Intuit chairman and CEO Brad Smith sees five major technology trends impacting small businesses and the advisors serving them: social media, machine learning, the power of platforms, mobile and security.
In a keynote address at the Third Annual QuickBooks Connect user conference, held here this week, Smith noted, “We are entering a period of unprecedented change – but also a time of incredible opportunity.”
1. Social. “This is not just relationships anymore -- it’s about how we make decisions,” Smith explained, noting that seventy-three percent of people consult with a social network before making a purchasing decision. “Having a strong social presence can no longer be an afterthought,” he concluded.
2. Machine learning. “Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years,” Smith said, and the technology sector is rapidly developing tools that allow computers to detect patterns within that data – and react to it to make customer experiences better. “You may be asking, ‘How will this touch me?’ Well, it already is,” he said, citing examples like Amazon’s recommendation engines, and tools that Intuit itself has embedded in QuickBooks that allow it to better classify transactions, or process loans more quickly.
3. The power of platforms. “Platforms are changing the world, facilitating indispensable interactions between people,” Smith said. “They tilt the playing field in your favor – making it easier for small businesses to reach customers around the world.” As examples, he cited the way Airbnb connects travelers and property owners, or how Etsy lets individual craftsmen sell their wares all around the world.
4. Mobile. Everyone – adults, children, men, women -- spends an average of 5 hours a day on their mobile device, Smith noted: “They are supercomputers in our pockets.” And the voice-recognition capabilities that are currently being added to mobile devices will be game-changers. “People can talk faster than they can type,” he said, with voice recognition allowing people to shop on Amazon, for instance, three times faster than before. “We are incredibly bullish on voice.”
5. Security. “There was a time when being a small business gave you a sense of security that hackers would only go after large businesses – but no longer,” Smith warned. Cyber attackers now go after weakness, not size, and that leaves small businesses vulnerable, with serious consequences, since it will cost the average small business $21,000 to recover from a breach. Intuit is taking the issue seriously, having launched over 30 new security innovations in the past year, Smith said, but he encouraged the small businesses and accountants in the audience to collaborate with software vendors to improve security – and to pursue the safe haven of online software, which offers higher levels of security. “We are safer when we’re acting together,” he said, “and we’re safer when we’re in the cloud.”
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