Small Business IT in 2024: Navigating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

Small Business IT in 2024: Navigating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

With 2024 well underway, we have a clear picture of the technology challenges and opportunities that will impact small businesses this year. Right now, the focus lies on AI, cyber security, economic concerns, user experience, and staff technology skills. Of course, realising the opportunities here also relies on addressing the challenges.

Based on discussions with our customers and market trends, here are the challenges and opportunities that I believe small businesses will see this year.

Understanding AI’s role in your business

Integrating AI into your business operations is an opportunity to stay competitive, especially with Microsoft Copilot recently becoming available for small-to-medium businesses. Early adoption gives your organisation an excellent competitive advantage.

Challenges

The biggest challenge for small businesses when adopting AI lies in figuring out how to harness its potential and identify where the opportunities for growth and improvement lie. AI adoption requires a strategic approach to integrate it into existing operations and ensure it adds value.

Security considerations are a critical challenge. Tools like Copilot can quickly surface and summarise any information a user can access. As some of this might be sensitive data, organisations must ensure the privacy of this information by revisiting access controls. Additionally, not all AI engines will handle data similarly; Copilot uses Microsoft’s existing security fabric and strong privacy controls, other AI tools like Chat GPT may not have the same privacy policies.

Opportunities

One of AI’s most significant advantages is its capability to assist with various time-consuming tasks. Organisations that effectively use AI for content creation, customer service and personal assistance will likely outcompete companies that do not use AI.

Additionally, AI-driven analytics and insights support business leadership in anticipating market trends, understanding customer sentiments, and making data-driven decisions.

Strengthening cyber security

KPMG surveyed 300 Australian business leaders to gauge their top concerns for 2024. Protecting from and handling cyber risks came out on top, with 43% of leaders stating this as their main concern. In the last two years, we have seen high-profile breaches on companies such as Latitude, Optus and Medibank. These attacks have emphasised our heightened cyber risk, and 2024 will not be different.

Challenges

Today’s workforces use various devices to access company resources from distributed locations. Small businesses must adopt new strategies to secure these environments and make the most of their investments. Implementing secure access controls and educating employees about good cyber security practices is a good place to start.

Balancing security with usability is another ongoing challenge. Implementing stringent security measures can sometimes hinder user experience. Businesses need to find a middle ground that ensures high security without compromising user experience, as people who feel hindered by security controls are more likely to bypass them.

Opportunities

Improving cyber security starts with fundamental practices to reduce cyber risk. Some great best practice frameworks exist to support small businesses on this journey. First, it is best to focus on understanding your organisation’s information assets and associated risks through a detailed risk assessment. Additionally, adopting fundamental security measures can positively impact cyber insurance premiums and insurability.

Navigating rising business costs

As inflation continues to impact the Australian economy, businesses must navigate a landscape where rising operational expenses and supply chain challenges erode profitability and financial stability. The Reserve Bank of Australia has highlighted a recent increase in company insolvencies compared to the low levels measured during the pandemic. 

Challenges

When facing economic challenges, businesses must focus on getting more from their IT investments, prioritising productivity and efficiency while enhancing user experience. This approach involves leveraging technology that empowers teams to achieve greater outcomes with fewer resources. By streamlining operations and optimising software use, companies can maintain their commitment to core values and meet customer expectations.

Opportunities

It might be challenging to see how rising costs could create opportunities, but this situation allows your organisation to focus on innovation. By using smart and careful planning to drive initiatives that enhance IT investments, productivity and user experience, you can set your business up for long-term success.

Enhancing productivity and user engagement

The technology used within your organisation impacts people’s productivity and the user experience. As businesses strive to retain employees amidst competitive markets, providing an excellent user experience becomes a key retention strategy.

Challenges

The primary challenge lies in meeting users’ expectations. People expect a positive IT experience that seamlessly integrates into their daily tasks and does not create more obstacles. The technology your business adopts must support and simplify processes. You must carefully select tools that make employees’ jobs easier rather than introducing unnecessary complexity.

Opportunities

When you adopt tools that prioritise productivity and user engagement, you can lift the employee experience. For example, tools that automate routine tasks, such as reporting, free people’s time for more valuable, strategic work. Investing in training ensures that employees can fully utilise these technologies, further increasing productivity and satisfaction.

Empowering the workforce with technology skills

Without training and enablement, there’s a growing risk of some employees falling behind.

Challenges

Gaps in technology skills can lead to inefficiencies, frustration, and even disengagement among employees who feel overwhelmed by the constant need to adapt to new tools. New initiatives aimed at driving productivity and efficiency often fall short without proper training. To realise the full benefits of your investments, the challenge for businesses is to create a continuous learning environment that supports technology adoption at all levels. The organisation will need to build training programs that are accessible, engaging, and aligned with different learning styles.

Opportunities

If your organisation invests in employee training, you will have the potential to streamline workflows, provide better customer experiences and boost productivity. However, realising these benefits hinges on employees being proficient with the latest technologies. Providing tailored training programs ensures that staff are not only familiar with but also skilled in leveraging these advancements to their full potential.

Conclusion

Today’s small businesses must navigate a market primarily driven by technology, with new advancements occurring regularly and at a pace that has steadily quickened. For instance, the cyber security and AI concerns of five years ago are not what we face today. Every challenge businesses experience also comes with opportunities; identifying both will enable you to adapt, grow, and remain competitive.

RODIN can guide your IT strategy in 2024

Small and medium enterprises require a partner who offers more than just support; they need one who deeply understands their business and provides strategic guidance, enablement, and training to leverage emerging technology. The journey towards harnessing these opportunities requires more than technical expertise; it demands a dedicated approach to aligning technology with business objectives, ensuring growth and innovation.

RODIN’s Managed Services are designed to bridge this gap, aligning your digital efforts with your overarching business strategy. We commit to understanding your business goals and IT infrastructure and craft strategic solutions that integrate seamlessly with your daily operations. You can find more details on our Managed Services page.

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