Digital trends every business owner needs to watch
Bill Bennett reviews six of the newer technologies impacting on the post-pandemic business world, and answers the question: how relevant are they to your business? Digital tools didn’t have all the answers, but when the Covid pandemic first arrived technology adoption leapt forward five years in a matter of months. Overnight, businesses that had never […]
Bill Bennett reviews six of the newer technologies impacting on the post-pandemic business world, and answers the question: how relevant are they to your business?
Digital tools didn’t have all the answers, but when the Covid pandemic first arrived technology adoption leapt forward five years in a matter of months.
Overnight, businesses that had never even tried video conferencing suddenly depended on it. Retailers who had previously been slow to move online, opened web-based stores in a matter of weeks.
New ways of working, trading and conducting business have settled in. Your customers and clients now have changed needs and a fresh set of expectations.
The underlying technology you need to run a business is the same as it was before the pandemic, although it may now be faster, smarter and deal with more data. Yet while the underlying technology is familiar, the ways the world is using technology is changing.
Here we look at some of the newer technologies that you may hear about and wonder where they fit into the owner-operated business world.
Facebook is so committed to the metaverse that the company changed its name. Now known as Meta, the business hired thousands of software engineers and is spending billions of dollars to build its own metaverse. Facebook, or Meta, is not alone; other technology giants are pouring money into the same idea: building giant online virtual worlds where people can interact and conduct transactions.
If the metaverse sounds like science fiction, that’s because it is. The idea and the name first cropped up in the 1992 novel Snow Crash. People would leave the real world and live other existences in that digital world.
The plan is that a metaverse will be like a giant online virtual reality game. You’ll be represented by an avatar that is able to travel around digital landscapes, chat with people, shop, watch movies and do most things you can do in the real world.
One day this three-dimensional landscape could replace the two-dimensional Internet we know today.
However, it is still a long way from happening. The metaverse requires infrastructure that doesn’t exist and more processing power than we currently have. If it arrives, it may not be in the form that companies like Facebook are talking about today. You don’t need to worry yet about setting up shop in the metaverse, but it is something to watch.
Should it take-off, you’ll probably need to be there.
Non-fungible tokens or NFTS
An NFT is a record or invoice that uses a blockchain to prove the holder owns a piece of digital art or some other item. A blockchain is a digital ledger that can’t be tinkered with but can be inspected.
The idea is that the NFT gives a buyer exclusive ownership of something that is easily copied and shared on the Internet. This has always been difficult in the past. Someone holding an NFT has the prestige of owning the digital artwork, they may or may not have the rights to reproduce or distribute the artwork.
If you are an artist or a creator, an NFT is a way to earn money. Until now artists have struggled with their works being widely distributed and pirated online. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to have much to do with NFTs unless you are an investor. And that’s risky, fortunes have been made and lost from NFTs, but it looks like the gold rush is over.
AI can give a business the power to cut costs and increase revenue by providing insights that humans might miss. Until now the technology has only been practical for larger organisations. You need specialist skills to make it work and access to vast amounts of data.
However, cloud computing and AI consultants geared to serving smaller companies can bridge the gap. You might, say, use artificial intelligence to run through years of sales data to learn the products and services you offer that customers value the most. It could tell you what else an existing customer might want to buy or when it is the best time to go back to a customer for repeat business.
If that’s too hard, there are other ways to use the power of AI. Xero includes AI tools to automate accounting and Zendesk offers a customer service tool that includes an AI assistant able to answer basic customer service questions. You can also buy AI analytics tools to extract insights from your own data records.
Automation hands tasks previously done by humans over to technology. There’s nothing new in this, industrialists have been automating processes for more than 200 years. Yet when coupled with AI and smart software, business owners can hand over many low-value, high-effort tasks to ‘bots’, freeing employees to work on things that add value.
Like it or not, there is going to be more remote working. There has been a huge workplace cultural shift. Most large companies and organisations now have significant numbers of employees who no longer commute to the office each day. In some cases, the formal office will be an occasional destination. In others, it might be where someone spends half or most of their time, a practice known as ‘hybrid working’.
Many studies show remote and hybrid working can be more productive than traditional practices. People can get through more work in less time and feel happier while doing so. It certainly helps with flexibility.
The tools needed for remote working have matured in the last couple of years and getting set up with a decent computer and broadband connection does not have to be expensive.
More technology doesn’t necessarily mean more threats, but attacks have increased since the start of the pandemic. There are tools and technologies to tackle online crime, some are effective, others less so, but understanding and awareness of the risks are the key to better security. If you’re going to budget for cybersecurity, spend the money on training both for yourself and any staff who work online. You need them to recognise scams, phishing attempts and the signs your systems are under attack.
Otherwise, always keep your software up-to-date. Put procedures in place. Invest in encryption technologies. Read the security alerts you get from your technology suppliers and act on their advice.
Bill Bennett is an Auckland-based business IT writer and commentator. Email [email protected]