So, what exactly lies ahead in the new year for small and midsize businesses? One firm predicts that mobility, integration, and collaboration will be key.Yesterday, I shared the SMB Group's first five predictions for the SMB space in 2011. We talked about the cloud, mobile commerce, app stores, and social media. Here's the rest of the list.
6. Getting Smarter by the Minute. Remember zettabytes? I've mentioned them before, but let me review, just in case you're not an avid follower of my blog (smile). A zbyte (Why not? Terabytes were eventually dubbed tbytes, right?) is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. (Yup, that's a 1 with 21 zeroes, in case you didn't count.) Experts say that 1.2 zbytes of digital information will have been created in 2010. That's a truckload of data to get one's arms around, especially if you're an entrepreneur trying to build your business by tracking sales trends and buying patterns.
That's why analytics/business intelligence is going to be so hot in the coming 12 months. According to the SMB Group's 2010 Routes-to-Market study, SMBs cite their No. 1 challenge nowadays as "getting better business insights from the data we already have." And 40% of the midsize companies polled for that study said they plan to spend more on BI in 2011 than they did in 2010.
7. Goin' Mobile with Tablets. First smartphones, now tablets (think iPad). The SMB Group's 2010 Mobile Solutions Study [PDF]revealed that 10% of small businesses and 22% of midsize businesses have at least some employees using tablets. The thing is, right now these mini 'puters are being used almost exclusively for storing contact info, calendaring, e-mail, and Web access. Come next year, SMBs are looking to step things up by investing in mobile business solutions--marketing and advertising, customer service management, and social media applications, to name a few.
8. Integration, Integration, Integration. We're talking here about tying things together into nice neat packages, and without spending too much time or money on wrapping paper and ribbons, if you know what I mean. SMBs need to link business solutions with each other, and with other applications, and they need to do it at an affordable price point. "Because simple, clean integration options save SMBs time and money, they will increasingly become a vital factor in SMBs' short-list selections," says the SMB Group in its latest newsletter. "The good news is that options in this area are growing."
9. Hybrid Computing Fuels 'Virtual Reality.' I'll keep this one simple and let the experts sum it up for me: "For the foreseeable future, most SMBs will need to combine on-premise and cloud solutions in a hybrid computing approach," says the SMB Group's newsletter. "As virtual server desktop and storage options grow, more midsize businesses will consider cloud-enabled high-availability and disaster-recovery solutions, which, until now, have been desirable but largely unaffordable for SMBs."
10. Come Together: Collaboration, Meet Unified Communications. Collaboration suites are all the rage now, and vendors are getting busy adding UC to the mix. A few examples from the SMB Group: Cisco acquired video communications player Tandberg and unveiled the concept of "telepresence"; Google introduced VoIP and softphone capabilities, with Google Voice; and both HyperOffice's and IBM's collaboration suites integrate Skype functionality. As per the SMB Group, "…these converged services can help SMBs declutter their inboxes, improve productivity and save money." Amen to that.