Are you drowning under an ocean of emails? Maybe your remote team finds it impossible to stay in sync? Do you feel like you’re herding cats and doing everything yourself?

The reality for most SMBs – especially those on the smaller, start-up end of the spectrum – is that you find yourself spending more time doing the boring admin stuff than actually creating, producing, and marketing your products. Cue trumpet fanfare!

We’re living – right now – in the workplace of the future. And virtual team technology is facilitating collaboration across remote teams, creating a global workplace like never before.

A plethora of workplace technology tools has flooded the market over the past couple of years; designed to make life for SMBs more manageable, more trackable, and, most importantly, more productive.

We’ve kept a close eye on the development of the best in interactive technologies and are ready to share the six workplace technology trends that SMBs should adopt to make 2019 a productive, creative, and communicative year.

Chatbots

The idea of chatbots, perhaps, is a little intimidating and maybe even a little unattractive. But chatbots are just an interactive version of that dusty old-school FAQ page. Your customers and clients are too busy to pick up the phone. And they certainly don’t want to fill out an online contact form. That’s so 1990s.

They want to know the answer to their question and quick. Chatbots are the ever-ready, friendly face of automation. Ignore them at your own risk!

Collaboration tools

Email has its place; but projects isn’t really one of them. Not anymore.  Consider how you organize a night out, for example – you’d never do it over email. You’d use text messaging, a physical voice- or video-call, or one of the many messaging services provided by social media platforms.

If it’s not practical to organise your social life through email, it’s unlikely to be the best mode of communication for remote teams. Yet, so many businesses seem so stuck with it.

It’s time to break free. Small and medium businesses are moving away from email: collaborating over the net, using low-cost packages, such as:

  • Slack or Yammer to keep teams connected
  • Google Docs to share and collaborate on documents
  • Salesforce to manage clients and customers
  • Basecamp to plan projects
  • Zoom to host group meetings; facilitating collaboration with screen sharing, breakout rooms, text chat.

Interactive displays

Interactive displays are the new flipchart. Let’s consider what flipcharts were great for:

  • Mind mapping, thought showers, and note taking
  • Group development
  • Referring back to ideas and moving onto new ones

However, everyone has to be in the same room with a physical flipchart. And with many SMBs employing a high proportion of freelancers, that’s rarely possible. Interactive displays do all of those things and more. Imagine the same board that you’re using to jot down notes and ideas:

  • displaying video from Vimeo for a little inspiration,
  • incorporating live video from remote workers who contribute in real-time,
  • while other workers in the same room wirelessly send contribution from their laptops or tablets;
  • all appearing on this single screen.

Interactive displays have been transforming the classroom in educational environments for years – the benefits to business are clear.

Influencer Marketing

If youth is your market, there’s no better way of grabbing their attention than by embracing the cyber celeb. Old-school advertising feels utterly fake in comparison to the world of influencer marketing.

Videos are often shot on mobile phones; a million miles away from the glossy world of traditional advertising. But it’s the relationship between influencer and audience that’s invaluable. These are “normal” people. This is a peer; talking their language, and explaining why a product is right for them. And if an influencer endorses a product, their audience trusts their judgement.  It’s very powerful and a high growth advertising technique.

AI

OK, so we don’t have photo-realistic robots that make the tea while checking the stock-exchange and ordering a ream of paper from Amazon with a blink of an HD eye quite yet – but AI is finding its way onto the tech trends for SMBs.

Meredith Schmidt, at Salesforce, explained: “if you spend up to 25% of your day on manual functions such as inputting data – as revealed through our research – AI and automation will represent a huge asset. “Artificial intelligence sounds like the fictional territory of ominous government agencies, carrying out top-secret research in the Arizona desert.

But – actually – there’s way more to AI than James Bond villains. AI can help SMBs personalise their customer experience while automating those manual tasks that take up so much of your time. AI tools, such as those provided by Salesforce and many other software companies can help SMBs maximize productivity.

Dialpad is an AI-driven cloud-based phone network that manages the entire remote working team. It can:

  • Note-take during conference calls
  • deal with incoming phone calls with artificial intelligence in a way that makes it difficult to detect that you’re speaking to a computer.
  • Give the workplace genuine flexibility – accessible from smart mobile devices and desktops.
  • Synchronise the workforce from anywhere

5G

Keep your ears to the ground because 5G is on its way and it’s set to revolutionise mobile working, broadening the canvas for workplace technology.5G will decuple (x10) network speeds.

The US, South Korea, and China are all racing to launch it first. It seems that 5G is the new space race. 5G will change the way we work, the speed in which we communicate, and will allow Uber to launch their food-delivery drones (so it’s worth it just for that!). 5G will allow us to be online all the time – like an always-on broadband signal; but everywhere.

Although 5G isn’t officially due to be launched until 2020, the networks are going to be keen for volunteers to trial 5G in 2019. So get in touch with them and offer to test the most exciting development in workplace technology of the past ten years.

2019 is the year of change for SMBs, and all the tech trends are whizzing us at light speed towards the interactive technologies that once seemed the stuff of sci-fi movies and fantasy.

This guest post was contributed by Natalie Harris-Briggs, VP of Marketing at Avocorhttps://twitter.com/avocortech