Welcome to 2022, the year of Covid-19 version 3.0. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is to be prepared for the world to change without warning. With that in mind, here are my top predictions for business and technology for 2022.
1. Hybrid or full-time work from home options will be the norm in 2022.
After the past two years there will be no going back to the way we used to work pre-Covid. Employees want a better work/life balance. Working from home means no more scrambling to find childcare if school is closed or a child is ill. No commute puts time back in their pockets to spend with family or pursue interests, not to mention savings on transportation costs. Lunch and snacks are just a few steps away and someone is there to let the dog out every once in a while.
Businesses that have embraced a hybrid work environment are finding benefits as well. Employees are happier and more easily retained and commercial workspace can be downsized, lowering operating costs. Employers are also finding many remote workers are more productive without the interruptions and distractions that naturally happen in a communal work environment.
Of course, there are also some downsides to a remote workforce. Employees can feel a sense of isolation without being able to connect with co-workers in-person, or their productivity may falter. Ensuring company data is just as safe in a remote workers home as it is at the office is another challenge. Managing remote workers requires supervisors to find new ways to engage employees and measure success.
Businesses made great strides in the last two years as they were forced to fast track work from home policies and practices. Now that it looks like remote work is here to stay, businesses will need to take a closer look at their processes, security, and culture to ensure remote workforce success in the long-term.
I predict this will be one of the most important and dynamic initiatives for business in 2022.
2. Small and medium businesses will see more cybersecurity problems.
A few years ago, when we talked to businesses about cybersecurity they would say “My business is not a target, what do we have that they want?” The fact is, in a recent survey (Ponemon Institute’s State of Cybersecurity Report), 66% of small and medium businesses reported they were victims of a ransomware attack in 2021. Unfortunately, 45% of those same businesses stated they were unprepared to mitigate the attack when it happened.
The need to rapidly deploy a remote workforce in the last two years didn’t allow many businesses the opportunity to fully develop security measures for those workers. Additionally, cybercriminals are getting more innovative and more aggressive in their attacks. All this will require businesses to examine their cybersecurity measures and make changes necessary to be prepared for an attack when it (notice I didn’t say “if it”) happens.
Providers of cyber insurance are also taking notice of the increased threat. Insurers are requiring businesses to have the proper network configurations and tools in place in order to obtain or renew their policies.
I predict cybersecurity will be a hot topic for business in 2022.
3. Internet of Things usage will increase.
Physical objects that contain sensors, processing ability and software to connect them to the internet are referred to as Internet of Things (IoT). In the past, examples of IoT would be a smart thermostat, light switches, and door locks – all of which can be operated via your cell phone without ever leaving your favorite chair. But now, and moving forward, businesses are starting to embrace these devices to gather data and automate previously mechanical functions.
This past year I learned about the many innovative uses of IoT for business. Things like sensors in restaurant seats to track busy times and seating availability, and a port-a-potty sensor that lets the company know when it needs cleaned. IoT can bring real benefits for reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and providing real-time data to help businesses be nimble in their decision making. Add to that, the relatively low cost of these devices and it’s easy to see why businesses are eager to implement IoT. But all these benefits come with some risks.
So far, IoT’s security track record has been poor. Flaws in software are discovered on a regular basis, but many IoT devices do not have the capability to be patched. If an IoT device is connected to a corporate network and a hacker breaks into the device, it puts the entire network at risk. Some IoT devices even carry catastrophic risk if hacked. Think of a temperature sensor at a power plant or water pressure sensors at a dam. All of this risk has governments on high alert and should have you on high alert as well. All that being said, demand for new IoT devices is high and will continue to grow.
I predict we will see expanded use of IoT, security enhancements and government guidelines and restrictions of their use in 2022.
4. Business communications will evolve.
In 2022, there will be two primary drivers leading businesses to make major changes in how they communicate. Pre-pandemic, workers primarily communicated with customers via desk top phones in the office or cell phones when on the go. But with the massive conversion to remote workforces, the need to communicate anywhere using multiple devices and multiple channels grew exponentially.
Another factor contributing to the shift in business communications this year is a November, 2017 FCC ruling soon going into effect. The ruling mandates that all US copper loop and local telephone service (the way most businesses got their phone service for many decades) must transition to an alternative service by August 2, 2022. In other words, plain old telephone service (POTS) is soon to be a thing of the past.
For the past 10 years, we have seen cloud phone service companies offering a “connect anywhere” phone service. The first providers had issues with quality and reliability. Now days, cloud communications not only offer the reliability and quality that users demand, but are loaded with new capabilities that are changing the way businesses communicate.
New cloud phone services are referred to as UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service). UCaaS blends internet-based phone and messaging into a full-featured communications platform by bringing VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging, and collaboration tools together as one.
With UCaaS, not only can your employees connect to the phone system from anywhere, but they can also connect in different ways. Your “phone” is now an app on your computer or cell phone. Your company phone number can now receive text messages. Your customer service staff can connect to your web pages using chatbots. Managers can get real time reporting on phone usage. I could go on, but you get the idea – UcaaS is a powerful communication tool. All this advanced functionality that was only available to large businesses due to cost, is now available for small and medium businesses, often for no more or less than their current telecom systems and networks cost.
I predict a large percentage of small and medium businesses will convert their phone service to UcaaS in 2022.
5. Shrinkflation will affect everyone.
Shrinkflation allows companies to increase their profit or preserve margins by reducing services or product size while keeping the price to consumers the same. It’s been a common practice in the food industry for a while. You’ve probably experienced this in the past when bought your favorite candy bar and noticed the size of the bar was smaller than before, yet it still cost same price. Shrinkflation is a way for businesses to hide the fact they are raising prices.
Shrinkflation can be a pretty sneaky way for a business to get you to pay a higher price for less product. But, faced with reduced staff, supply chain interruptions, mandated restrictions and closures during the pandemic, some businesses were forced to shrinkflate or close shop. An example is hotels, who pre-pandemic made-up guest rooms daily, switched to only making up the room at the end of a stay. Another example is airlines eliminating in-flight meal service.
As the world slowly exits the pandemic and we inch toward “normalcy”, businesses who have discovered benefits of shrinkflating, will be reluctant to let go of their new cost cutting measures. Recognizing the competitive advantage, businesses who haven’t already implemented these practices, will be searching for ways to get on board. This doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing for the consumer. It’s great opportunity for business owners to streamline processes, examine expenses, and use technology to enhance service to grow the bottom line while still providing value to customers.
I predict small and medium businesses will prioritize implementation of shrinkflation practices in 2022.
Now that I have made my predictions, I would like to hear yours. Everyone has a different view of the world and I feel like I can learn from each one of you. Please e-mail me your predictions at [email protected]. At the end of the year, I will write a year-end wrap up and see how we did. Have a healthy and prosperous 2022.
Eric Olmsted, CEO, On Line Support