By Pete Sanders

Where will you take your business technology in 2014?


These are the eternal questions, and the new year always seems to bring them to the front of mind.I’d be hard pressed to find a business that wouldn’t like to have the latest technology implemented to help run their operations more smoothly but often time, cost, specialised needs and integration requirements put barriers in place, even if they are just perceived barriers. But technology costs are changing, barriers to entry are breaking down.

In this blog post I want to share with you how digital office technology can help meet the growing demands of modern small businesses and why I feel social media is still being under-utilised.

Evolving digital office technology

If you’ve been following software trends you’d know that the growth in online business applications has been huge in recent years. In 2014 I’m confident we’ll see the cloud accounting trend accelerate dramatically. We’re past the early adopters phase and now we’ll see new cloud accounting solutions become significantly more mainstream.  We see this also to be true of many other business applications which, if not already available in the cloud, will be in the near future.

The other factor that will drive the shift to the cloud is cost. The introduction of programs such as Reckon One will change how accounting software is perceived by new businesses, with a simple online module to manage receipts and payments costing just a few dollars a month. The ‘internet of things’ has created an explosion of new software and tools that will help keep the cost of solutions low. But when choosing the solution for your operation be sure to consider what your business needs (take a look at our considerations when choosing a cloud accounting solution).  And all of this is maintained for you, no more installation of software yourself, no need for an IT department or service provider and what’s more you can connect anywhere, anytime.

Another change is the elimination of paper, well maybe not completely but significantly. It’s been a couple of decades since the concept of the paperless office was first talked about. Despite the fact that many of us are still battling with clunky office printers, businesses need and want better ways of managing all the paper. I know of a business in the Northern Territory that literally pays for a location that just stores files! Not only do digital document management systemshelp save massive amounts of space, they also make it quicker and easier to find documents and keep them safe; for the most part it’s also legal to use digital signatures (check your circumstances when making the change).

Capitalise on being able to connect globally through social media

20 years ago our circles of influence were likely made up of family, friends, colleagues and those with similar interests who mostly lived relatively close to us. Now our circles of influence can be global, interactions can be at will and peer-to-peer networking is at our fingertips.

It’s logical to assume that specialist industries are most likely to benefit from forming connections through niche groups on platforms such as Linkedin or Facebook. For example I imagine a local specialist watch repairer or animal acupuncturist would find the ability to connect with other experts in their specific field far more fulfilling on the internet because they can easily reach their peers across the globe. But there’s so much to be gained by all of us, not just those in specialist fields.

It’s not possible to know all the answers and nor is it possible to be across all the trends. Trends occurring in Australia today may have been felt elsewhere before. Social media broadens our perspective and plugs us into the ideas and trends across each of our individual industries on a global scale. The digital age is the age of constant change and the winners will be the ones who capitalise on new trends and collaborate effectively.  I encourage you to join the community, contribute in the social space and engage with like-minded peers online.  This social media can have very real value for you and your business and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Learn about what’s new and what’s changing

Take the time to make sure you’re across changes coming up in the year ahead that will impact your business. This is particularly important if your business employs staff.  One of the big changes for businesses with more than 20 employees this year is SuperStream – a technology change that completely changes how superannuation payments are made to government; it will impact smaller businesses in 2015.

Also investigate whether your current tools are outdated or should be updated. When was the last time you updated your operating systems, your CRM or even your email system? You have to consider cloud or could optimised options for these.

In 2014 no business is an island, we’re collaborating with others more and more and we’re accessing the internet constantly. The hardware and software your business implements can help make your businesses be as nimble and agile and efficient as possible so you can reap rewards in the year ahead.

Has being involved in social media benefited you? Tell us about your experiences.

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