(This article originally appeared in Accounting Today)
Square eyes checking and savings for small businesses, DailyPay offers early access to wages, and eight other developments in technology this past month and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. Square may soon offer small-biz checking and savings
Bloomberg shared last month that Square is preparing to roll out a checking and savings account option to their customers who own and run small businesses. According to the information, Square does not plan to charge overdraft, minimum balance, or service fees on the checking account. With its savings account, Square will offer an interest rate of 0.5% through this year. Small-business owners will be able to immediately have access to funds in their checking account from transactions conducted in Square. (Source: Banking Dive)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The banking industry continues to be disrupted by payment providers like Square. This means more options for small businesses, along with lower transactional costs.
2. One-third of organizations are using AI: IBM survey
According to a new study conducted by IBM, nearly a third of companies and organizations are using a variation of artificial intelligence, with 43% of participants sharing that their use was expedited due to the coronavirus pandemic. A third of survey participants also shared that they have plans to invest time and money in AI solutions and skills over the next year. AI was already on the rise even before the pandemic, with research conducted by NewVoiceMedia last year revealing that 25% of individuals preferred to have questions answered by automation or chatbot alternatives. (Source: Venture Beat)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The fact is that your business is probably already using AI and you don’t even know it. That’s because your software providers are likely building this automation into your applications behind the scenes. However, it’s important that you reach out to those software providers and ask them what AI and automation they’re creating in their products both now and planned. Taking advantage of AI will help reduce your costs, increase productivity, better customer experience and improve profits.
3. Warehouses are looking to robots
With the surging demand of online purchases, many businesses are turning to automated solutions such as robots to help meet the needs of supply chains, from frozen food to furniture. More and more machines are replacing human workers and pulling, organizing, and sorting goods in warehouses to speed up deliveries. Similarly, many operators are experimenting with testing equipment that workers can operate remotely, which would open up the labor market for employers to hire all over the country. Automation has become front and center as business owners share that they are struggling with hiring enough workers quickly enough to meet demands. (Source: WSJ)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Hmm … higher labor costs, more regulations, increased worker demands, administrative headaches. And that’s when you can actually find a good employee in this time of very tight labor! One of the answers is to replace people with machines and that’s exactly what’s happening all over the country.
4. Early access to earned wages
New York-based tech startup DailyPay allows users to have instant access to their paychecks, rather than having to wait for payday. The startup — which just raised $175 million in funding — already works with well-known names like Kroger and McDonald’s and operates somewhat like an ATM machine. DailyPay makes it so that employees are able to take out money that belongs to them, but at a small fee. Based on research shared by the startup, 53% of those seeking employment are searching for jobs that pay employees each day. (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Same-day pay is a growing trend and needs to be taken seriously by small businesses. Technologies like DailyPay are making this benefit easier to implement and administer. On the one hand, having this benefit available could attract more employees in these days of tight labor. But there are definitely cash flow concerns that need to be addressed.
5. COVID-19 caused tech talent to scatter
The pandemic has changed the way companies are working and has had an impact on which cities are considered to be tech hubs for young talent. Instead of places like Seattle, New York and San Francisco, recent graduates are setting their sights on cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Miami. In fact, according to a survey by One America Works, almost half of workers in the tech industry moved during the pandemic, redistributing sought-after tech employees throughout the country and spreading startups, job opportunities, and wealth. (Source: Axios)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: The effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting and one of the most significant is the acceptance of using workers — particularly tech workers — wherever they are. That means that lower-cost cities like my hometown of Philadelphia can be a great place for workers to live, regardless of where their employer is located. Smart employers are beginning to recognize that geography may not be as important as lifestyle — and finding great workers is more important than where they actually live.
6. GoToWebinar now has live streaming
GoToWebinar recently announced that users will now have the capability to livestream webinars on platforms such as YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and soon on LinkedInLive, along with other virtual platforms. Event organizers will be able to share their live feed to any compatible platform, maximizing content views by allowing followers to instantly have access to the streams. Users will be able to choose a single or several sites to stream on in order to broadcast and reach a greater audience. All GoToWebinar customers will have access to this new feature at no extra cost. (Source: GoToWebinar)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Despite the rise in popularity of apps like Zoom and Teams, my company has stuck by GoToWebinar this year, mainly because the platform has many more features targeted at businesses (like mine) that do lots of webinars. So far that’s been a good decision and, with GTW’s latest announcement, it seems to be an even better one. Yes, I would like to expand my company’s webinars to reach audiences on different social platforms, so livestreaming my events using GTW’s latest functionality could help drive more attendance and hopefully more business.
7. HoneyBook raises $155M
HoneyBook — a financial management and client experience platform geared toward freelancers and small businesses — recently raised $155 million. The company has booked over $3 billion in clients and businesses since its start and plans to use the newly raised funds to continue developing its products in order to make features more customizable and to hire more employees in its Tel Aviv and San Francisco locations. (Source: TechCrunch)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: HoneyBook’s platform combines tools such as client communication, contracts, and billing in order to assist business owners in staying organized. It’s a simple combination of customer relationship management, project management and accounting, and worth a look, particularly for very small businesses or freelancers.
8. SafetyCulture boosts workplace safety tools
Workplace safety and quality management software startup SafetyCulture announced this past month that it raised $73 million in funding. SafetyCulture provides a web and mobile app to help monitor quality standards and workplace safety through collecting data, identifying problems, and streamlining operations. According to the company’s CEO, the newly raised funding will go toward supporting company growth as the model shifts from a checklist app into a more sophisticated platform that focuses on operations for teams. (Source: Venture Beat)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Safety is a big issue in 2021 and not just because of COVID. The Biden administration plans more money for OSHA and the Department of Labor is planning on revisiting its safety enforcement and rule making. Apps like SafetyCulture could help businesses stay ahead of these potential regulations.
9. Google makes it easier to run Windows apps on Chromebooks
Over the last year Google, in partnership with Corel Corp., has been working to implement Parallels Desktop to Chrome OS, additionally announcing some support improvements to new hardware in order to let Windows apps operate on a greater number of Chromebooks. Using a virtual machine, Parallels lets Windows 10 run on macOS systems. While the product is geared toward enterprises, it helps in tackling the issue of legacy applications for businesses and corporations that are interested in adopting Chromebooks. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Google continues to make their Chromebooks more mainstream. Up until recently I had avoided considering a Chromebook for my business because I thought you’d need to always be online and couldn’t use Windows apps. That’s wrong. And the next time I’m up for a new laptop, Chromebooks will be strongly considered.
10. JotForm announces approval flow automation
Leading online form software company Jotform shared that it is rolling out a new tool called Approvals that was developed to help teams streamline workflows to make them more efficient and automate approval procedures. Approvals allows users to drag and drop elements in order for teams to more efficiently add emails and approvers, and to perform other tasks. Additional features of the new Approvals tool include personalized emails that match approval flows, customized approval settings, over 100 templates for several industries, and more. (Source: PRNewsWire)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Jotform is a very powerful workflow automation and collaboration tool that many of my clients use. I’ve also contributed content for them so I’m very familiar with their offerings. It’s an excellent and more affordable alternative to Microsoft, Google and other similar platforms because it’s so easy to use and adapt.
Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.