The Last Decade
Before discussing predictions for the next ten years, think back over the last ten years. What has changed in business? How has it affected how you work and stay competitive?
- The smartphone became mainstream and doubled in size – iPhone 4 vs. 11.
- Faster wifi and wireless network – You can work from anywhere.
- Increase in the Gig Economy – More contractors at affordable prices – Uber, Fiverr, 99 Designs, Upwork, Belay Solutions
- Data and software all in the cloud – No reason to store everything on your computer or servers anymore. DropBox, Google Drive, One Drive
- Social Media and marketing – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
- Screen sharing and video conference improvements – Zoom, JoinMe, Skype
- Maps and Directions – Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze
I could go on for a while because there have been so many changes. One thing we know for sure is that the world will continue to change in the next decade – rapidly. I realize that it seems like every pundit wants to predict the next decade. I did some research and decided to do my own forecasting for the next ten years. Here are four things we will most likely experience and how each of those will affect small businesses.
Predictions for the Next Decade
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to an article, “How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Business,” AI is defined as any computer software that engages in humanlike activities, including learning, planning, and problem-solving. We are already seeing how our phone understands our voice the more we use it. I see it with financial software such as Bill.com, Expensify, and QuickBooks, where it is trying to save you time coding, attaching files, and doing routine activities. Of course, right now, it is not as good as we want, but this will change. The software will get smarter and will require less of our time to do routine tasks that a computer is better at doing. We see CRM systems such as Salesforce, Hubspot, and Zoho get smarter and try to correct data for you. You can take pictures of a business card, and it seems to know where to put the data quite effectively. I even use SaneBox, which learns as it goes, and selects emails that are essential and files them in folders for me.
There is no doubt that the companies that figure out how to improve AI the fastest with self-learning intelligence will do very well. It will most likely affect the jobs of those doing routine transactions. It is in our best interest to use software to help us perform easy work. We can then spend our time on higher-value activities.
Self Driving Vehicles
Automobile companies are spending so much on making the self-driving car work. Jon Walker lists predictions of the top 11 global automakers in, “The Self-Driving Car Timeline.” Self-driving vehicles are the ultimate Artificial Intelligence, but this has such a huge impact that I had to break it out into its own section. It seems like almost all the large automakers thought they would have a self-driving vehicle by 2020. It will take longer before many are fully self-driving in all conditions and commercially released. All 11 global automakers think this will be the case by 2030. What does this mean for small businesses? This advancement will have such a significant impact on the transportation and insurance industry that there are bound to be winners and losers. Can you imagine having to take a business trip where you can do work in your car the whole way? Will this do away with traffic or parking issues?
As businesses grow, they need more executive help in finance, IT, marketing, human resources, and sales. How can they afford this kind of overhead? The answer will be that more businesses will hire outsourced executives. Now I know this has already become more prevalent in the last ten years, but I predict that it will escalate. Why will it escalate? Businesses and nonprofits need to spend as much as possible on developing their products, services, and operational personnel and less on overhead. Competition is increasing, and technology is making it easier for people to work from anywhere. Why would a company spend $1 million or more on overhead positions when they could hire all of this for maybe 25-35% of the cost?
According to Investopedia, business cycles of the U.S. economy expansions have averaged about five years from 1945 to 2009. Since at the time of this article, we have not had a recession in over ten years, so it is becoming likely that there will be one soon. Of course, people have been predicting this for a while. The last recession was the worst since the 1930s, and we have been improving our fiscal policy. It seems that expansions and contractions have been lengthening. I hope that the next recession will not be significant. The advancement of artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles will create an issue in the economy, most likely. You can create a business that can withstand the next recession. How would you handle a downturn? The exciting thing is that by taking advantage of new technologies, outsourced executives, and investing in employees that can think strategically, you have a great shot.
Predictions of the World in 2030
I woke up to a cup of coffee already brewed, waiting for me at my desk. The screen in front of me already has an organized list of what I want to read or study. Once I get ready, I get into my self-driving car, where my work is right there for me as the vehicle drives to a meeting with my outsourced marketing executive. I get to a restaurant that has already been booked by my Executive Assistant (AI). After the meeting, I go back to my car, which will drive me to a client meeting 50 miles away in 30 minutes. I have up-to-date numbers with attached documentation in the financial system. The financials are ready for review, with key metrics already calculated by the first day of the month. I will need to make sense of this information, but AI is giving me more guidance as the system and data continue to improve.
I could go on with this prediction of a world of AI, self-driving cars, and a gig economy. Of course, I know that my forecast probably will not come true in the exact way as I wrote above. It will come as a slow progression and when businesses see the financial need. I realize the above scenario seems to get rid of bookkeepers, Executive Assistants, and employees. I don’t think this will happen, but the duties and number of people in those positions will change. One thing I know is that the world will change to be more efficient and automated, and we have to be ready to solve problems that only we can.