Is your business falling behind? 5 technologies you should already be using in 2018

EducationSummary: Technology is evolving faster than ever, and plays an increasingly important role in the business world. Is your company keeping up? In this article, we explore technologies and/or processes that are absolutely essential in 2018. If your business doesn’t have these technologies in place already, you could be falling behind. Read the whole article to learn more.

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I recently read through Gartner’s “Top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018” article. It discusses many of the hot trends we’ve heard a lot about recently, like blockchain, AI, VR/AR, IoT, etc…

Now, there’s no doubt that these trends will have a big impact on the business world in the near future. But, let’s be honest: The average business isn’t going to adopt trends like AI, blockchain, and virtual reality in 2018. These are trends you should definitely research and prepare for, but most will only impact the larger companies in the coming year.

That got me thinking: These cutting-edge tech trends will eventually turn into business necessities. But, what former trends are now necessities for today’s business? What technologies should businesses be using in 2018 if they hope to remain competitive?

Today, let’s explore that topic in more detail. Let’s take a look at technologies/processes that the modern business should already have in place. Now, these aren’t cutting edge tech trends. But, if you’re not using these technologies in 2018, your business is probably falling behind.

1. SSL Certificates

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In October of 2017, Google made a change in the Chrome web browser. They began marking non-HTTPS pages with input fields as “Not Secure” in the address bar. These pages now display an icon (and often a warning) when users try to submit data through a non-HTTPS page.

What’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? Essentially, an HTTPS page encrypts the data submitted on the site, while an HTTP page does not. By taking this step, Google is trying to help the web become more secure.

Now, I sincerely hope that your business jumped on board the HTTPS train last year. Otherwise, your visitors are likely seeing security warnings when they visit your site. What can you do if your website is still HTTP? I won’t get into all of the steps here, but as explained below, you need to purchase and install an SSL certificate.

“SSL certificates have been around for years but have been considered increasingly mandatory for the past eighteen months,” says Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer of PromotionCode.org. “Any company with an online presence that doesn’t utilize this technology to protect their customers is not only behind from an IT perspective, but behind in user experience. Google has been trying to push these sites forward both through negative ranking signals and now with Chrome showing a big “Not Secure” icon in the Address Bar. The good news is that an installation is relatively fast and cheap, so there are officially no excuses left for those companies lagging behind.”

2. BI/reporting/analytics

Businesses have access to more data than ever before, and it’s only growing. The ability to quickly turn this data avalanche into actionable insights is quickly becoming a competitive advantage.

The question is, what are you doing with your data? Are you falling behind from a data analysis perspective? Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Does your reporting process still run through the IT department?
  • Does it take more than a few minutes to access the data you need?
  • Is your Business Intelligence (BI) process primarily Excel-based?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time to implement a modern BI strategy. Why is this so important? As explained below, even basic analytics will improve your decision-making process significantly.

“The top processes and technologies that we see businesses still neglecting in 2018 is using even basic analytics to make data-driven decisions and sticking to a CRM to manage sales,” says Mathew Lazarus, Chief Innovation Officer at Archbolt. “These are interrelated issues, a key symptom for which is when businesses tend to act on assumptions or anecdotes, which leads to inconsistent and retroactive decision-making.

And with so many analytics tools and methodologies out there, there’s no excuse when we see a business having to call IT every time they need to run a simple data query or search. That’s the whole point of dashboards and reporting.”

3. Mobile-friendly websites and web applications

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It’s no secret that smartphones are here to stay. It’s also no secret that usage is rising steadily. Yet, this list of statistics claims that 17% of small businesses with a website do not even have mobile-friendly websites.

Why is this so important? The statistics mentioned above highlight the importance of mobile-friendly websites with a few important facts:

  • Mobile web traffic has surpassed desktop traffic. Mobile traffic as a share of total global online traffic in 2017 was 52.64%.
  • 57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device.

The need for mobile-friendliness doesn’t stop with websites either. Are your web applications mobile friendly? Can customers access their data via a mobile-friendly customer portal? Can employees access data and applications on their mobile devices? As explained below, this is now a “must-have” for business.

“Most people access the internet on the cell phones these days and if you’re a businessman moving from one meeting to the next, you don’t always the time or space (or internet connection) to use a laptop,” says Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics. “Being able to host at least some of your services, or even create a portal through which clients can contact you on their mobile phones is imperative for increasing lead generation and improving customer service. The more accessible your business is, the more likely you are to succeed.”

4. Tools to automate manual processes

“Businesses that haven’t adopted even a modicum of automation or begun storing files, and collaborating via cloud-based services are falling by the wayside,” says Kristine Neil, Owner and Creative Director of Markon Brands. “Eventually, the clumsiness of their internal processes will show externally.”

One of the biggest productivity killers across the business world stems from a lack of automation. Every day, employees at businesses across the globe waste precious time completing tasks that could (and should) be automated.

Why is this so important? When employees are stuck with manual processes, business agility suffers. As explained in this Forbes article, agility is more important than ever:

“In today’s market, not only is change happening quickly, it’s forcing businesses themselves to change quickly. It’s a constant flow of innovation, disruption — and sometimes chaos — that is moving us ahead, even faster than we ever imagined. Many say agility is the key to surviving in the age of technological hairpin turns. In fact, 68% of companies identify agility as one of their most important initiatives.”

What types of tasks can be automated? While it varies by company, here are a few questions to ask:

  • Does IT still handle end-user reporting?
  • Do you manually enter data into your system?
  • Are workflow processes still completed manually?

The list could go on, but it’s a topic covered in more detail in this article. Make sure you regularly analyze your processes and explore ways to automate manual tasks. While it requires time up front, this will let you accomplish more with your current resources.

5. CRM Software

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Let’s take the last point one step further. One common area that often relies on manual processes is Customer Relationship Management (CRM). As explained below, businesses often use spreadsheets when they should be using CRM software.

“If you are still using notecards or spreadsheets to keep track of current and potential clients then your technology is falling behind,” says David Waring, Co-Founder of FitSmallBusiness.com. “CRM software is inexpensive and the better client followup and internal collaboration that results from implementing it should more than pay the additional cost.”

Why is this so important to your business? Here’s an article that explains the importance of CRM software in more detail. In short, CRM software offers an automated way to keep track of your interactions with customers/prospects.

But, perhaps the most important reason comes down to customization. As explained below, CRM systems help you personalize your correspondence with your contacts.

“A CRM system captures customer contact details, such as demographics, purchasing history, service preferences, etc.,” says Andrew Pearson, Founder and Managing Partner of Intelligencia Limited. “This is extremely important in today’s personalization environment because the more detail you have on a person, the better you can market to them. Data captured is analyzed and categorized into a unique set of criteria. This information is then used to tier the customer base and tailor service delivery accordingly.”

Summary

These are just 5 technologies you should be using in 2018. We’ll explore 5 more technologies in a future article. Stay tuned!

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