business

By Rieva Lesonsky

Most of us small business owners start the new year with mixed emotions. We’re hopeful and optimistic about growing our businesses, yet with anxious about all the challenges we know we’ll face.

To find out what lies ahead, I’ve collected a number of tips, predictions and advice from people in the know. We’ll be exploring general consumer, financial and economic trends, as well as what to expect in the fields of marketing, technology, retail, HR and money.

We also have contributions from guest authors—just look for the What to Expect in 2019 illustration all week.

 

The #1 Security Breach

Ransomware remains a massive threat to SMBs—it is now the top security breach, according to the 2018 Datto State of the Channel Ransomware Report. From Q2 2016 to Q2 2018, 79% of managed service providers (MSPs) reported ransomware attacks against customers. In the first six months of 2018 alone, 55% reported ransomware attacks against clients. Over 90% of MSPs predict the number of ransomware attacks will continue at current, or worse, rates.

Report highlights

  • The average MSPs report five of these attacks within their client base per year. In the first half of 2018, an alarming 35% of MSPs reported clients suffered multiple attacks in a single day, up from 26%, year over year.
  • The problem is bigger than we know, as a startling number of attacks go unreported. MSPs report that less than 1 in 4 ransomware attacks are reported to authorities.
  • SMBs are largely in the dark about the frequency and severity of ransomware attacks. Nearly 90% of MSPs are “highly concerned” about the ransomware threat and 36% report their SMB clients feel the same.

 

Are You Making Risky Tech Decisions?

Capterra, the leading online resource for business software buyers, recently released findings from its latest survey of SMBs across vertical markets to understand how they manage technology investments, and the technologies they consider necessary for business now and in the future. The survey results highlight the strong appetite among SMB leaders to use the latest technology but with equal concern about making the right investment decision.

 Which disruptive technologies of the future should your small business adopt?

“Small businesses are in a precarious position: They must find and deploy technology that will keep them competitive against their peers and large enterprises,” says Lauren Maffeo, Senior Content Analyst at Capterra. “Companies that wait five to seven years to adopt a new technology may never catch up to competitors that started sooner. Yet, small businesses have minimal margin for error when choosing the best technologies for their business needs.”

Key findings

  • 47% of survey respondents factor technology trends and advancements into their strategic planning.
  • 19% say choosing the right technology for their businesses is their top business challenge.
  • 33% say they’re “solely responsible” for making technology purchasing decisions at their businesses.

The results also demonstrate a unique paradox—SMB leaders want to use the latest technology but have concerns about making the right investment decisions. This, combined with several potential business threats, has the potential to impact small business growth and stability.

The survey also illustrates which trending technologies small businesses are still grappling with, including:

Despite strong consumer interest in chatbots (more than 65% of millennials say they want to use chatbots when engaging with brands), SMBs are hesitating when it comes to investing in them and less than 30% of small businesses in retail, services, and construction and manufacturing are utilizing chatbot – presenting potential lost business opportunity.

SMBs are overlooking the benefits of AI to support their business functions. Fewer than one in five business leaders are using AI, and only about one in five believe it is critical for their business.

Small business leaders are investing in digital marketing and IoT, but they don’t understand their value. More than half of SMBs surveyed use digital marketing today, and nearly half also report using IoT—but the perception of how essential these are to their businesses is significantly lower across the board.

No two small businesses are alike, but understanding the latest technologies disrupting businesses big and small, and how to evaluate them for your own organization, is essential to helping small businesses grow. The full survey results can be viewed in this accompanying blog post, “Which disruptive technologies of the future should your small business adopt?

 

Top Tech Tools

We asked a number of entrepreneurs what one business tool they added to their entrepreneurial toolkit in 2018 has them excited for 2019?

Ali Craig—Fix My Brand with Ali Craig

A few months back I found Slope. Instead of having certain items organized in Asana, some tasks in Dropbox, and losing documents like no tomorrow in Gdocs, Slope allows everything to be stored and commented on in one location. Plus, clients and coworkers can add “pins” to any project—document, visual, or video, to add any comment anywhere making updates a breeze.

Cassandra Shepard—Driven Girl

Who needs another email? Not me! And not my clients. So we use Voxer, the walkie talkie app that allows you to simply press a button and send an instant, encrypted voice message that can be listened to in the moment or later when it’s convenient. The power of hearing someone’s voice and being able to keep projects moving forward in between meetings is a real game changer for those of us who work globally.

Lisa Rehurek—RFP Success Company

We upleveled our use of Insightly to help us manage leads, clients, referral partners, not to mention to help us better track our wins and our clients wins. All data in one place, up-to-date, so we know where we are and what we’re working towards.

Sylvia Becker-Hill—Becker-Hill Women’s Empowerment School

Shooting a lot of videos for different social-media platforms I found a ring light to clip onto my iPhone! It solved lighting issues I had struggled with for years! My face can be beautifully lit no matter how dark the place I’m filming in.

Talmar Anderson—Boss Actions

I love Slack! It cuts through the email mass, can be turned off easier than texts and gives me context depending up which group has a notifications alert. If my Boss members have a question, I automatically get pinged where my own marketing team may have to wait until calendared time to get my attention.

Dr. Megan Todd

In 2018, I learned so much about the power of collaboration, on taking risks, on what it means to be surrounded by strong and passionate people who are ready to show up in both big and small ways to do what needs to be done to take their work into the world. I have Ali Craig to thank for many of these moments!

In 2019, I am thrilled to expand and deepen the networks of collaborators, co-conspirators, people and businesses who are ready to show up, take action and make their visions into realities. Together we can transform the world into a more loving, just and equitable place for all beings.

Gina Bell—MoonRoot Spirit

LogoLicious and Wordswag are two Android apps that have helped me grow my social media accounts. They are so easy to use and allow anything being shared to be labeled with my information. My logo is my new brand name and labeling my social media content is incredibly important to the growth of my online presence.

 

You are at Risk from Cyberattacks

2018 was likely the worst year for cyberattacks—but, according to a poll from Insureon and Manta, a majority of small businesses don’t think they are at risk.

Highlights:

  • 33% of small business owners have cyber liability insurance, an increase of 7% from 2017.
  • 73% don’t think they have customer data that would be susceptible to a cyberattack.
  • 84% say they don’t think they’re at risk for a data breach.
    • 73% have cybersecurity protocols in place to protect against breaches.
    • 76% think their business could survive a cyber breach.
  • 64% manage their own IT needs.

On a positive note, 73% are taking active steps to protect their business against cyberthreats. The security protocols they reported using include:

  • Software to prevent malware and viruses
  • Firewalls
  • Spam filters
  • Automated software updates and data backups
  • Regular vulnerability scans

 

Is a Robot Apocalypse Coming?

Rene Lacerte, CEO of Bill.com says:

“Don’t be afraid of the robot apocalypse! Businesses large and small are benefiting today from the widespread adoption of AI and machine learning. The technology helps them identify customers and improve their business. AI will substantially reduce data entry, and support accounting (and accountants) through data analyzation, automation and fraud prevention.”

 

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends

Gartner recently highlighted the 10 top strategic technology trends businesses need to explore in 2019. They define a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use, or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.

“This combinatorial effect of multiple trends coalescing to produce new opportunities and drive new disruption is a hallmark of the

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019 are:

1—Autonomous things: Autonomous things, such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles, use AI to automate functions previously performed by humans. Their automation goes beyond the automation provided by rigid programing models and they exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviors that interact more naturally with their surroundings and with people.

2—Augmented analytics: Augmented analytics focuses on a specific area of augmented intelligence, using machine learning (ML) to transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared. Augmented analytics capabilities will advance rapidly to mainstream adoption, as a key feature of data preparation, data management, modern analytics, business process management, process mining and data science platforms. Automated insights from augmented analytics will also be embedded in [business] applications—for example, those of the HR, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, procurement and asset management departments—to optimize the decisions and actions of all employees within their context, not just those of analysts and data scientists.

3—AI-driven development: The market is rapidly shifting from an approach in which professional data scientists must partner with application developers to create most AI-enhanced solutions to a model in which the professional developer can operate alone using predefined models delivered as a service. This provides the developer with an ecosystem of AI algorithms and models, as well as development tools tailored to integrating AI capabilities and models into a solution. Another level of opportunity for professional application development arises as AI is applied to the development process itself to automate various data science, application development and testing functions. By 2022, at least 40 percent of new application development projects will have AI co-developers on their team.

4—Digital twins: digital twin refers to the digital representation of a real-world entity or system. By 2020, Gartner estimates there will be more than 20 billion connected sensors and endpoints and digital twins will exist for potentially billions of things. Organizations will implement digital twins simply at first. They will evolve them over time, improving their ability to collect and visualize the right data, apply the right analytics and rules, and respond effectively to business objectives.

5—Empowered edge: The edge refers to endpoint devices used by people or embedded in the world around us. Edge computing describes a computing topology in which information processing, and content collection and delivery, are placed closer to these endpoints. It tries to keep the traffic and processing local, with the goal being to reduce traffic and latency.

6—Immersive experience: Conversational platforms are changing the way in which people interact with the digital world. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) are changing the way in which people perceive the digital world. This combined shift in perception and interaction models leads to the future immersive user experience.

7—Blockchain: Blockchain, a type of distributed ledger, promises to reshape industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and reducing friction across business ecosystems potentially lowering costs, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow. Today, trust is placed in banks, clearinghouses, governments and many other institutions as central authorities with the “single version of the truth” maintained securely in their databases. The centralized trust model adds delays and friction costs (commissions, fees and the time value of money) to transactions. Blockchain provides an alternative trust mode and removes the need for central authorities in arbitrating transactions.

8—Smart spaces: A smart space is a physical or digital environment in which humans and technology-enabled systems interact in increasingly open, connected, coordinated and intelligent ecosystems. Multiple elements—including people, processes, services and things—come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive and automated experience for a target set of people and industry scenarios.

9—Digital ethics and privacy: Digital ethics and privacy is a growing concern for individuals, organizations and governments. People are increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used by organizations in both the public and private sector, and the backlash will only increase for organizations that are not proactively addressing these concerns.

10—Quantum computing: Quantum computing (QC) is a type of nonclassical computing that operates on the quantum state of subatomic particles (for example, electrons and ions) that represent information as elements denoted as quantum bits (qubits). The parallel execution and exponential scalability of quantum computers means they excel with problems too complex for a traditional approach or where a traditional algorithm would take too long to find a solution. Industries such as automotive, financial, insurance, pharmaceuticals, military and research organizations have the most to gain from the advancements in QC. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, QC could be used to model molecular interactions at atomic levels to accelerate time to market for new cancer-treating drugs or QC could accelerate and more accurately predict the interaction of proteins leading to new pharmaceutical methodologies.

Additional detailed analysis on each tech trend can be found in the Gartner YouTube video Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends 2019 and here.

 

Demystifying Cybersecurity

Alex Bender, SVP of Global Marketing at Mimecast says:

“2018 was a banner year for cybersecurity—and not in a good way. From massive data leaks to highly-sophisticated malware sightings to nation-state attacks, the security of today’s businesses and critical infrastructure is more at-risk than ever before. What’s even more unfortunate is that human error is involved in 95% of breaches. These are complicated issues, which makes it increasingly important for organizations to regularly train employees on the ever-evolving threat landscape so that they are aware of what could put the organization at risk.

But, it’s also two-fold. As marketers in the cybersecurity industry, it’s part of our job to inform customers and potential customers about today’s risks, as well as help them understand the respective implications. Overly technical jargon doesn’t always cut it – there’s a need for short, easily-digestible and relatable content that can also highlight these prominent security issues. You’ll see that the best brands will capitalize and tap into trending, popular conversations through strategic marketing campaigns to better capture the attention of not only their own employees, but of customers and potential customers alike.”

 

Security Predictions for 2019 Foresee Possibility of a Major Attack

A cyberattack on operational technology (OT) or Smart Cities could cause major disruption this year, while a high-profile company could learn the hard way that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not enough when it comes to security. All this according to newly published 2019 cybersecurity predictions from NTT Security, the specialized security company of NTT Group.

The company has published its set of predictions based on findings from the 2018 Risk:Value report and Global Threat Intelligence Report. These predictions are ranked according to the likely impact it will have and when it might happen. The result offers comprehensive insight into the key events we could see in 2019. Some of the key predictions are listed below. The complete set of NTT Security 2019 predictions can be downloaded here.

NTT Security 2019 top 6 predictions:

1—Cryptomining software could provide clues to broader criminal motivations.

Terrance DeJesus, Threat Research Analyst, believes: “A major cybercriminal group could be caught by carelessly dropping a breadcrumb trail of cryptomining software. In 2019, cryptomining functionality could be commonly observed in multiple malware variants and types. Cyberattack campaigns, especially those for financially motivated threat actors, could include some type of cryptomining malware. Researchers investigating such breaches may start to use detection of cryptomining malware as a sign of a larger intrusion and compromise as threat actors carelessly drop cryptomining malware on systems as they push toward their goals.”

2—Operational technology becomes a major target.

Garry Sidaway, SVP Security Strategy and Alliances predicts energy, medical, transport, water and manufacturing facilities could face attacks on their availability. “A cyberattack on operational technology or smart cities may cause a major impact on critical natural infrastructure services in the developed world, leading to a major health or safety impact on the nation’s citizens.”

3—Exploration of blockchain kicks in.

Aaron Perkins, Senior Security Intelligence writer, says enterprises could explore blockchain solutions to de-risk business processes: “2019 could be a transformative year for blockchain technology implementation in the enterprise. While its implementation in an organization’s digital transformation is not a cure-all, there are elements of blockchain that make it more secure. Decision-makers are advised to explore blockchain technology to determine if it’s right for their business, but don’t just jump on the bandwagon because everyone is talking about it. As with any business decision, make it an informed one.”

4—AI is exciting but don’t forget about the people, tool and processes.

Kai Grunwitz, SVP EMEA, believes a Fortune 500 company could learn the hard way that, while AI is highly relevant for a security strategy, organizations still need the best human analysts and other complementary technologies. “AI is no longer the stuff of science fiction films. It’s already here, driving a fourth industrial revolution, which promises to radically reshape the world and society we live in. While there is plenty to get excited about, AI is not a silver bullet and we could see it continue to create a false sense of security in 2019.”

5—Security follows IT in moving from blocker to enabler.

Nicolas Blot, Consultant Manager, predicts: “prominent CISOs could inspire a paradigm shift in attitudes towards the security function. Security has been considered by businesses as an obstacle to achieving their digital transformation objectives. Security is still reduced to the implementation of control measures, leading to the reluctance of the business to involve security teams in their projects. Companies should start to leverage security as a business enabler instead of seeing it as an obstacle.”

6—Assessing and managing risk becomes the mantra for cloud.

Matthew Schofield, Security Solutions Consultant, predicts the treatment of cloud computing as a siloed entity could hurt IT departments’ ability to manage risk. “The cloud is no longer an adjunct to traditional on-premise or co-located IT. Employees and application owners neither recognize nor care about the differences – they’re all just applications and data services regardless of location. Yet organizations are still struggling with secure adoption of the cloud. The inherent depth and breadth of opportunity that cloud now provides means organizations must think in detail about the opportunities and risks associated with the nuances of different cloud services and models.”

 

Quick Takes

What Technology are Small Businesses Investing In? from Capterra

Lessons from 500,000 Business Software Reviews from Capterra

The Digital Transformation of Mid-Sized Businesses from CenturyLink and Spiceworks

 

Tech stock photo by sdecoret/Shutterstock