5 tech trends that will dominate 2017 and what SA entrepreneurs can do to take advantage of them

Leading tech strategists on how you too can be on the cutting edge of business technologies in the coming year


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There's always something new on the horizon.

From augmented reality and the Internet of Things all the way to fintech disruptions, technology has paved the way for radical changes in how we do things today.

This is particularly significant for SMEs because with every change comes the potential for huge opportunities. But only if you are able to keep up.

According to the latest forecast by Gartner Inc, IT spending is forecast to reach $3.5 trillion in 2017, up 2.9% from 2016 estimated spending of $3.4 trillion.

"All this means that there are billions of dollars at stake for the rising tech trends, things that emerged within [the] last few years are ready to take off and become mainstream next year," a Business Insider article further states.

Keeping up with the trends is quite important for startups, says Pieter Geldenhuys, futurist and expert in the field of innovation and technology strategy.

By keeping up with trends, Geldenhuys says, entrepreneurs are able to look at technologies that have reached a certain level of acceptance within the market and be able to use or build on those advancements to benefit their own businesses and products.

"When these technologies reach a certain level of standardization, [it] enables us to apply it and modify it. Therefore, by looking at certain trends when they reach a certain stable state this allows you to identify opportunities you can leverage," he says.

Geldenhuys is the founder and director of the Institute for Technology Strategy and Innovation, a boutique consultancy that allows companies to leverage their own innovative potential.

Arthur Goldstuck, founder and managing director at World Wide Worx, a technology market research company, and an expert on internet and mobile technology trends agrees. He says it would be very short sighted for entrepreneurs not to keep their eyes on what's happening in the world of business and business technology.

"New ways of doing business are made possible by new technologies and new services and for the entrepreneur not to be aware of those means they risk being pushed out of business by competition that is aware of those trends."

The tech gurus share with SME South Africa the 5 tech trends they think will dominate in 2017 and how entrepreneurs can leverage these technologies to ensure that they take their business to the next level.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been on the list of many forecasters for a couple of years and while it has been making a considerable dent beyond the world of tech, Geldenhuys expects the impact of AI to become even more visible in 2017.

What this means for your business
​SMEs should start using some artificial intelligence engines and ecosystems as well as leveraging it to enable them to make their businesses more efficient, Geldenhuys says.

"So companies like Automated Insights, for example, can help them automate a number of white collar jobs or tasks in their companies in terms of report writing. Artificial engines can also help them in identifying sales opportunities and helping them keep targets by looking at market segments on open APIs. And AI will also help in identifying far better target markets in the social media space for advertising. For SMMEs, I think AI can play a significant role in looking at the available options and opportunities to make our lives more efficient."

Data Analytics
With Big Data becoming more mainstream, data analytics according to Goldstuck will have an increasing impact in the coming year as businesses begin to examine and use their raw data to make better business decisions.

What this means for your business
Goldstuck says it is now possible to use tools that gather all the business data that you produce and compare it with what is happening out there. This data, he says can give you a sense of where you stand, where you can improve your business and where you can enhance your services and also how you can benchmark yourself against other organisations.

Cloud Computing
Geldenhuys says cloud computing is a trend that has been lacking in SA. He says the move for SMMEs to start hosting their services in the cloud has been slow compared to the rest of the world.

"In the past we didn't do that because we had unreliable internet now with more and more companies that offer fibre connectivity, it means that we're always connected to the internet."

What this means for your business
​Cloud computing, according to Geldenhuys, means that a number of services where you would run your own web server, your VoIP server with a variety of functions and products on it can now sit in the cloud.

"I definitely see that there is a benefit for SMMEs to take their online services to the cloud but then to also automate their processes by having some mobility brought into that ecosystem as well."

Mobility

Mobility will play a larger and larger role in the world of SMMEs where most of your activities, functions, communications will be done on your mobile devices and not necessarily on your computer or your laptop, says Geldenhuys.

What this means for your business
​There are a number of mobility tools that SMEs can use to improve their business, Geldenhuys says.

"I would suggest SMMEs take a look at the best productivity applications on mobile to see how that can integrate into their existing systems and how they can use this in order to improve their business operations."

Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual reality and augmented reality products like Microsoft HoloLens, will have an impact in the next year on opening up a variety of new revenue streams, Geldenhuys says and adds that in the next 5 years augmented reality, specifically the Microsoft HoloLens, will have a huge impact on SMMEs as it opens up new business opportunities that didn't exist before.

What this means for your business
Huge opportunities await those businesses that are innovative enough to play in the VR space, Geldenhuys says. Entrepreneurs would have to immerse themselves in the technology if they want to take advantage and create new revenue streams for their businesses. This means discovering ways virtual and augmented reality can be used to service a customer need and then finding ways to monetise that.

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