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What should SMEs be planning for in 2018?

It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s communications strategy, especially for SMEs. Understanding the environment you might be working in next year could give you the agility to capitalise on trends and gain some much needed competitive edge.

With that in mind, we’ve pulled together our thoughts on how the communications landscape will change in 2018 and what you can do to make the most of it.

More cloud means more data

As a small business, you’ve no doubt benefitted from having operational processes and applications put in the cloud. You don’t need us to tell you that the cloud is going to become increasingly important to how you do business. You should expect to move more of your business functions to the cloud in the new year.

This move can deliver competitive advantages by improving your speed to market, increasing efficiency, enabling greater innovation and choice across your business and equipping you to be more responsive and more connected to your customers.

More than ever before, in 2018 your business is likely to be reliant on your connectivity solution. Now is the time to make sure your data is cloud ready.

Mobile working will get bigger and bigger

According to research by the Work Foundation, by 2020 some 70% of organisations will have adopted flexible and remote working practices. Mobile working is particularly crucial to SMEs, especially when you’ve got to make the most of a relatively small number of employees.

So in 2018, small businesses should continue to invest in communications solutions that accommodate mobile working practices. Whether that means ensuring all of your business-critical applications are seamlessly available to home workers, or giving remote employees large enough data packages to access those applications on the go, will depend on your particular organisation.Increased choice around collaboration

With so many more businesses set to adopt flexible working practices in the next year, mobile working is really coming of age. Indeed, the unified communications and collaboration industry is maturing rapidly and will grow to a £74bn industry by 2023.

Integrated, interoperable solutions are the gold standard now, meaning that solutions are optimised for a multitude of devices and operating systems. Consolidating your unified communications provider means you will be able to provide employees with the tools they need regardless of where they are or which device they are using. More and more providers are offering everything under one roof, and it may be wise to dedicate budget towards this in 2018.

Chatbots will become more prevalent, but the basics won’t go out of style

It used to be that Artificial Intelligence was too expensive or technically complex to implement for smaller businesses, but that looks set to change in 2018. Already, companies are realising the benefits that AI chatbots can bring to the customer experience. Microsoft’s Bot Framework will make it easier for SMEs to build bots so that customers can interact with a business through Facebook, Skype and web messenger windows.

But that doesn’t mean you should let traditional communication channels slip. When it comes to customer experience, online chatbots are no replacement for a knowledgeable, professional contact with the tools to help. By all means, invest in AI, if you think it’ll suit, but make sure you keep up the same investment in your people.

Read our eGuide: Transitioning to the cloud for SMEs: what you need to know and how to make it simple and successful.

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