Bill.com launches the first AI-enabled business payments platform, and nine other technology developments you and your clients need to know about.
1. Bill.com launches industry’s first AI-enabled business payments platform
Last month, financial process automation leader Bill.com introduced the industry’s first platform that uses AI to provide end-to-end financial workflow automation. Its new Intelligent Business Payments Platform streamlines and controls payment processes while saving small and midsized companies time and reducing human error. Since many SMBs today still spend 23 percent of their workday manually managing many back office processes, there is a huge demand for automation of such processes, which has — until now — only been available to enterprise companies. (Source: Bill.com )
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: As I recently wrote on Inc.com: My prediction is that many smart businesses owners will be using technologies like these in the not-so-distant future. Why? Because these applications eliminate man-hours. They cut costs. They reduce fixed overhead. And one day that will also be in the not-so-distant future, the economy will turn downwards, sales will dry up and the companies with the lowest cost structures will be in a better position to navigate and survive. Those are the companies that are right now automating their back offices while the going is good.
The Google Inc. logo hangs illuminated at the company's exhibition stand at the Dmexco digital marketing conference in Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. Dmexco is a two-day global business and digital economy innovation platform, attracting the industry's most important personalities and corporate decision-makers. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg
2. Google sees Gmail as key to its collaboration plans
In last month’s issue of Google Cloud Next, the company said it sees the future of its team messaging tool Google Hangouts Chat as intertwined with Gmail, which allows users to switch into Chat without changing apps. Google believes that combining chat and email enables conversations to be pushed to the most fitting channel. Whereas team chat is best for ad-hoc discussions with colleagues, email is better for more formal interactions. (Source: Computer World)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If your firm uses G-Suite, then bear in mind the direction Google is going: In short, it’s all about Gmail. And that makes sense, because most of our communications still and will continue to revolve around our email.
3. Box revamps workplace automation tool Relay
In September, 2016, Box — the creator of the non-code, cloud-hosted workflow -- introduced Relay — a business process automation tool designed to link recruiting, budgeting, and sales activities across a range of systems. Last month, the company announced a Relay redesign, which features a supercharged workflow engine, streamlined dashboard, and menus of new triggers and conditions. The tool can now route content based on metadata attributes like date, dropdown, multi-select, and open text fields, and its enhanced dashboard shows history, allowing process owners to see exportable lists of who created, updated, or deleted workflow or to elect users to create and manage their own workflows. (Source: Venture Beat)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Once a competitor, Box has now become a strong partner to other collaboration systems like Office 365 and Google’s G-Suite. The company offers a single platform for managing content, documents and workflow, and counts more than 41 million users and 85,000 businesses as customers. True, the platform is mostly geared towards larger enterprises, but if your business has complex filing, security and workflow needs, you may want to consider the investment.
4. WiFi 6: Better, faster internet is coming
WiFi 6 is making its debut this year, and, in addition to the fact that it’s 30 percent faster than WiFi 5, there’s more to know. First of all, it's an upgraded standard that compatible devices, particularly routers, can take advantage of. It’s designed to allow network access points like routers to communicate more efficiently with more users and devices at once, which helps them use less power. Wi-Fi 6 routers will be able to pack more information into each signal they send, so they can communicate with devices faster and more efficiently. And best of all, Wi-Fi 6 access points will also be smarter about scheduling when devices should wake up and request information. (Source: CNET)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: As you invest in network upgrades, be sure that you’re moving to routers that support WiFi 6.
5. Small-business owners are stressed and struggling to unplug
A survey by OnePoll on behalf of GoDaddy shows that small-business owners spend 17 days a year worrying about business-related issues outside working hours. In addition, more than half (51 percent) say they have trouble switching off from work during periods when they’re not supposed to be focusing on company-related tasks. In fact, 41 percent say they often get pulled into business matters when trying to unplug. (Source: Yahoo! Finance)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: According to the above report, experts suggest scheduling breaks during the week, taking vacations, outsourcing, and practicing self-care in order to ease the tension. Wasn’t technology supposed to make our life better?
6. Zendesk acquires Smooch, doubles down on support via messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Last month, customer support specialist Zendesk acquired Smooch — a startup that claims to be an “omnichannel messaging platform” allowing companies’ customer care teams to interact with people over messaging platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and Messenger, as well as text and email. One of the first partners for the WhatsApp Business API, Smooch has also been a longtime partner of Zendesk. The deal between the two underscores the big impact of messaging apps in customer service. Even though phone and internet are huge points of contact, Zendesk says messaging apps are one of the features its customers request most. (Source: Tech Crunch)
Why this is important for your clients: My best clients are neurotic about keeping up with customer issues, incidents, complaints and problems. No, it’s not fun. But the faster these get resolved the happier customers are, which means higher retention and less churn. Also, being on top of issues helps many identify other opportunities. That’s the reason behind Zendesk’s growth over the past few years: Many businesses have figured out that a strong support system is the backbone of a strong customer service operation.
Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
7. What Facebook’s latest video ranking updates mean for small business
Facebook last month announced it will modify its News Feed algorithm to reward creators who publish video content that sees longer average watch times and generates more repeat views. In addition, pages posting unoriginal or repurposed videos will be penalized through limited access to visibility and monetization. This means small businesses should think about how to keep audiences coming back, should post their strongest images/video clips first, and should ensure content is original to get optimum visibility. (Source: Social Media Today)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you’re creating videos for your firm, you’ll need to step up your game. They need to be original, relevant and shorter. You need to track the views carefully and focus on the content that draws the most. Emphasize quality over quantity. Otherwise, all the work you put into your videos may be for naught because fewer people will ever get to see them.
8. Microsoft introduces a few cool small-biz tools
Microsoft's annual developer conference, Build 2019, attracted 15,000 programmers, developers, partners and coders to hear about all the new tools that the company is introducing to help them build better solutions for their clients. Although most of the stuff the company announced are technical tools, there were some announcements that will impact small businesses very soon. They are improved Power BI and Power Apps, Microsoft Search and Ideas in Word. (My company is a Microsoft partner but I’ve received no compensation to write this). (Source: Venturebeat)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Power Bi is Microsoft’s reporting and analytics product. Power Apps are add-in tools for Microsoft applications developed by their developer channel. Both now have new tools for easier creation, updating and integration with other applications. Microsoft Search has been enhanced with AI to search just about anything on your corporate network. Ideas in Word will be providing a natural language processing editor that will make real-time suggestions and help protect your workers from writing anything politically incorrect or sensitive. All of this should improve your firm’s and your clients’ productivity and the quality of communications.
9. Facebook introduces four new tools for small biz
Last month Facebook introduce a few tools specifically targeted at small businesses, including automated ads, appointments, new video creation and editing tools and training courses. Its automated ad functions are the most powerful and include a wizard-like Q&A interview, suggestions, and multiple ad versions to choose from, as well as customer targeting and budgeting recommendations. Its video editing tools include automatic cropping, video trimming and image and text overlays. The appointment features give Facebook businesses a self-service option that their customers can use. (Source: Marketing Land)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Tens of millions of small businesses rely on Facebook for their sales, marketing and customer service. Advertising, in particular, has always been a mystery and oftentimes requires the expense of a consultant. Hopefully, these tools will improve your experience with the social media platform ... and cut costs too.
A sign featuring Google Inc.'s logo stands at the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters during its opening day in Singapore, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Google officially opened its new hub in Singapore today. Photographer: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg
10. Google launches CallJoy
Last month, in what must be striking fear in the hearts of companies that already offer call center applications, Google introduced CallJoy, a virtual customer service phone agent -- and it's targeted directly at small businesses. (Source: TechCrunch)
Why this is important for your firm and your clients: You get calls? You provide service? Your customers or clients need answers? CallJoy is supposed to help you do all of this in a very affordable manner -- like $39 bucks a month total. The system will offer a low-cost customer service agent to block spam calls and provide basic business information about your company. It will also redirect calls based on customer requests -- like appointment booking - using text messaging too. CallJoy will also transcribe and record calls as well as storing them so you can search later.
Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.