Streamlining processes and cutting costs will likely continue to be the watchwords for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2017, according to travel and expense management technology provider, Concur.

Taking advantage of modern business intelligence technology, and investing in a personalised, efficient solution is essential for SMEs to remain competitive in 2017.

Concur has identified five key trends for SMEs to be aware of in 2017:

1. Millennials

Craving mobility, technology and fast results, millennials, defined as those aged in their 30s and below, now comprise the largest group of the workforce. To keep millennials engaged in the workplace, businesses must adopt technologies that help match the flexible working conditions that millennials demand.

Millennials are actively seeking a mobile work-life balance which may include working remotely. They expect technology to assist collaboration and productivity, meaning geographic distance is a non-issue.

The use of mobile expense management systems can save businesses time on administrative processes and also help reimburse employees faster, especially if they work offsite. Employees simply snap a photo of their receipt and submit it to a system that processes the expense claim and automatically authorises reimbursement.

2. Virtual presence

As traditionally expensive digital services are increasingly replaced by online platforms based on a ‘freemium’ model, smaller companies can do much more with much less. This is especially useful for start-up businesses as a more affordable way to establish and successfully grow a business across different industries.

Investing time to grow a business’s brand through social media can increase the number of potential customers who see their products and services. It can also help businesses to build relationships with their target audience, connecting products and businesses with customers and influencers as well as allowing companies to compete with much larger organisations on a more level playing field.

3. E-commerce

Last year online retail sales in Australia surpassed $20 billion. (1) Consumers’ desire for the ease and convenience of online shopping makes today an ideal time to develop an online presence. Technology can offer small businesses greater control over brand development, customer engagement and marketing. With 97 per cent of Internet users conducting research prior to purchasing products and services, keeping a representative web and mobile experience as well as investing in the development of quality content is essential for businesses in order to build relationships with their target audiences. (2)

4. Business intelligence (BI)

SMEs will increasingly take advantage of big data solutions, traditionally used by larger companies, in 2017. BI software collects fragmented sets of data and converts them to tangible information, which lets businesses make informed decisions.

The use of automated expense management software enables businesses to see the status of employee expenses in real time. As organisations amass greater amounts of data, business owners are able to implement data-driven solutions in an effort to improve business efficiencies.

5. Greater visibility over company spend

When a large amount of money is spent each year on business travel and related expenses, it’s important to have detailed reports of where this money was spent. Using mobile expense systems enables businesses to stay on top of cash flow, plan future spending as well as having a real-time, accurate view of company spend.

It’s no longer too difficult for small businesses to keep up with large enterprises. Technology is enabling SMEs to streamline operations, provide employees with the tools they need to make their jobs easier and they can also now have complete visibility over company spend. They don’t have to pay a fortune to implement these tools. I encourage business owners to do their research and find the right technology for their company.

(1) Business Insider – (from September 2015-2016)
(2) The Independent We Stand (IWS) campaign –