Preparing for 2014 now will put you ahead of your business competitors. Before investing in new technologies, consider these options to decide which ones suit your needs best. # 1. Mobile devices will keep you in contact at all times Cumbersome desktop computers might work well at home, but you can expect to do most of your business from a mobile device. Laptops will likely remain popular since they have built-in keyboards that people already know how to use. Tablet PCs, however, will become important companion pieces. Image via Flickr by Cory M. Grenier The best tablet for business will have several features that you need for presentations as well as day-to-day work. Some of these features include: long battery lives (between 8 and 18 hours) A larger screen that you can share with others Internet access no matter where you are The ability to connect with other devices via Bluetooth Without these features, your tablet will be trumped by those that your competitors use. # 2. Cross-device software will help you save time and money Since you will use several devices in 2014, software providers will respond by letting you download programs to many devices at once without forcing you to pay more. Many developers have already recognized the importance of cross-device software. When you download apps, they often have the opportunity to install the small programs on six or more devices. This will make it easier for you to learn how to use the software that’s important to your industry. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to use several programs, you’ll just adapt to different types of screens. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that multi-device software helps you save money. Imagine buying separate programs for your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. That would get expensive fast! # 3. Marketing data will come from multiple sources In 2014, it will become increasingly important for you to learn how to market your products and concepts to precise audiences. Social media has made marketing more targeted and effective. Of course, many companies have already tapped into this potential. The difference is that more businesses will start integrating information from multiple sources. You might get information from Facebook, your own website, Google, and other data sources. # 4. Scalable data plans will become more important An increased reliance on mobile devices will mean that more people and businesses have to invest in wireless data plans. A tablet can only do so much without accessing the Internet. Unfortunately, those data plans can cost quite a bit of dosh, especially when you stream video content (we’ll keep mum about whether you’re just watching a movie or trying to convince a client that she needs your services). To combat growing prices, many companies will start to look at scalable data plans. Scalable data plans differ from those that you probably have for your smartphone. With a scalable plan, you get to exceed your monthly limit without paying ridiculous fees. Many Internet Service Providers will also let customers jump from low-cost packages to higher-cost ones when they go over their allotted data. That’s a great alternative to paying extra fees. # 5. Cloud data storage options will become increasingly important Despite the concerns that many industries have about cloud storage ability and willingness to keep information secure, people will have little choice but to keep more information on these systems as opposed to their hard drives. Image via Flickr saturnism While it does raise some concerns, it also offers many advantages to businesses that work in a global marketplace. As many companies have already found, cloud systems make it possible for employees to access information from all over the world. If you have a meeting in China, you can always download a presentation from your cloud system instead of begging someone back at the office to take it off your PC and send it to you. The convenience, in other words, will likely outweigh the concerns. As more industries get involved, cloud service providers will probably find that they have to improve their security measures. That could make it safer for everyone to use. # 6. Companies will make more of their own apps In 2013, people get most of their apps through online stores. This next year will reveal a shift towards proprietary apps owned by employers. Instead of relying on apps made by outside developers, more companies will start creating apps they can distribute among employees. A company that builds its own app can include specific features designed to boost productivity and meet client demands. You don’t get that kind of flexibility from many third-party apps. Many employers will also decide to regulate third-party apps. By assigning a manager to review available apps, the company can make sure that it spends money wisely while giving employees the tools they need to succeed. # 7. More employers will ask you to Bring Your Own Device There is good news for people who hate their workplace computers. Research shows that over two-thirds of companies already let employers bring their own devices to work. BYOD, as it’s called, boosts productivity by keeping employees in constant contact and making it easier for them to work outside of the office. There’s even research showing that 43 percent of executives encourage BYOD because they want employees to get more work done away from the office. Given the advantages, you can expect this trend to continue in 2014. # 8. You will receive BYOD training As more employers encourage workers to BYOD, they will also need to create training programs that teach workers how to become more productive without compromising network security. Like many technological changes, there are some potential downsides. Luckily, companies find that a comprehensive BYOD program makes the average employee about $3,150 more valuable every year compared to employees who do not BYOD. Companies that only offer basic BYOD training, see a $400 increase in value. That means you might as well prepare for training that will turn you into a more valuable employee. Which of these technologies do you think will become most important in 2014? Have you already adopted some of them in your business? __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. 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