On Wednesday, I wrote a blog about the results of a recent study by the SMB Group. The topic? The top four technology trends and how SMBs can leverage them to grow their businesses. The "winners" were social media management, mobile commerce, application marketplaces, and business intelligence/analytics.In a quest to increase revenue, win new customers, and improve cash flow, small and midsize businesses everywhere are realizing that technology--used wisely--can help them achieve their goals. Social networking sites and mobile devices have become ubiquitous, and now, thanks to a slew of affordable, easy-to-use tools, SMBs can enjoy the benefits of those technologies as well as any enterprise.
Application Marketplaces. According to the SMB Group report [PDF], small and midsize businesses turn mostly to search engines, vendor e-mails, and websites to keep up with information about technology solutions and figure out which of those solutions can help them the most. No business can afford to deploy every technology out there; they have to pick and choose the ones that will give them the "biggest bang for the buck," analysts say.
App marketplaces help SMBs by providing a one-stop shop for finding, test-driving, and purchasing small-biz applications. They also provide user-generated reviews and rankings, expert commentary and advice, and information about how compatible new apps are with the ones already in use. In other words, they can help SMBs cut through the clutter, turn down the volume of all the "noise," separate the wheat from the chaff.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Google Apps Marketplace, Intuit's Workplace App Center, Zoho's Marketplace, Constant Contact Marketplace, and GetApp.com. Analytics. The SMB Group report cites a wonderfully apropos quote from Albert Einstein: "Information is not knowledge." That's for sure. If it were, we'd be knowledgeable indeed. There's so much info coming at us all the time; it's easy to get overwhelmed and confused.
It wasn't long ago (well, not that long ago) when 1 terabyte of data sounded like a lot. Heck, it was a lot. Now we're talking about zettabytes, a word I'd never encountered before reading the SMB Group report. Exactly How many bytes make up a zettabyte? Take the number "1" and add 21 zeroes! According to the analyst report, 1.2 zettabytes of data will be created this year. OK, now I'm scared.
But there's good news: analytics. An analytics application can sort through vast amounts of data and tell us exactly what we need to know. It can turn information into actionable intelligence, into knowledge. And we all know that knowledge is power. Armed with knowledge, people can make intelligent decisions. Businesses in every vertical are recognizing the power of analytics. Retailers are using it to optimize staffing; banks are using it to minimize risk; public transportation companies are using it to increase ridership.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Birst, Easy Insight, PivotLink, and Zoho Reports.