Trends in Small Business Tech

Small Business is always changing, and the evolution of its internal practices have been constantly adapting to the new frontier of technological change we currently live in. The technological revolution has brought many benefits, but also many challenges. Among the benefits are the different ways to utilize technology in order to help grow your small business or startup. Often these businesses get left to the wayside as larger corporations are on the frontlines of new technology and can quickly figure out what works best for them. For smaller businesses, on the other hand, may not know these strategies. So, these are a few trends in technology that will be useful in 2019.

An obvious factor of any business is the management of documents, clients, and communication. Often these factors are managed through different software technologies that allow businesses to more adequately address problems. However, it is often the case that each facet of the business is governed by its own software. For example, companies can use Google Drive to store documents across computers/platforms but use Outlook for emails or scheduling. The first trend we will likely see is a unification of software, where companies can use a singular program to manage all facets of their business. This would make their information more secure and would make management easier, not to mention it would save money on program subscription.

On that note, however, the next big trend among business owners is an increasing anxiety about data breaches. Cybersecurity will become an ever more important factor in business as we increase our reliance on computers, the internet, and software programs to do our business. While only a fraction of small business owners believe they are susceptible to a cyber-attack, small businesses make up a majority of the victims in cyber-attacks. Because of this trend, business owners and startups will begin to view the issue of cybersecurity through the lens of a much larger business.

With any business, advertising is a key factor in trying to acquire new customers, and as such, is always changing to reflect the new customer base. Recently, corporations have turned to social media influencers in order to reach their customers. This has proven effective as often people feel these advertisements as more personal, and they come from people that they trust, rather than from a commercial or a printed advertisement. Right now most social media marketing is limited to the makeup and fashion industry, but in 2019 the trend seems to be leaning toward taking over more markets, like food and fitness. Influencer marketing can help your business stand out in the industry and can help you reach a broader customer base.

On that same token, social media marketing is another field under that umbrella. Social media marketing is becoming increasingly helpful as more people have access to these accounts, and as technology expands to target an audience that would be more receptive of your business. Furthermore, recent trends have shown that a majority of people who buy products say they first heard about that product from an advertisement on social media. In 2019, it seems that social media is a new frontier for expanding the business, and while it seems to be a great avenue for revenue generation, we must also keep in mind the many challenges it poses to cybersecurity.

A very recent technological advancement is the onset of the fifth generation on cellular capability, or 5G. 5G is faster than 4G LTE and has little to no delay in data transfer, while 4G does have that delay. While 5G remains infantile in its growth, 2019 may be the year of its introduction, meaning that upon its release, the landscape of data transfer and small business will change along with it.

Finally, the onset of Artificial Intelligence into the realm of Business will forever change the speed at which information is processed and stored. It seems farfetched that small businesses will be able to access this technology any time soon, but as the market for this kind of automation grows, and as people become more reliant on it, we will soon find ourselves readily accepting its benefits. For example, data input can be a task that is incredibly time-consuming, but AI can help make it not only faster but can open up new opportunities for people who spend their days doing that.

This year will be a remarkable year for technology, and its relationship to small businesses. No longer will some of the most important technologies of the last 20 years be limited to enterprises, they will be accessible for everyone, and will make doing business much faster and easier. It is important to keep an eye on these trends so your business can stay ahead of the game.




Importance of past performance for Federal Contractors

On the surface, it seems pretty simple, Past Performance is a huge contributor to how likely contractors are to win an award. However, this statement runs deep and often is contested and misunderstood by small businesses. During a recent contesting of an award to a rival competitor, a small business contractor found out that past performance should relate to solicited services rather than similar titles, etc.

The Government Accountability Office recently decided during this contestation, that the requirements of the past contract should match the requirements for any future contract. In this scenario, Technica was one of three offerors for a TSA requirement for screening services at a Floridian airport. The contract was to be judged on the best value and the most relevant past performance examples. Past performance would be judged based on similar size, scope, and complexity to the new contract. The TSA found that Technica only had one example that matched with this requirement. Technica challenged the award, arguing that it was wrong for the TSA to only consider one of its past performance examples. They argued that the solicitation never explicitly mentioned that the applicant needed these specific services, and therefore the examples they offered should all have been legitimate.

The GAO denied this protest arguing that past performance always includes evaluating the scope of the previous services. While these services were never explicitly mentioned, the criteria that were given should have made it clear that this was the case.  The lesson learned from this example is clear, that offerors should give a past performance that aligns with the requirements stated in the solicitation. While again, this may seem trivial and obvious, this case is not alone in its sentiments. That is, this problem has come up before and to win contracts, companies should understand this seemingly simple problem.




GSA Modernization Efforts

The motif of modernization has been a pervasive goal of the federal government in the past decade. The onset of the internet allowed for easier access to contract opportunities and better business. Part of this modernization includes updating contract writing systems and acquisition portals. In the past few years the Navy and Army have both taken massive steps (and expensive contracts) to help modernize their ability to find contractors ready and willing to fulfill their requirements. It was only a matter of time before GSA had its turn to do the same.

This has been a goal of this particular agency since 2016, and in the interim since, these new steps and requirements have been part of a more all-encompassing modernization strategy that they are taking. The new contract writing system is still being worked out, but Crystal Philcox, the assistant commissioner for Enterprise Strategy Management at FAS said that once they can figure out the scope of the new system, they can then work out many of the details. GSA is also looking towards examples of a successful roll out from the Army, as a model of what kind of system they are looking to create.

Another component of this new modernization strategy is the updating of GSA Advantage. FAS is developing a new catalog system so that agency customers can see what contracts are available, and what kind of requirements they are looking for. The main goal is also to be able to look at similar products and be able to compare them with the data compiled. Streamlining this process helps to make sure that only the most suitable product is considered, and that the process of choosing can be faster and more efficient.

Finally, updates to current GSA acquisition infrastructure is in order to further modernize the agency in the business of contracting. Making E-buy more secure and user friendly is at the centerpiece of this mission. Managing these changes is the FAS systems governance committee, which is reviewing all investments that GSA is considering. In doing this, they are looking at each contract awardee and working with them more personally in order to ensure that people are communicating and that the Agency is getting the most value per dollar spent.


The Expanding Pallet of Technology Services in Business.

Technology is changing the daily operations and processes of businesses, and that is no secret, but perhaps the different philosophies and uses of technology in business is important to understand and may not be universal knowledge. Technology has made business faster, more competitive, and more cost-effective, yet it also has some negative effects. Data management and security is an example of how to prevent these negative aspects from coming into play.

The first major area of concern when discussing the potential benefits of technology is developing a more productive workplace. For example, tools exist that can help manage productivity and track progress in a given timeframe. Perhaps, more importantly, it can be used to see where time is spent, and how to mitigate either wasted time or excess time being spent in certain areas of work. On the same token, businesses can use project management tools in order to help organize tasks and prioritize tasks in order to help facilitate further productivity. Finally, managing emails and files and organizing these two processes is a simple solution that can potentially develop into saved time and a more efficient workspace. Administrative and logistical problems can hamper someone’s ability to do things efficiently and therefore should be managed in a way to save time in these areas.

Technology can also help manage the financial aspect of business by making it simpler, more efficient, and more cost effective. A good example of this is using online invoicing services, tax filing services, or budget tracking. Each of these is cost-effective, and more efficient, ways to deal with finances. Often this category of business can seem time-consuming and often beleaguers employees with pages and pages of documents. Using online services can help in this regard by making the process faster and with better results.

Marketing is a third great example of an area that can be made more effective through the proper uses of technology. Marketing plans can be created using software to better map out plans for the future, and social media, if used properly, can be a very effective tool in marketing to new customers. Recently, many big businesses have taken to sites such as twitter, to reach a younger demographic. Additionally, their ability to personalize a twitter for a multi-million dollar business has proven very effective in getting new revenue. Actively using a website can also effectively market your services or products as that too can show that your business is engaged with customers. An example of this engagement could be a blog that is updated weekly, to show that the community you are in is both human, and engaging.

In any team-oriented business, those teams need to be able to communicate and collaborate effectively. Teleconference calls, and video conference calls (or webinars) can be used to create a more closely-knit community through more face time or talking time between employees who may be at different offices. Online business training initiatives can also go a long way in educating your employees and making them more knowledgeable of the market and the business. Finally, cloud services, or a secure intranet, can be used to make sure everyone has access to the same files, thereby eliminating the problem of missing or accidentally deleted files.

Any viable business needs to have customer service to troubleshoot problems, and help customers come to solutions. Large businesses have taken to social media to help with customer service. By messaging someone on Twitter or Facebook, people can easily get in contact with any business. Additionally, customer service appointments can be made online and that can make it easier for people to come to your customer service representatives for help. Finally, online surveys have been increasingly used recently in order to get immediate customer feedback.

Using online and software services can help any business grow as they make processes more efficient and cost effective. Going paperless and using mobile office services can help save money on those supplies and can make information sharing faster. With the rise of the internet, businesses are on the dawn of a new industrial age, and the expanse of these practices will help thrust our economy into the future.