How will technology affect your business in 2021?

January 6, 2021

By: Alun Rowe

Did you know today is National Technology Day? Well it is! So what does this mean? For us it is about taking a moment to pause and recognise how technology changes the world and the impact it has on our daily lives. In fact, we cannot do much anymore without there being an influence from technology, whether that is from the crudest element of the simple wheel to the very latest in smart phone apps.

Technology has played a critical role for us even more so over the last 12 months. However, while 2020 was in so many ways an extremely difficult time for many, in years to come it will probably be seen as an epoch for technology in business. Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball (if we did at Pentangle we would have definitely bought Zoom shares!) there are some themes that have been emerging that we think might have an impact on business in 2021…

Remote working and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Prior to March 2020 most IT departments and support providers balked at the idea of “remote working” and BYOD (Bring your own device). It was perceived to be too difficult or too hard to police and yet shift rapidly forwards by just four weeks to April 2020 and lots of people were logged in from home. Some were even excelling in this new environment and many are unlikely to return to the ‘typical’ office working environment. Several studies since have approximated that the pandemic was the catalyst for 3-5 years of digital transformation in just 6 months!

Alongside this the past 8 years has seen a roll out of superfast broadband to all but the remotest parts of the UK. This means the old stumbling blocks of speed and reliability are mostly a thing of the past. The result has been an opening of the door to a multitude of new and exciting opportunities.

Data driven business

These days we know more about how our companies run and who our customers really are than ever before. Or at least we should! Time spent getting your house in order, while using the right apps to bridge any of the gaps in your knowledge has proven to be a huge benefit. For example, here at Pentangle we use Xero for cloud based accounting. As a result, we can now analyse sales, profit margins, recurring income and more instantly. This is a massive step change from needing to wait 3 months like we used to with Sage.

Automation

The shift to remote working has quite rightly forced a greater focus on process. With strong processes it becomes far simpler to see the opportunity for automation. From our experiences, that may take the form of moving some data around automatically or it could be used for controlling a device using IoT (Internet of Things) technologies. That is certainly what we found when working with a leading marketing agency last year where we built a custom API to closely manage and process data from mystery shop visits disseminating the information to a variety of partners all with zero human interaction! For some companies it may even be as simple as providing some canned responses for your email support teams. Whatever the process we’re making the most of these newly created processes, simplifying and streamlining them so they become critical to making your business fly.

Micro Services

Allied to processes has been the rise in micro services. What are these? Well, you are probably using them, but just don’t always realise it. They are small independent applications which may only manage 1 or 2 interactions, but their primary goal is about saving time. For example, when someone visits your online shop or ecommerce site, a micro service might pick up that they are visiting and send a welcome email or perhaps a text message. This is exactly what we utilised to look for any marshals who had signed in at Silverstone using our Volunteer Management app  to send them a text message with their daily duty and emergency contact details should they need them. The texts costed a couple of pence, but the data they provided to Race Control in order to effectively manage the live event was invaluable. The key to this is choosing software with a good API (Application Programming Interface) which allows one program to interact with another.

Online training apps

People will need better ways to learn; particularly with home schooling and the recent news about GCSEs and A’ Levels being cancelled for 2021. Professional training will also shift, as previously people would learn from peers or our junior members of staff would learn from the team around them. Whilst training courses can be delivered electronically, it will be the apps that deliver a full experience – particularly those that embrace the full visual, aural and kinaesthetic experience. These will be the ones will deliver the greatest value. Ally these to better collaboration tools and your business can start hiring globally!

Collaboration tools

OK – so who really outside of tech had heard of Zoom prior to March 2020? We suspect hardly anyone! However by May 2020, Aretha Franklin’s prophecy came true with Who’s Zoomin’ Who . You knew it was here to stay when the word ‘Zoom’ become a verb and we were all ‘Zooming’ each other even if we were using Teams, WebEx or Skype… But Zooming isn’t the whole answer. Have you tried multiple people editing an excel document at once? It’s slightly mind blowing at first, but sat on a video call editing the same document is a huge time saver and a great way to play with ideas.

E-commerce

When the doors were forced to shut many businesses needed to keep trading. Not just Amazon and the big retail chains, but local businesses. They took the opportunity to harness the power of Facebook, Shopify or Open source alternatives like Woocommerce or Magento. Using these e-commerce tools they pivoted (to use a well used term!) their business, and actually thrived as new businesses were born offering delivery services between these companies and their customers.

Practically, e-commerce done right with good local advertising is likely to be the key to a high street survival. This is why we were super proud to help and support a number of local businesses to quickly make this transition and survive through a time that could well have sent them under.

Unsocial media

Oh my…how important has privacy, data security and just general online awareness become. We are being bombarded with update and security notifications. Latest iOS releases reveal what information apps are broadcasting about you and your data. This has led to people learning that privacy is so, so important. As a result, we are quite rightly beginning to become more wary with our data. If your website has 15 tracking scripts and your competitor has one it’s going make a difference. Ditch the track everything approach and consider privacy focussed alternatives. It’s good to remember most tracking is AFTER the fact, so you are looking at trends not specifics.

If you want to look at specifics we’ve recently expanded the team to offer UX reviews and testing. The insights can be really eye opening and often offer far more than some anonymous google analytics tracking.

Self Service

If anything, the pandemic situation forced people to get tech savvy. Everyone from youngsters right they way through to the over 80s were embracing technology. So, now they are more familiar they want to use it so they can serve themselves in your store or showroom. Maybe they could complete their own account details which automatically get turned into a contract customer before their very eyes (like our award winning system for Attic Storage!). If it’s done right it feeds nicely into your processes and therefore your automation…think of the time you can save!

Well, in light of today being World Technology Day that’s just our view of the year ahead based upon the trends we’ve seen this year. If last year taught us anything, it’s that there will be some surprises along the way. Obviously the changing economic climate will also have an effect with Covid-19 furlough ending in April and a newly signed Brexit deal to digest, but we think we’re on the right track. If you have a thought about improving how your business operates online or want to talk about your ideas for this year, just get in touch for a no obligation chat with one of our team.

Have a great 2021!

Team Pentangle

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