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.
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.