The pace of technological change is accelerating, reshaping every aspect of our lives, work, and leisure. Xero’s Future Focus research reveals that small businesses, despite facing challenges, remain optimistic about emerging technologies. However, a need for more education and resources to navigate this rapidly changing world is evident.
As small business owners aim to leverage technology as a digital stepping stone for success in 2024, Xero’s South African State of Small Business (SOSB) report highlights a significant embrace of the cloud. Approximately 69% of small business owners use cloud-based technology due to its flexibility for remote work and its capacity to streamline operations, enhance collaboration with advisors, and improve financial processes.
Moreover, the report indicates a willingness among small business owners to invest in technology skills, with 86% allocating resources to online or in-person training courses for knowledge enhancement and improved tech skills.
To facilitate future planning for small businesses and their advisors, it’s crucial to discern between ‘hype’ and ‘reality’. Here are the top five technology trends that may impact the small business landscape in 2024:
Trend #1: The AI-Augmented Creativity Boom
In 2023, generative AI gained mainstream attention, with tools like ChatGPT signaling a leap in capabilities. In 2024, an “AI-augmented creativity boom” is anticipated, where AI models go beyond statistical similarity to generate new designs and products. AI becomes a co-pilot for business owners, assisting in manufacturing processes, automation, reporting tasks, and idea filtering. However, addressing issues like misinformation, copyright, and bias is crucial for the ethical use of AI systems.
Trend #2: The Rise of the Augmented, Conversational UI
Large language model-powered tools like ChatGPT are expected to revolutionize human-computer interaction in 2024. The rise of conversational chatbots with real-time interaction capabilities will unlock new opportunities for small businesses, especially in handling customer inquiries and expanding into new markets.
Trend #3: The Metaverse Finds a New Source of Power
While a full-fledged metaverse may not mature in 2024, advancements in augmented and virtual reality suggest a significant step toward immersive, blended, and connected experiences. Small businesses are likely to explore this space further, introducing new concepts of digital asset ownership.
Trend #4: Carbon Accounting – The Next Frontier for Compliance
Amid the critical decade of climate action, the International Sustainability Standards Board’s standards on sustainability could make carbon emission reporting mandatory for businesses in 2024. Integration of carbon accounting software into existing platforms will make it an extension of financial accounting for small businesses.
Trend #5: The Rise of the Super Ecosystem, Powered by Connectivity
Connectivity within the payments ecosystem is ushering in a new era of digital payment experiences for small businesses. A super ecosystem, powered by connectivity, will facilitate seamless data transmission between banks and third-party providers, reducing the burden of late payments and unlocking the potential of small businesses.
In 2024, global platforms like Xero, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft will focus on enhancing the interconnectedness of financial services, creating a “super ecosystem” for smoother financial management.
While the full impact of these tech trends may take years to materialize, small businesses and their advisors should monitor developments, as these trends will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the future.
By James Bergin, Executive GM – Technology Strategy & Integration at Xero