Technology Trends and the Future of Small Business

The latest installment of the Future of Small Business report is out. The Future of Small Business report outlines major trends affecting small businesses in the United States over the next ten years.

This latest installment of the report focuses on technology. It outlines three categories of technology trends that are shaping the face of small business.

  • On My Time, On My Terms — We will run our businesses increasingly “on my time” and “on my terms.” For instance, mobile devices will be used for more than just communications to let us talk and send text messages. Instead they will be tools that let us run our businesses at any hour, from anywhere. And we will also have access to a new wave of sophisticated analytic tools to help run our businesses — tools such as large corporations use today. The analytic tools will help us make decisions.But instead of all this connectedness and technology meaning that we will be working around the clock, these tools put us more in control. We can leave the office at noon if we want to go play golf, and then put in two hours of work in the evening from home.
  • Global, Local, Virtual — The evolution of the Web makes it easier to start a business, operate it and innovate in it.High-tech ceases being a hurdle, because it keeps getting cheaper and easier to use. In turn, that is spurring the formation of small and personal businesses.At the same time, small business relationships will become increasingly virtual, as we develop relationships with customers, partners and suppliers beyond the local neighborhood to potentially anywhere in the world. Peer networks become more connected and become a much more important force in helping small business owners make decisions.
  • From “Push” to “Pull” — The small business marketing approach will shift from a “push” to “pull” mindset. In other words, customers take charge. Customers increasingly find the information they need to make buying decisions, rather than accepting what is pitched to them.A Web presence will become the most important factor for small businesses to acquire customers. And a Web presence is not just a Web site but the totality of your online presence across a variety of places. And mobile phones will increasingly become an important part of marketing for small businesses.

There is also a one-page summary chart (PDF) outlining some of the key technology trends.

Future of Small Business Summary Chart of Technology Trends
Click image to view full size document

This report is written by the Institute for the Future and sponsored by Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks accounting software. This is the second of three planned installments. The first installment was issued in January 2007 and took a look at demographic trends.

I had the good fortune to participate in a panel of experts who gave input for the report last year. It was an exciting experience to spend time with everyone discussing how we see the market shaping, from our different perspectives. I learned a lot from the others, too.

Intuit has made the installments of this report public and available to everyone, unlike a lot of research reports which are available only to the company sponsoring them or cost thousands of dollars.

You can find the Intuit Future of Small Business report here.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

5 Reactions
  1. The Harbour Pilot

    Thanks for the link to the reports Anita. I am a little bemused by the apparently conflicting points – businesses to market more at the customer’s initiative (pull), and yet supposedly also do business on my terms, at my time discretion. Well, my experience has been that selling is typically done at the customers convenience – not mine. Reconciling this ought to be interesting.

  2. Harbour Pilot Mike, you make a good point about selling (and so many other things in business) being done at the customer’s convenience.

    There is a way to reconcile the two trends. While the priorities you work on may be dictated by customers, on the other hand the location, physical conditions and to some degree the timing of performing your work can be chosen by you as the business owner. That’s what is meant by “On my time, on my terms.”

    And of course, we have to keep in mind that no matter how much flexibility we try to build into our days, in the end most of us answer to someone. In the case of business owners, we answer to customers.


  3. The Harbour Pilot

    Hi Anita
    I’ve been looking over the report, and I understand what they are driving atNot sure that I disagree (well actually, I agree) but this is a bit of a random walk process with takeup in some sectors much faster than others

    On the technology front, I took a long look at a product put out by a Toronto firm called Route1 – they were offering a dummy (cellphone network connected) terminal that emphasized high security – basically, the dummy terminal connected to a secure server (they were using IBM Blades if I recall) I think they were targeted at banks doing things like in-home mortgage sales, insurance firms, things like that – but clearly with application to lots of other people (like maybe politicians who keep leaving their laptops in taxis !) Anyway it was a bit pricey $700 plus cell-phone fees, and I think there was price resistance. Pity it was a great idea, but maybe premature? Or undercapitalised over-priced for takeup? However, my fingers just could not adapt to the half size keyboard – good with a hammer, not with needlepoint – that’s me !

    My experience with technology – cell-phones, telecommuting, Wifi laptops (that sorta thing) – is that it extended my workday to all hours of the night, and it became a real problem.. Let alone the hundreds of e-mails before I had my morning coffee

    I think Intuit is correct in a broad sense. I wonder what ancillary tools we can develop to help streamline and control the flows. Particularly for small business people, the3re needs to be something in place to keep the impact manageable. For someone who really leans on technology to expand my capabilities, I am both optimistic (especially for my clients!) and a little concerned as well.

    Interesting times, eh?

  4. Very good ideas in the report, Anita.

    I would like to add two more ideas that could impact small business over
    the next ten years.

    One concept that author Paul Edwards and I have discussed is the idea of “desktop
    manufacturing”. There have been some huge advancements in the technology to
    support this in the past few years.

    Much like “desktop publishing” changed the world of media, this could do the
    same to the manufacturing industry very soon.

    Another is a concept I call the “NeoBrand”. Much like Web 2.0 technology
    has “democratized” communications online, the same thing could occur with
    products and services in the offline world. Companies who let consumers use
    their “intellectual platforms” to create their own products or services will
    stand out in the next ten years.

    Some companies have experimented with this. For example, some shoe companies
    have let people (mostly celebrities) design products, with no input from the

    Futurist Frank Ogden said years ago we would eventually see “6 billion
    channels” (meaning that one day, everyone one the planet would have the
    ability to communicate with anyone), which we are well on our way to.
    Similarly, the NeoBrand could see the rise of billions of brands.