By Barry Rubin, Contributing Writer
When Thomas Edison said, “Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation,” he could never have guessed the issues facing business owners today. To help you prepare, here are four business trends for the second half of the decade.
Virtual workplaces: Once monopolized by a small number of multinational publicly traded companies, there are now thousands of virtual service providers and off-site data centers. And as more of them enter the marketplace, prices of these virtual workplace systems and hosting will continue to drop, making it a more acceptable way to do business for companies of all sizes. What that means to you: share thoughts and data with colleagues in real time, anywhere, on laptops, tablets and even smart phones, through cloud-based online meetings and video conferences; hire employees and contractors regardless of location; save on travel expenses by hosting and attending virtual meetings.
Continuance planning: New technology can help get a business quickly up and running again after a fire or other natural disaster. Off-site data recovery, for example, allows computer systems to be brought back online within minutes of an outage. In the past, businesses relied on on-site backups, which aren’t much help if the site is destroyed. Cloud-based VoIP phone systems can be routed anywhere, allowing critical work to continue with little to no interruption on service. Web-based attendance tracking lets managers know who is accounted for in times of emergency and where those people are.
Asset tracking: Once considered inventory, asset tracking is now one of the most important parts of doing business. In addition to fixed property, businesses now have transportable assets such as computers and phones. These can be tracked with a bar code or smart chip and managed via software that integrates with procurement, financial reporting and other operation systems. And there’s more: Intangible assets, such as software, can be secured via a licensing and entitlement management system; proprietary information including customer lists and vendor pricing, can be protected via cloud-based repositories, limiting access to only authorized people and only from secure devices.
Integration. Not long ago, technologies were task-specific. Today bundled programming is measured by ease of integration. The minimum form of integration is programs that share a common set of objectives, such as payroll and employee time tracking. But now companies demand single sign-on, multi function software, allowing data to flow between applications and automating, if not eliminating, redundant tasks. Take payroll, for example. With proper integration, employee time tracking is captured via software or a secure credential such as a smart card, or biometric authentication devices. This same credential is used for access to the building or a parking garage. Often, trigger-recording CCTV cameras are also incorporated. In real time, a manager can see not only which employees are clocked into work, but at what time they entered the building and what door they entered from. That information feeds instantly to the integrated payroll software, which in turn creates paychecks and payroll tax and updates to the accounting system. The smart cards can also be used as a debit card and loaded via direct deposit. All this provides extra security and increased productivity.
Barry Rubin is founder of Time Systems, a St. Petersburg tech company, and president of the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached through his website, TimeClockMan.com.
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