Will 2017 see chatbots, artificial intelligence, and blockchain gain traction in start-up and scale-up businesses? We spoke with Sage Chief Technology Officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg to find out.
Here’s six major trends he predicts will change the way entrepreneurs do business in 2017 and beyond:
1. Chatbots and autonomous interfaces
The idea of interacting with chatbots via online messaging services – where users can ask questions and issue commands – took off in 2016. Vogelberg believes autonomous interfaces like chatbots will increasingly become a key tool for entrepreneurs and will soon develop highly advanced self-learning capabilities:
“Eventually, software could act without user intervention, or ask a certain question only once and use this information for all further activities,” says Vogelberg.
Sage is at the forefront of this trend, last year launching Pegg, the world’s first accounting chatbot. Pegg hides the complexities of accounting by helping entrepreneurs manage their finances through conversation. It can digitise information like receipts, eliminating the need for paper and data entry.
2. Collective intelligence
Larger companies regularly reap the benefits of collecting and extracting knowledge from large volumes of data. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to do the same, the idea of collective intelligence – where businesses share information with each other – will be key. Vogelberg advises SMBs to collaborate:
“If small and medium-sized enterprises join forces and – while considering their corporate data protection policies and personal rights laws – share for example computer power and data with other companies in a structured and systematic manner, they could profit from this collaboration by receiving a better and larger data pool and superior data intelligence.
“Similar to crowdsourcing mechanisms, this enriched data pool would enable companies to better understand how customers behave, what they need, what to offer them and the business areas to invest in,” says Vogelberg.
Formally known as distributed ledger technology, Blockchain may impact many types of businesses, especially those that work as intermediaries between two parties – like lawyers, notaries or real-estate or financial brokers.
This is because Blockchain replaces intermediaries with a decentralised, distributed ledger that all parties can access. This ledger is essentially a shared asset database that allows each party to transfer assets like digital properties, trading goods, contracts, or even financial transactions in a direct and secure way.
Vogelberg believes Blockchain may also affect bookkeepers and accountants, as it can potentially eliminate much of the workload these professions handle, like checking and booking transactions, transferring money, or paying invoices.
4. A revolutionary new way to make payments
The way consumers make payments has changed dramatically in recent years, with in-app solutions now allowing effortless one-click payments. In 2017, Vogelberg believes this technology will increasingly become available for businesses.
Software will soon allow companies to make instant, omni-channel payments – from anywhere and at any time – by establishing an end-to-end payments value chain with their suppliers and customers. Built on open Application Program Interface (API) standards, these solutions will facilitate seamless, fully automated processing of transactions and will offer full integration with accounting software.
5. Cloud-based infrastructure
In 2017, SMBs will increasingly replace their on-premises software with integrated, cloud-based solutions. One of the main benefits of doing so, says Vogelberg, is that cloud solutions hosted on platforms like Salesforce.com give SMBs access to a wealth of apps and integrated services.
“The big benefit of these platforms is that they give smaller companies access to innovative business software solutions and services which these companies would not have been able to afford five years ago. To some extent, these types of cloud platforms are democratising the way in which companies gain access to state-of-the-art apps and smart and scalable technologies,” says Vogelberg.
6. Internet of Things will create new services
Sensors built into machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes or even human beings will result in vast amounts of new data. Vogelberg believes this will help SMBs offer multiple new services. For example:
- Mechanics will develop predictive maintenance services
- Logistics companies will navigate truck fleets by using data from traffic lights, streets or other vehicles
- Smart appliances and Amazon-style dash buttons will allow retailers to predictively supply customers with goods
- Mobile medical services will innovate with the assistance of new devices, for example to improve their support of elderly people living on their own.