Introducing the 2024 tech trends to watch

article as first published in NST: Introducing the 2024 tech trends to watch (

Technology is moving faster than most people can keep up.

Just recently, the rapid onset of AI and GenAI has enacted truly seismic change, with the potential to transform how we live and work for good. For business owners and entrepreneurs, the ubiquity of emergent technology means there's a constant need for fast decision-making on the right course of action.

And it's not just businesses. We all experience some level of tech anxiety, personally or professionally, day-to-day. Even digital natives like Gen Z, who have grown up knowing nothing else, are driving trends that hark back to a more analog age. From the rise in demand for vinyl and CDs to 'archaic' phones and pre-digital film cameras, there's growing weariness of how fast tech is moving.

SMEs everywhere need to focus on finding tech solutions that will make running their businesses easier, as well as helping them tap new revenue opportunities.

When it comes to technology, I believe businesses today need to prioritize three major areas:

Identify the right technology to adopt; with so much out there, pinpointing the solutions that can deliver the most value is key.

Reduce risk of being left behind by digital advancements; this can seriously impact growth and business longevity.

Invest in the right business infrastructure. This means creating a solid foundation for long-term tech integration, including IT support, software, and skilled employees.

Crucially, businesses today need to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to technology. No business is the same, and strategies need to be individual and tailored. With so much on offer, SMEs that are bold, agile, and creative when it comes to technology will benefit most now and in the future.

Despite the need for a custom approach, there are some tech trends that every business should be paying attention to, no matter what their size or model. In this fast-moving environment, here are the top 5 tech trends SMEs should consider in 2024:

5 trends SMEs should focus on for a smarter 2024 tech strategy

1. Business will focus on cementing their approach to AI in 2024

In 2023, the explosion of GenAI took the world largely by surprise. Since then, there's been time to evaluate, reflect, and educate stakeholders on the pros and cons of specific usage of AI and GenAI. For business leaders, 2024 will be the year to decide whether to adopt AI and what to use it for. In the year ahead, we'll see more businesses formulating AI policies, frameworks, guidelines, and governance.

Why SMEs should pay attention: Laying the groundwork for this now will pay off later. Set clear parameters for both adoption and the limitations of exposure to AI's risks. These will make sure everyone across the business is aligned on policy and tactics.

2. Climate technology—and technology that drives sustainable operations—will be front and centre

From tools to map energy or emissions reduction to the use of data and IoT sensors, technology that helps identify more sustainable ways of operating is now a top priority for small businesses and corporations.

Tech will become even more central to climate solutions, and 2024 will see more funding, interest, and uptake of available solutions as a result. The market will also become more competitive for tech solutions in this space.

Why SMEs should pay attention: Whether you're an entrepreneur who is working on climate-tech solutions or a small business looking to adopt sustainable tech to run your business more responsibly, this will be an important area of focus for many SMEs this year.

3. Tech will play an even more crucial role in helping deliver superior customer experiences in 2024

Tech-assisted customer service is an area that's evolving extremely fast, with elevated consumer expectations moving with it. From AI chatbots to ever-more-sophisticated data analytics around the purchase and delivery journey, 2024 will see companies going big on customer experience to ward off competition from peers and capture customer loyalty.

Why SMEs should pay attention: The customer experience should be at the heart of every SME's growth and operations strategy. Investment in customer service technology so far has been uneven, with some companies pioneering future-forward tech-led strategies and others reticent to make the leap.

In 2024 and beyond, the gap will become far more apparent to consumers. SMEs could risk losing out if they don't scale up in this area.

4. From security to software stacks, the role of IT will evolve in 2024

IT departments will have their work cut out for them in 2024. Today's companies need more sophisticated IT and tech strategies than ever, spanning IT solutions, cybersecurity, and more.

From staying on top of the latest tech trends to facilitating hybrid working and choosing software that can impact business revenue, IT will matter more in 2024.

Why SMEs should pay attention: Small businesses and start-ups can't always afford a dedicated IT department, meaning IT expertise can fall on the shoulders of founders or just one dedicated tech specialist. If this is the case, SMEs should prioritize recruiting digitally-minded talent able to weigh in on IT decisions that add value to the business.

5. The ability to harness real-time data will continue to prove its worth in 2024

At FedEx, we've been advocates for the value of owning and leveraging real-time data for decades. Having this at our fingertips means we can analyze delivery patterns and customer trends, track critical and time-sensitive shipments, and plan around extreme weather disruption.

Now, the power of real-time data is becoming more widely known, particularly as the adoption of GenAI continues. One of the concerns leveled at GenAI is that users are making mission-critical decisions based on old data. 2024 will see this change, with the growth of hyperscalers—large cloud service providers—about to tip the balance.

These, twinned with AI models, are poised to revolutionize the analytics landscape, providing greater ability to use data to fine-tune and tweak in real-time.

Why SMEs should pay attention: For SMEs, this can lead to increased speed, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness of business solutions, as well as all-important access to customer insights at your fingertips. All of this helps improve the customer experience and, ultimately, makes your business more robust.

Tech trends evolve quickly. The software or strategies used in the past may already need overhauling if SMEs are to prime their businesses for success and scalability in 2024.

But that doesn't always mean you need to make hasty decisions or chuck out serviceable tech stacks if tech and digitisation at your company have already progressed. Perhaps small optimisations, or layering on one new tool that will add the most value, is the way to go. 

Whether you're a frontrunner in tech or starting from ground zero, 2024 will see technology at the forefront of every solid business strategy.

Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship Excellence

Knowledge. Skills. Network.

In 2022, Perdana Leadership Foundation debuted the PLF SME Leaders Programme themed, “Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship Excellence”, a one-day mixed format event aimed at highlighting successful practices within SMEs and facilitating knowledge and idea-sharing for mutual
enrichment. The event was sponsored by Affin Bank, Pernas and Ambank.

The event kicked off with an opening speech by PLF Chairman, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, followed by a speech by Dato’ Suriani binti Dato’ Ahmad, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development & Cooperatives, Malaysia, who provided some useful insights to the 100-odd entrepreneurs in attendance. A rare opportunity to dialogue with Tan Sri Azman Hashim, also took place later in the day in a Special Dialogue where Tan Sri shared his journey from accountant to business owner and entrepreneur-banker. The session’s Q and A proved popular as there were many who wanted to know more about the banker’s business and personal drives. Tan Sri Azman also reminded the audience of the value of persistent hard work and belief in oneself.

The SME Leaders programme also featured CEOs in three panel sessions, where they dealt with various aspects of starting and running a business, including building a long-lasting business, and challenges in innovation. These panel sessions were followed by shorter breakouts lead by business owners or trainers which enabled more dialogue and discussions among participants. Short informative talks by Mr Rizal Nainy, CEO of SME Corp Malaysia, & Mr Redzuan Affandi of MDeC, complemented the interactive sessions by informing participants of the various funding options available for MSMEs as well as digitalisation routes and assistance that can be taken.

The big finale was a Closing Keynote Address by former Prime Minister and PLF Honorary President, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who unfortunately was only able to deliver his remarks via video as he was away overseas on the date of the event. Tun congratulated the participants on their achievements and reminded the audience that there was no short cut to success. You need to “roll up your sleeves and
do the hard work”. He stressed the importance of enjoying your work, because it will boost your dedication and make achievement that much more meaningful. Tun also motivated the participants by reminding them that they were in no way inferior to those who’re already at the top.

“I know nowadays, it is popularly promoted the narrative that one should not work hard but to work smart. Indeed, why should one work for 10 hours if the result can be achieved in half the time. But such an adage should be read alongside another adage – “easy come easy go” meaning what you achieve easily will also diminish easily.”

It was a fitting close to the event, as it emphasised the values of leadership, commitment, and hard work, the qualities that successful leaders of businesses of any size are more than familiar with.

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