From Excel getting smarter to harassment by emoji and the importance of AI for small businesses, here are ten things that happened in technology in the past few months and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.


1. Microsoft Excel is getting smarter. Thanks to a fresh infusion of artificial intelligence, Microsoft Excel will now be smart enough to understand a user’s entries and then offer additional information. Earlier this year, Microsoft added stocks and geography data types to Excel, powered by Bing’s knowledge graph and new machine learning-powered features. This allows users to embed rich data into their spreadsheets. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Why is it that Microsoft keeps adding amazing features and we just continue to do simple math? When will we open up our wallets and invest in a little training to truly take advantage of the powerful functions that all of these office, collaboration and communication products provide? Soon, I hope.


2. An expert believes that AI is a 'must-have' for small business. Ayman El Tarabishy, executive director of the International Council for Small Business and a professor at George Washington University, says there are many reasons small businesses should adopt new technologies like artificial intelligence. (Source: Business.com)

Why this is important for your business: According to Tarabishy: “With AI and machine learning, a small business can now remotely access their customers' machines and instruments that are critical to their operations. This access provides not only for the reading and monitoring of data but also allows for repair and updates to be made to their systems. SMBs are also taking advantage of other services (outsourcing or off-shoring) provided by other small businesses that can provide them an increased capacity to offer more services. Using AI, this is now possible and is done seamlessly.”


3. Apple introduces a cheap 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. Apple has announced it will sell - starting at just $329 - a new 9.7-inch iPad that works with the Apple Pencil. Previously, only the pricier iPad Pro models could take advantage of the Pencil. Along with the new Apple Pencil support, existing iPad users will also get new features: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iOS are all going to be updated to support the Apple Pencil. Also included: a Retina display, powerful chip, enhanced cameras and advanced sensors. (Source: Apple Newsroom)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Let’s all agree that the iPad is, and continues to be … awesome. It’s also a very versatile business tool that many small-business owners and employees use for emails, communications, collaboration and design. But it’s always been a little too pricey. A lower cost with all of these features seems like an answer to this problem.


4. Harassment by emojis is leaving employers at a loss for words. Employers now face another legal issue related to harassment: how to address harassment allegations involving wordless communications such as emojis. (Source: Ogletree Deakins)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Recently, workplace harassment claims regarding emojis have increased significantly because ambiguous emojis (such as a winking eye or a tongue sticking out of a face) require more interpretation regarding their meanings, which may result in misunderstandings that raise legal questions. And we all thought emojis were just for fun! Oh well …


5. Facebook reveals new security settings amid privacy concerns. In an effort to untangle itself from its user data scandal, Facebook announced that it’s redesigning its settings menu on mobile devices. It will consolidate privacy options in one place, rather than sending users to 20 different screens. The new Privacy Shortcuts menu will let users regulate the amount of personal information Facebook keeps on them, such as political preferences and interests, and delete things they’ve already shared. It will also let people manage the information the company uses to show ads. (Source: Bloomberg)

Why this is important for you and your clients: No need to re-hash all of Facebook’s problems. These issues are serious. But I think Facebook will be fine in the long run. They’d better be, because there’s too much at stake. More than 70 million businesses worldwide have pages on the social media platform and a billion people using it every day. We all have invested much in making Facebook a big part of our marketing and services to our customers.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in April on data security lapses at the company.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in April on data security lapses at the company. Bloomberg News


6. GoDaddy signs multiyear deal with Amazon Web Services for ‘vast majority’ of its computing infrastructure. Internet domain name registrar GoDaddy signed a multiyear deal with Amazon Web Services to migrate most of its computing infrastructure onto the servers of Amazon’s public cloud. GoDaddy considered offering its own cloud services in the past. But now it will rely on Amazon, with AWS planning to work with GoDaddy to offer domain-related services as part of the deal. (Source: Geek Wire)

Why this is important for you and your clients: As small-business owners, we all need to accept that our cloud based applications are being hosted on public cloud platforms provided mostly by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. GoDaddy’s move to AWS is yet another example of a large company abandoning their own infrastructure and instead relying on larger, more experienced companies to host their customers. It makes sense.


7. The Facebook scandal could push other tech companies to tighten data sharing. Both large tech companies and small software developers are likely to face scrutiny over how they share customer information in the wake of the scandal involving Facebook and the British election consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. This scrutiny and the risk of regulatory action could affect Google, Twitter, Uber Technologies, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and many others that make their user data available to outside developers. (Source: Reuters)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Data privacy has become the No. 1 issue in Silicon Valley and that’s good news for small businesses. However, as companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others look to better lock up our information, we can expect more levels of authorization and scrutiny on our workflows in the coming years. In other words: Data won’t be as easily accessible as it is now.


8. A fintech startup launches a new type of virtual card. Fintech startup Revolut is launching a new type of virtual card. While you could already generate additional virtual cards for a fee, this card is different because it gets destroyed after each transaction. It is targeted to those who shop on random websites for a certain item but have no plans of shopping there again. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Disposable virtual cards will grow in popularity over the next few years and I think will be a great way to entice customers to buy on a site – even if it’s just a one-time thing. The cards could also be a more secure way to do transactions, reduce fraud and provide even more detail with each purchase.


9. More shoppers want customer service from gadgets over humans: study. A new survey conducted by HRC Retail Advisory shows that most buyers prefer to be left alone as they shop and want to use in-store technology for customer service rather than receive personalized attention from store employees. In fact, 85 percent say they want to be able to check prices at price scanners instead of having to ask a store employee, and 76 percent of all respondents rated an in-store app that will provide personal recommendations as important. (Source: Business Insider)

Why this is important for you and your clients: Some businesses are different. The study also found that consumers buying electronics wanted more human help than those buying clothes. It’s all about balancing tech and trained people to provide the fastest service possible.


10. On-demand shipping startup Shyp is shutting down. On-demand shipping startup Shyp announced early in the spring that it will be shutting down immediately. The company is ending operations after, like many on-demand companies, it struggled to find a scalable model beyond where it launched in San Francisco. Shyp missed targets for expanding to cities beyond its core base and also pulled back from Miami. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for you and your clients: This is disappointing news. Shyp had a great service and many small businesses took advantage of their advantageous shipping costs. Unfortunately, when smaller services like these go away it hurts competition and gives us all less options to reduce our costs.

Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.

Gene Marks

Gene Marks

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. His weekly columns and blogs for The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Philadelphia Magazine are read by thousands of small and midsized business owners around the country.