bunch of disparate systems that all need upgrading at different times — which sometime even break integrations — and are instead using one inclusive system.
For example, Microsoft’s cloud voice brings all these features into Microsoft Teams and integrates them with the Office 365 tool set, which means your employees can make phone and video calls, send instant messages, share files and more with one app on their phone. Whether they’re onsite with a client or working from home, they can stay connected with coworkers and other clients and use the same features they have access to on their desktop in the office.
The cloud is doing a lot to change traditional workforces, but it’s for the better. Cloud-based ERPs, CRMs, financial solutions and business intelligence solutions all connect your employees and further enable a collaborative and mobile workforce. This is a huge benefit for small businesses who don’t have access to a large talent pool in a metropolitan area. With the right cloud-based technology, they can ensure the same experience for employees in the office and at home, allowing them to attract and retain high-quality talent anywhere in the country. And to top it off, working from home has proven to make employees more productive.
Read more: 5 tips for being a more effective mobile worker
2. HCM software
Speaking of enabling a mobile workforce, human capital management (HCM) software is incredibly useful for recruiting, hiring, onboarding, timekeeping, payroll, open enrollment, and other vital HR functions. And that applies to both employees and contract workers.
Employers will find big retainment benefits to using HCM software. It makes employees’ lives a lot easier by letting them clock in and out electronically, track and request PTO, view paystubs, update information, and go through open enrollment — all from one application.
For new hires, it makes the onboarding process much smoother. Applying to a position, signing an offer letter, providing employment information, and going through training is all done on one application, electronically, from the new employee’s home.
Then there are contractors. Over 50 million Americans now generate some or all of their income from gig economy work. Using HCM software helps you recruit a stable of freelancers across the country and even keep track of their skills so they can be brought onto appropriate projects.
As more and more Americans become freelancers and the U.S. falls deeper into a labor shortage, small businesses are realizing how much HCM software can give them a competitive edge — and that’s why it’s a top tech trend for 2020.
Read more: How streamlining human capital management improves your business operations
3. New cybersecurity methods
As technology grows ever more important to our personal and business lives, so too does cybersecurity. Cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated. It’s not even that difficult to buy equipment off the internet and start hacking local businesses.
Upgrading cybersecurity with new tactics won’t just be a 2020 trend — it will be a necessity. A full 60% of small businesses fold within six months of a successful cyberattack. There isn’t a no-tech alternative here. In this digital age, business have to use internet-connected technology to grow and succeed. So your only option is to minimize as much of your risk as possible through effective cybersecurity measures.
The newest cybersecurity method out now is managed detection and response (MDR). MDR combines the latest monitoring technologies with artificial intelligence and specially trained personnel. It identifies and analyzes threats, removes false positives, acts to isolate real threats and responds effectively to an attack. Best of all, MDR isn’t out of a small business’s price range, making it our third 2020 tech trend.
Read more: 10 essential ways to protect your business against cybercrime
You probably didn’t expect blockchain to make this list, but its real-world applications continue to grow.
Using blockchain, businesses can exchange goods and services with greater security and lower costs. It can be used to verify identity, execute agreements, automate business processes and record transactions. For example, smart contracts use blockchain to automate the payment workflow. When one party provides a service, the smart contract triggers payment automatically, eliminating the need to invoice and issue payment.
Blockchain could have a big impact on supply chains, litigation, raising capital, transferring titles, and even creating a universal identity. Small businesses should keep an eye out for applications they could leverage.
Read more: Blockchain for small business: Stay alert for changes ahead
5. Digital transformation
Digital transformation is something small businesses are looking to achieve in 2020, for good reason. Small business owners are watching as companies that innovate and introduce new value make established but static companies irrelevant.
Digital transformation is a strategy where leaders re-envision existing business models and adopt a different way of using people, data and processes — all to create greater value for customers. It uses technology to engage with customers, empower employees, optimize operations and transform products/services.
Essentially, when you use technology to save your employees time, streamline your processes, collaborate more effectively and use data for decision-making, you put your business in a better position to grow and take market share. But it may mean significantly changing the way your business does, looks at and thinks about things.
Read more: The keep-it-simple approach to digital transformation