5 Tech Truths Businesses Must Embrace The following technology truths are shaping the way we do business today, and will shape the future, as well. The first four truths are from a Microsoft Business Blog article, and are important trends to consider. In addition, the fifth truth describes a shift in purchasing strategy that continues to increase in popularity. Truth #1: In this hyper-competitive environment, customer expectations are changing. There are 30 million businesses in the U.S., and 99 percent of those are small businesses. And, as if that were not enough, there is the now-interconnected global marketplace to contend with. That’s a lot of competition. What then is the best way to deal with customers when they have so many options? As discussed by both US SMB VP Cindy Bates, as well as a recent Microsoft survey, “More than ever before, customers want to interact digitally with businesses in the same way as they do with friends and family; through social media and mobile devices.” Think about it. How do customers – you and me included – interact with a business these days? Often it is not: Walk in a store. Talk. Shop. Buy. But rather: Log on. Check out Facebook. Compare prices online. Buy via a mobile device. This is a seismic shift that affords both challenges and opportunities for your business. The thing to realize – the “truth” – is that customer expectations and behaviors are changing and you need to follow the puck. Truth #2: Technology can make your business life a whole lot easier. If you are like a lot of entrepreneurs today, you work with remote teams. Tools – like Office 365 for example – make working remotely not only easy, but fun and productive. Aside from the usual suspects – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook – Office 365 packs a punch by making remote, real-time online collaboration not, as AI expert Dave Forstrom said, “science fiction, but science fact.” With integrated tools for videoconferencing on Skype and chat-based tools like Teams, Office 365 allows you all to work when, where, and how you want, and that is a trend of major import. Truth #3: Data is taking the risk out of business. A wise old entrepreneur once told me, “an entrepreneur is someone who takes a risk with money to make money.” But running a small business is not just a financial risk, it is also a reputational risk and an emotional one too. The good news is that data is reducing that risk. Indeed, according to Cindy Bates, one of the top trends she sees for business in 2017 is the increasing availability and use of BI – Business Intelligence, aka, “big data.” The thing with data is that if you know how to analyze it, it can unlock vast vaults of value. How did that display ad do? What about that e-marketing campaign? How do they compare? What day pulled best? What price worked best? BI can tell you. In this regard, you might want to check out PowerBI. Truth #4: The way employees want to work is changing. Customers are changing, technology is changing, behaviors are changing, expectations are changing, and yes, employees are changing too. The whole landscape of business is changing. On this last point, employees generally, and millennials specifically, want, nay, expect, to be able to work when, where, and how they want. And they further expect that their employer will give the both the freedom and tools to do so. You need to do that. Today. These four trends – the changing expectations of employees and customers, and the transformational potential of big data and new technology, are fundamentally changing how small businesses will need to be run sooner rather than later. I suggest you jump on the changes faster than you can say, “flux capacitor!” My additional truth: Truth #5: Most businesses today want to consume technology through an operational expenditure model. Most business do not own the building they operate in, they lease it. If businesses have a fleet of vehicles, they are typically leased from a car dealership. So why does it make sense for a company to own computer hardware, software and employ in-house IT admins? The answer is, it probably doesn’t. When you consider the fact that computer hardware and software depreciates in value faster than a vehicle does, there is little reason for a business to continue making capital expenditures on technology. In addition, the cost to support and maintain an in-house computer infrastructure is expensive and difficult to budget for, and finding quality talent/manpower to run and maintain that infrastructure is becoming costly and difficult as well. On the surface, the cloud, SaaS (software as a service), and managed services may appear more expensive. However, when you dig deeper into the ongoing cost and challenges with hiring, managing, and training in-house IT staff, it’s easy to see why a business that demands operational efficiency and reliable technology to prefer an operational/as a service model. Only pay for what you are consuming! How will these truths impact your business in the future? Rob Griffith Rob Griffith is an Account Executive for Aureon, focusing his attention to the Aureon Technology business unit. Over the past 8 years Rob has worked exclusively with small to midsize businesses with an emphasis on the banking vertical. His focus has been helping companies with data center strategy, security and compliance.