The rapid technological revolution taking place may seem intimidating to many smaller organizations, especially those that are accustomed to watching larger competitors charge ahead with innovative solutions that they can't afford. However, many emerging technologies are maturing more quickly than usual, establishing valuable use cases and accessible solution models that make it possible for small and medium-sized businesses to embrace new solutions.
Cloud computing and mobile devices are serving as technology democratizers. Companies can use the solutions to support sophisticated workloads without making the large-scale hardware investments that would have been necessary in the past. This results in a situation in which more services can be delivered in form factors that are accessible for smaller companies. With this in mind, here's a look at three emerging technologies that might seem out of reach at first glance but are actually increasingly within the realm of possibility for SMBs.
"Cloud computing and mobile devices are serving as technology democratizers."
1. Artificial intelligence
AI is gaining momentum quickly as businesses look to put large quantities of information into use in their internal and customer-facing solutions. Whether it is retailers using AI to make smarter, more personalized product recommendations to consumers or businesses deploying AI chatbots for customer service, the options are plentiful. What's more, AI solutions are being adopted at an extremely rapid pace. An Adobe study found that while just 15 percent of companies are currently using AI, another 31 percent expect to deploy the technology within 12 months.
Small organizations that can't build out robust AI backends have a few options:
- Create apps with built-in APIs that connect with cloud-based AI services.
- Deploy prebuilt AI apps that are hosted in the cloud.
- Invest in platforms that apply AI functionality to information from your various databases.
SMBs may not be able to go all-in on some of the more sophisticated AI models, but the technology has the potential to deliver enough value to justify spending on some of the more accessible entry-level solutions on the market.
This is a big one, as many pundits expect blockchain to disrupt sectors ranging from financial services to manufacturing. In simplest terms, blockchain is an encrypted, tamper-proof digital ledger that can track transactions across geographical and organizational boundaries. For small businesses, this means a simple, cost-efficient way to gain greater visibility into the supply chain. Industry expert Marwan Forzley told Computerworld that it can help SMBs reduce costs to a significant degree.
"[Blockchain enables businesses to] remove the middle man from international transactions, which directly impacts the experience of paying suppliers and contractors, the timing of these transactions and the fees that are directly impacting the SMBs bottom line," Forzley told the news source.
Blockchain is increasingly being built into existing apps and services, giving SMBs a chance to put the technology to use without a major investment.
3. Big data
Large-scale analytics projects may seem too expansive for most small companies, but business intelligence platforms are helping organizations bring together information from various areas of operations and make it actionable. In essence, BI makes big data more workable for companies that can't easily process and manage huge quantities of information. Howard Dresner, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, explained that small companies are more successful than larger businesses at using BI.
"Small companies are more successful than larger businesses at using BI."
The reason for this success, according to Dresner, is that most small companies don't have as much money to throw into the technology, forcing them to be more strategic, intentional and value-focused in how they roll out the solution. This leads to better alignment between what the technology does and how it impacts operations.
Aligning emerging technologies for value creation
Each of these solutions is valuable in isolation, but the major challenge facing businesses is getting emerging technologies to work together in a cohesive digital ecosystem. IT service providers can be invaluable here. At MC Services, for example, we offer custom programming solutions so companies can roll out web, app and database systems to ensure their technology investments do exactly what is needed.
Whether you need a backend database to coordinate data between your various systems or a new mobile app to align end-user experiences with back-office capabilities, we can help. Our expertise and development skills enable you take existing systems and get more value from them. Contact us today to learn more.