The rapidly evolving world of IT is constantly throwing up new trends that SME organisations are looking to exploit to their advantage. With the growing dependence on IT and outsourcing of crucial business functions, the question arises: how do we see these trends reflected in IT services towards SMEs? Let's look ahead to some promising developments that may help shape the course of IT services in the coming year, according to IT services provider Sharp.
Integration of AI
Artificial Intelligence has attracted a lot of attention this year, but may also cause a lot of headaches for IT decision-makers looking to integrate this technology into their business processes. After all, how do you integrate AI into your company's IT? What is its added value?
By 2024, for SMB organisations, we can expect a growing integration of AI into IT services. Automation will be a leading trend, with AI taking over tasks previously performed manually, reducing labour costs and allowing teams to focus on their true core business.
Microsoft's Copilot (for Microsoft 365) and other similar AI services will also become available to more and more SMB organisations, putting advanced assistance and creative capabilities at their fingertips. Security measures and education on data integrity will evolve in parallel, as AI-driven processes increase the need for better security and data privacy.
Need for more and better cybersecurity
In response to the increasing deployment of AI, SMEs will also face 'smarter' cyber-threats in 2024, requiring more sophisticated, tailored security solutions. Companies will need to invest in advanced tools and protocols to strengthen the protection of data and systems, both internally and in the cloud. These include enhanced firewalls, advanced authentication methods and AI-driven security analytics to detect and combat potential threats. And most importantly, these tools and protocols need to be regularly monitored and updated.
In addition to technological solutions, education about cybersecurity will be a priority. By 2024, companies should further train their staff to recognise potential risks and apply data security best practices.
Automation of processes
Something that we already know from past years and so cannot be called so much of a 'trend' is the automation of processes. But the latter will again play a key role in 2024. SME organisations are striving for more efficient digital workflows and improved optimisation of all kinds of tasks. And while automation is convenient, it also carries risks, especially when it comes to the (un)intended sharing of company data. It will therefore become very important for companies in the coming year to carefully manage access to data, both internally and in the cloud. Especially with AI automation because those systems can access large amounts of data and make decisions independently, which increases the complexity of data management. Companies will therefore need to train their employees on data structures and access rights management, as well as regularly update and monitor security protocols. Strict access controls, advanced security tools (e.g. encryption and firewalls), data management guidelines and regular auditing of this data become necessary for this purpose.
Fortunately, there is also something positive to mention on this front: entry costs for automation solutions seem to be falling further. This started as early as 2023, and now seems to be continuing - partly driven by the development of AI. Take, for example, the use of Microsoft's Power BI, a tool that lets non-technical users easily collect, analyse, visualise and share data in a cost-effective and efficient way. Such tools will become increasingly popular thanks to the advance of AI.
In short, for the new year, we expect AI integration into IT services for SMEs to grow, while the need for improved cybersecurity and training around data protection increases simultaneously. In addition, process automation remains a crucial focus, with a declining trend in entry costs for these solutions, mainly driven by advances in AI development.