2017 is shaping up to be the year of technology.
As small business owners continue to look for ways to streamline their business operations, reduce expenditures, and grow their companies, they will look to technology to help with day-to-day tasks. Enter: The Internet of Things. This network of devices and applications connects through the cloud, providing seamless, real-time functionalities that can benefit any business.
It’s becoming increasingly important for entrepreneurs who want to remain competitive to integrate some form of technology into their workflow, otherwise, they risk being left behind by their competitors.
The Internet of Things has boundless potential to assist small business owners with a variety of tasks, and its presence in the marketplace is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. Business Insider Intelligence projects that business investment in the Internet of Things will increase from $215 billion to $832 billion from 2015 to 2020. Overall, IoT spending is projected to reach $6 trillion between 2015 and 2020.
For business owners who are still skeptical, here are a few reasons entrepreneurs should consider implementing the Internet of Things into their businesses:
Get things done faster
Automating tasks such as keeping track of inventory, counting money, or maintaining employee scheduling is a big benefit gained from the Internet of Things. Business owners should examine how much time they spend on busy work – things that are necessary to keep a business running but don’t do anything to achieve a company’s goals – and find out if automating some of these tasks could save them time and manpower.
New York City can provide a great example of how the Internet of Things can help streamline company processes. The city began using solar-powered trash cans that can alert city officials which cans need to be emptied and which cans can be skipped on a particular day. This helps sanitation workers maximize their time by only visiting areas that need trash pick-up. The cans also compact trash to help improve the amount of trash that each receptacle can hold.
“New York City sometimes collects trash three times per day; that’s how fast [the garbage cans] fill up,” Leila Dillon, vice president of global marketing and North American distribution for Bigbelly – the company that manufactures the trash cans – told Business Insider. “With our stations, you can reduce that because of our compact technology and better capacity.”
With tasks previously done by hand now handled automatically by a computer program, it frees up employees to attend to other responsibilities that will help a business grow. Entrepreneurs who are concerned about the cost of automating their business operations should consider alternative business financing. Unlike traditional banks, applicants can get approved for a loan in as little as 24 hours without jumping through the hoops traditional lenders typically require.
Enjoy cost savings
Not only will implementing technology save business owners time, it will save them money. In fact, 57 percent of small business owners think that utilizing the Internet of Things will help them boost their bottom lines, according to an AVG survey.
The biggest area where the Internet of Things can make an impact for entrepreneurs is in their supply chain. Business owners who utilize technology such as CRM or ERP systems can help manage their supply chains better by using those platforms to communicate instantly with suppliers and distributors, in addition to providing critical business updates in real time to all necessary stakeholders through the cloud. Savvy entrepreneurs will also leverage technology to analyze customer data. Using information on purchase habits and marketing campaigns, business owners can craft a better business strategy that will help cater to consumers more effectively and increase company revenue as a result.
Using technology to manage the supply chain also allows entrepreneurs to identify and fix problems before they become larger issues. This will save businesses money over time as they don’t need to spend money to correct problems or waste money on inefficient processes.
But business owners should be careful
Despite the myriad advantages the Internet of Things can provide to business owners, entrepreneurs need to take precautions as well. Although automating so many different processes can save businesses time and money, it also opens them up to hacking. Those who make the plunge with technology should also take care to make the necessary security provisions to protect a company’s sensitive data. Business owners should also have a contingency plan in place if the technology malfunctions.
“Be it weather or some other cause, Internet connections go in and out all the time, Gary Neights, senior director of product management supply chain optimization company Elemica, told UPS Compass. “Let’s say you’re relying on data feeds and you lose connection, he said. How will you operate? Businesses need to have a plan in place.”
Entrepreneurs who don’t think they have the funds to shore up their security measures should consider applying for a small business loan from an alternative lender. This allows businesses to get the cash they need quickly so they don’t miss a step this year. Additionally, alternative business loans don’t have onerous credit score requirements like traditional loans, which means business owners don’t have to worry about getting turned down.
In 2017 and beyond, technology is going to play an increasingly important part of everyday business operations. With the right preparation, the Internet of Things can be an incredibly useful tool for business owners looking to get ahead of the competition.