2020 not only ushers in anew decade, it also holds the promise of new technologies that will push businesses forward in the coming years.

Many of the disruptive developments in the local landscape are beginning to shape this year, and with this in mind Xero SA general country manager, Colin Timmis, is looking at what some of the key technologies will be.

“Over the past decade, technology has radically changed the way businesses operate. Now, even small businesses have access to powerful tools that were previously expensive or complicated,” says Timmis.

“The pace of change has been rapid – and it’s unlikely to slow down. Businesses must keep up with technology to stay competitive,” he notes.

Citing research conducted by Citrix, 92 percent of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. The same report shows that while organisations acknowledge the need for digital adoption, an estimated 54 percent remain unprepared for the future.

Focusing on how that 54 percent can more adequately prepare, Timmis highlights six technologies that SMEs can more effectively leverage in 2020 and beyond.

5G and WiFi 6

Connectivity is key, and in the future it is 5G (provided spectrum is made available) and WiFi 6 which will hold sway.

“South Africa is still playing catch-up in terms of internet connectivity and speed. However, WiFi 6 is set to improve the way routers distribute traffic to connected devices and increase the transfer speeds by around 30%. For when you’re on the go, 5G is the next generation of mobile data standard,” he adds.

ML and AI

Next is two technologies which too have been spoken about at length on recent years – artificial intelligence and machine learning. Here Timmis believes they will be directed towards the creation of more efficient software.

“AI and ML are great at taking large amounts of data and spotting patterns that humans might miss. They help businesses cover some of the more routine tasks so they are freed-up to focus on the most important priorities. For example, tedious tasks like bank reconciliation, can now be completely automated,” he says.

Blockchain

Another popular technology of late, in future blockchain will be used to make the handling of assets more secure, which for a small business can be expounded to any number of different applications.

“Through its complexity and high level of encryption, integration with blockchain can make transferring valuable assets more secure. It can also be used for more effective fraud prevention and other security-focused tasks,” Timmis enthuses.

The cloud

By now most business should be fully aware of the value that cloud computing holds, and in varying degrees have some sort of infrastructure in place. Looking to the future, the Xero SA exec says it will become a way of life for South African SMEs.

“The trend towards cloud adoption is likely to continue as we see the development of technologies, like faster speed through fibre, WiFi 6, 5G, and machine learning powering it,” he points out.

Integrated financial software

Here Timmis sees a convergence of different technologies to streamline processes for businesses. To that end he envisions that, “These new technologies will enable much smarter ways of working. Take bank reconciliation, for example, where cloud storage and machine learning will search through documents and expenses on your behalf to compile reports.”

“Eventually, we will be able to access everything we want in one integrated, seamless hub. We can see this development through the use of app integration. Xero has 800+ apps already compatible, which enables small businesses to automate, gain better insight and grow their businesses all through one ecosystem of partners,” he adds.

Access to capital

Funding still remains a hurdle for many a small business, but that is expected to change moving forward according to Timmis, with open banking being the key driver.

“The process of banks and financial services opening their APIs to the market, will shape how businesses access funding. By sharing their financial data instantly, potential investors have immediate access to a company’s revenue, profits and cashflow – enabling them to make fast, informed decisions,” he says.

“Platforms like Xero keep all of a company’s financial data up to date. That way, when the company needs to file for a loan their documents are ready to go,” the general country manager concludes.

[Image – Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash]