Poof! There went 2013. And it brought along some exciting technological changes to your business as well. But this is just the start.
Entrepreneurs interested in tech are always looking for new and exciting ways to streamline business processes to make their business as tight knit, as rock solid and as automated as humanly possible. I know personally that I am always on the hunt for apps that can tweak my business processes to help them run just a tad bit smoother.
From an accounting perspective, 2013 has been an introduction for many Canadian business owners into the forays of cloud accounting and how this software could help automate certain business processes. If you think that was good though, 2013 was just the tip of the iceberg.
Looking to 2014, the integration of tech into your business is going to be more important than ever. Many of these tech trends have been quite popular with business in the tech space. Lately however, I have been noticing more and more traditional businesses are looking to get involved with some of these 2014 trends as well, and when this happens, these trends become the mainstream.
Without further ado, here is the list of what will propel your business forward in 2014.
1. Further integration of the cloud into daily business
The cloud is an exceptionally powerful force and it is bringing along some important changes to businesses who choose to integrate it into their daily business processes.
We are living in an ever increasingly mobile world. We no longer just have one computer. We have several computers, a mobile phone and maybe even a tablet. We want access to our data whenever, wherever. Which is why the cloud is so important, especially for business owners.
Cheaper storage, modular quantities and easier integration with your business processes. These are just a few of the benefits of moving your business into the cloud.
As mobile becomes more and more ingrained in our daily lives, so will the cloud. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt’s prediction for 2014 is “mobile, mobile and more mobile.”
There is just no escaping the cloud in 2014 and moving as much of your business to the cloud as possible will certainly be the trend, if not mainstream, in the very near future.
2. 100% paperless offices
I had a Xerox salesman walk into the office a few months back. He looked at the sign and read it. “Xen Accounting.” He inquired, “Are you an accounting firm?” I nodded my head. He looked around the office and saw no photocopy machines. “How are you an accounting firm with no photocopy machines?” he asked. I simply smiled and said that the firm is 100% paperless. He laughed and walked right out of the office without any sales pitch at all.
When an accounting firm can go paperless, just about any business in the world can go paperless. There is no need to have mountains of paper everywhere in this day and age. It gets messy, it takes up space and more importantly, it takes up time.
There are apps and software that can help eliminate the paper you have on hand. Whether it’s your shoebox full of receipts, the bills you get in the mail, your contracts and any other paper you have on hand. Whatever it is, it can be stored on your computer and in the cloud.
Once again, using different apps to go paperless will help streamline business processes. For instance, in my line of work, typically an accounting firm would print out an engagement letter, have the client come in (or deliver it), have the client sign it and then file it away. This is a lengthy process. Now you can use legally binding e-signature software, such as Right Signature, to have documents signed virtually with your mouse. You send off an email with the contract, the client signs it from their own computer and then you can store the electronic document however you like. This is just one example of how you can go paperless in a certain area of your business.
Going paperless is liberating—you should try it!
3. Cloud accounting software to be at the core
Accounting is typically a nightmare for many small business owners. It’s something that is usually procrastinated to the very last minute because they would rather do something else with their time and rightly so. Entrepreneurs should spend more time developing their business and less time on their accounting, which is why I wrote a Techvibes article in late November comparing the different cloud accounting systems that help ease the burden of accounting for Canadians.
Going forward though, I see the accounting system as really the core app where all other cloud software systems for your business will integrate with it to help streamline things as much as possible. By doing so, you basically get an accounting system running on autopilot. We are not fully there yet, but we are fast approaching.
Which is why I recommend Xero as a cloud accounting solution for a lot of clients. There are hundreds of apps that integrate with Xero. Quoting? There’s an app for that. Payroll? There’s an app for that. Want a CRM that syncs clients and suppliers? There’s an app for that. Inventory management that connects to your WordPress e-commerce website and then feeds into your accounting systems? Yes, there are apps for that. There are apps for just about every business process you have.
The point is, the more software that you can integrate with each other, the more streamlined your business processes become, and if this all integrates with your cloud accounting system, then you can effectively avoid a lot of the headaches and procrastination that has typically come with manually entering data into your accounting software.
Your accounting is about to get a whole lot easier in 2014.
SaaS has already blown up in 2013, but look for an even bigger impact in 2014. Why? Because it naturally fits with many of the trends listed above.
Customization to a particular customer’s needs is becoming more and more important as the years move forward and SaaS delivers in this area. The idea is that you pay a monthly subscription fee for software that is more tailored to your needs. Essentially, you only pay for what you use. If there are specific features in a software that you don’t need, you don’t pay for it.
What’s more is that SaaS products are 100% internet based, which means that you have access to your software wherever you are in the world as long as an internet connection is present.
More customized and more affordable. The one-size-fits-all approach is finished.
Don’t fall behind
Following the trends above can certainly help your business stay ahead of the curve, in fact, it might even give you a competitive advantage over your competition. But don’t expect this to last too long, as businesses of all shapes and sizes are quickly moving in the direction of the trends listed above.
Make 2014 the year to integrate some cool technology into your business and help automate some of the more mundane tasks as much as possible.