It’s that time of year when we begin looking ahead to the coming year. In fact, with 2010 drawing to a close (can you believe it?), it’s that time when business owners begin looking ahead to the coming decade. If you want to know what the next 10 years have in store, take a closer look at a new report from Intuit.
Intuit 2020 Report: 20 Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade builds on more than five years of research led by the Institute for the Future and Emergent Research. It is the first in a series of reports looking at key trends affecting consumers and businesses in the coming years. Subsequent reports will drill down into specific trends and industries, but the current report presents a broad overview.
What’s the takeaway? “The coming decade will be complex, volatile and uncertain, but it will also provide many new opportunities for small businesses and their customers in the United States and abroad,” the report notes. Here are some points I found especially interesting and that have big implications for the future of innovation:
Small businesses will get ever more specialized. Customers will increasingly seek customized products and services. The rise of innovations such as cloud computing, a flexible workforce and lower-cost manufacturing options will make it easier for small businesses to seek out product and service niches.
Startup will get easier and cheaper. In response to growing niche market opportunities, lower equipment costs and better technology, it will be easier than ever to launch a business without a big investment. This means more innovation, as new ideas can be tested without much risk – and startup companies will proliferate.
Big and small firms will join forces. Collaborative partnerships with big companies will increase, as small companies bring to the table innovative practices, market agility and intimate customer knowledge. What will big firms offer small businesses? Marketing and distribution power so that they can take their innovations to broader markets.
One prediction I’m not so sure I agree with: “The Web and mobile technologies will become the great equalizer of big and small, with customers no longer knowing – or even caring – about the size of the firm that provides their goods and services.” In a niche economy where personalization is sought after, will being a small company actually be an advantage? I think consumers may, in many cases, prefer to do business with small firms provided their needs are being met.
And here’s one innovation I particularly hope to see – and I think most busy business owners wish for as well: “The hardware and software we use on a daily basis will get smarter, helping people make everyday decisions and streamline complex tasks,” the report contends. That’s especially good news given that data will become even more critical to competitiveness. Information overload isn’t going away – so smart machines to help us deal with it will be very welcome.
Be sure to check out the full report. You can also find related materials at the Intuit website.
Editor’s Note: This article was previously published at OPENForum.com under the title: “What Does the Future Hold for Small Business?” It is republished here with permission.