As we enter into week two of 2012, Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM Midmarket Business, was kind enough to send along a list of upcoming tech predictions. Though the pointers were more generally focused towards mid-sized businesses, I've decided to highlight a few of those that are also pertinent to small businesses and even SOHOs. I've also chipped in with some of my own recommendations on how they could be leveraged for business.
According to Compass Intelligence, small businesses in the U.S. are predicted to spend up to $280 billion on information and communications technology by 2012. IBM thinks a large chunk of this expenditure will go towards cloud technology. Indeed, Monshaw wrote that this shift to the cloud is helping IBM's midmarket clients get access to enterprise-class infrastructure, achieve better efficiency in operation and capital cost savings, among others.
Use of Analytics
With consumers creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, Monshaw says it is seeing an increased focus in SMBs making use of analytics solutions to improve decision-making and operational efficiency. Alluding to how social media can be used to paint a more accurate picture of one's customer base, Monshaw says: "SMBs are also recognizing the need to gain better insights from social media to drive their business and build a more loyal customer base."
I am in hearty support of SMBs using analytics, though social media is a huge topic that is best addressed in a separate blog. While the former has traditionally resided within the domains of large enterprises, there is no doubt in my mind that SMBs can use it to gain insights to increase their bottom line. This could entail something as simple as keeping an accurate tab on sales volume at the product level or tracking visitors' statistics of the company websites. Based on the popularity of certain products and incoming search keywords for example, SMBs could tweak their marketing campaign or tweak their product portfolio to maximize sales volume.
Rise of Mobility
Mobile commerce is expected to reach $31 billion by 2016 and SMB firms will be spending more on mobile-centric applications, says Monshaw. As expected, the number of mobile exploit releases is expected to increase in tandem with the increased use of mobile devices. In order to address the increasing prospect of threats from the mobile front, Monshaw says organizations need to cover these growing gaps or risk being seriously exposed in 2012.
I think it is somewhat challenging for very small businesses to deploy security software to protect mobile devices at this stage. Given the irresistible popularity of BYOD (bring your own device), it may make more sense for small businesses and SOHOs to start by implementing proper policies that serve to reduce security threats originating from mobile devices. This may range from the use of device encryption, setting device passwords, and the mandatory installation of remote-wipe software for smartphones used to access company resources.