Imagine this: you enter your office and the light automatically turns on. You sit at your desk and your computer recognizes your face, unlocking the screen. You ask your digital assistant what appointments you have, and you get a voice response. No connection, no keystroke.
You are ready to print four copies of last year 's strategic plan for the team meeting tomorrow. Then you see the advanced technology in your Canon MAXIFY printer tells you how low the ink is and you are almost out. But no worries – you have already subscribed to a subscription to ink supplies and have them in hand. You exchange the spent cartridge for a full one, and click "print" – no rush last-minute orders.
You check your live chat system and see your automated chatbot "chatting" with a potential customer during your absence.
Meanwhile, a visitor is in the lobby. You can see from your mobile phone that has arrived, via an interactive security camera app.
All this technology is available today – and it's very affordable for small businesses.
The future office technician is already here
For small offices and home offices, you can deploy some of the same solutions that we use in our homes.
Fueled by the growth of connected devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home hubs, forward-thinking consumers are beginning to see the benefits of smart home technology. According to Kagan Research, 15 million US households were smart homes by the end of 2016. This number is expected to increase to encompass 28% of all US households by 2021.
But not all advanced technologies are for the smart home or even for buildings. A host of exciting breakthroughs are in business software and office equipment.
Three Key Trends Shape Tomorrow's Technology for Small Offices and Home Offices:
- The machine learning software makes processes more efficient and allows companies to accomplish more without having to add staff or manual processes. Also called artificial intelligence or artificial intelligence, it seems complex and futuristic. But you probably use a business software today with AI, whether you realize it or not. It is already embedded in a growing number of software applications, including analytics software, customer relationship management, email marketing, financial and other.
- Connected cloud applications and devices save time and are incredibly convenient. A wireless printer that allows you to print directly from the cloud can allow you to get a much more efficient office, saving time and money. When your data is stored or accessed in the cloud, associated with "connected" devices, you are free and you gain freedom.
- Mobility of course, is a key tool for small businesses. When you have a small team, you have to go out, but be able to do business seamlessly. With a tablet or smartphone, you can accomplish most tasks using cloud applications no matter where you are. Your client never needs to know if you are sitting at an airport or at the beach.
The great partners are the key
While I speak with small business owners, one of the biggest concerns I hear is the impression that today 's technology can give. So many fashionable words, so much to learn!
But the thing to remember is that much of this advanced technology is determined and driven by the product suppliers we use. In small businesses, we do not have to build machine learning algorithms. Nor should we become experts in the manufacture or maintenance of connected IoT devices.
Instead, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we just need to find great devices and applications from leading vendors who support us well.
It all starts with being aware of what is happening, so that we can make the best choices among the most advanced technologies to meet our needs.
Replacing fear with desire: What do we want from technology for our businesses?
Do not assume that you know what software or hardware can do, simply because it's traditionally what is done. Instead, investigate what companies have to offer and adopt new technologies. You might be pleasantly surprised what a simple device or application can do today.
Reliability and great service are more important than ever
Here's what to look for in "future" technology:
Is the product easy to configure? Is it easy to use? Is it intuitive?
What about integrations and interoperability? Does the technology work well with other technologies you use? The recent example is the recent integration of Canon with Concur's expense accounting application. According to Mike Duffett, Vice President and General Manager, ITCG Printer Marketing, Canon USA, this integration allows Canon MAXIFY users to scan and register their receipts directly into their Concur account. By simply downloading the application using the screen of the MAXIFY printer, users can scan their receipts and save them in their Concur Expenditure Account from the top of the screen. MAXIFY screen – no computer needed. "
Being able to send scanned receipts directly to an expense app is a huge productivity factor. According to him, it's only one of the ways that Canon products "streamline the workload of our small business owners and, ultimately, support their business needs."
And what about support? Most providers offer online help files and e-mail support. That's fine, as far as it goes. But what about when you are in a hurry? Or have you tried to find the solution from the help pages, but up to now, no luck? It is then that the live support of people over the phone is what you need. And sometimes, with hardware products, you may need fast service on hardware.
Duffett says Canon's research shows that service is very important for small business owners. He adds, "Canon's MAXIFY line specifically has a dedicated line for small business owners to call that will direct them directly to a team that can meet their needs. For a business owner on a deadline – this is the type of make or break support that our brand provides. The customer support team responds quickly to business owners, who will never be redirected or speak with anyone who is not a product expert. "
As a continuation of its service and support function, Canon provides small business owners and entrepreneurs with direct access to first-hand information and advice from their own successes in preparation for Small Business Saturday. On Nov. 14, the New York Times bestseller and small business guru Carol Roth sit down with the co-founders mother-daughter of Shark Tank's success, Wicked Good Cupcakes live on Facebook from the headquarters of Canon USA.
As technology evolves at the speed of light and becomes smarter, your business has the potential to become more efficient and move faster to seize opportunities. And with the smart technology already present today, your employees can be released to perform top-level tasks that add even more value to your business.
It seems to me a winning formula.
Photo of office automation via Shutterstock
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