In two days, I will have the privilege of being on a panel sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce. I will be on the Small Business Technology panel at America's Small Business Summit sponsored by the Chamber. Some of the questions that we as panelists were asked include: How are small businesses using new technology to improve the way they do business? How will the rising costs of fuel and transportation impact small and medium sized businesses?
Answers to these questions depend on what small businesses will look like in the future. I see two trends emerging. First, small businesses are becoming virtual; they are increasingly teaming up with other small businesses on specific projects for specific clients. This allows them to be nimble and to partner with the very best. Second, more and more small businesses are allowing their employees to work from home. It used to be that only large businesses would allow telecommuting. While telecommuting is not for every business, it can make sense for a variety of small businesses like consulting and graphic design. And even if doesn't make sense to allow telecommuting five days a week, it may make sense to allow it one day a week.
This brings me back to technology. Both trends I describe above are growing hand-in-hand with Web-based technology solutions. Like on-demand software and Web-based email and document management. Technology cannot be separated from the processes and ultimately the people who use them. As small businesses evolve in the future, so will technology. As small businesses become more virtual, Web-based applications are being adopted in greater numbers. There is no sign that this trend will recede in the future.