The three business trends that matter – and that you need to know

It’s a truism that business evolves quickly. New trends emerge that can become not just the next big thing but the essential business practice through which it’s otherwise hard to achieve growth.

Some business trends are so important that to ignore them might be to doom your business. Perhaps the best example is outsourcing, which was widely regarded as a fad back in the 1980s when first discussed in the mainstream. Nowadays nearly two thirds of businesses outsource to cut costs and to allow them to focus on their core business. Put simply, many modern businesses couldn’t even exist without it.

Below we’ve gathered three of the trends we’ve noticed recently. Take a look and see which – if any – your business has implemented. Sage One lets you jump into many of the technologies above.

Today’s customers are social

It isn’t always easy to tell if your customers are happy, and customers can be hard to read. Those who complain most can actually be happiest, while those who don’t complain can secretly hold a grievance that drives them away. Ten years ago, simple sales metrics were the key performance indicator (KPI) of choice for customer satisfaction. Then came customer surveys and social monitoring. But none of these really provide your teams with the full picture.

Today, it’s direct customer ratings that give you the instant feedback you need to manage and reward your teams. Look for reviews on sites like TrustPilot.com or LinkedIn, but more than this, be prepared to have any critical comments addressed with a reply (and virtually all sites provide you with this right of reply). It can be amazing what simple one-on-one interaction can achieve when it comes to negative comments. You might find the review is edited to be less critical, or even removed entirely.

Digital first is old hat – nowadays it’s “connected app first”

Paper invoices, mailed cheques, bulk printing… Processes like these impede growth and your teams should be working more strategically. But even the paperless office is an outdated concept nowadays. The API economy is the future, wherein apps interact with each other and share data, providing frictionless connections that integrate systems and data in real time. Suddenly your data is available anywhere, on any device, and whenever decisions need to be made. This can and should direct your technology buying decisions. Ask yourself: Can the app you’re about to use for accounting interact with the app that your accountant uses? If not, what work will be involved to get the data to your accountant manually – and can you really spare that time and effort? A new trend is for entire suites of apps to be interconnected, such as those in the Sage Business Cloud, so that not only can data be shared but the suite can grow with your business. With suites like this, regardless of your business’ growth, or the type of business functions that are added (for example when payroll and HR functions are added to a startup as it grows), there will be an interconnected app ready to go.

Financial reporting is instant

Technology isn’t just making tasks like accounting essentially instant in terms of dashboards and knowing your cashflow. They’re rewriting the rulebook, and often those rules have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. For example, many smaller businesses are using mobile apps to take care of their basic accounting. There’s even an artificially intelligent bot called Pegg to whom you can literally tell your incoming and outgoing expenditure via Skype or Facebook Messenger. All of this means that double-entry bookkeeping might not even feature in the business life of a modern entrepreneur. Another area seeing massive changes is financial reporting. This can still be highly labour-intensive, and while turnaround times have improved over the years, are your teams still spending too much time compiling month-, quarter-, and year-end reports? The most agile businesses are moving away from reporting cycles. They focus instead on instant reports with real-time business metrics provided by cloud-connected apps – and they ensure this kind of data is also available to those who need it, including accountants.

Sage products let you jump into the technologies described above, and apps and services are available for all sizes of business – from sole proprietor to enterprise.