The sharpest business analysts say paradigm shifts only happen to those who lack the perspective to spot a developing trend. So, as the head of a fast-growing business, you require a sensitive radar when it comes to business trends. You need to understand the latest developments, how they may impact your business, your customers and your competitors. You also need to predict whether these trends are a passing fad or here to stay.

Inevitably, many business changes occur as a result of rapidly evolving technology. Innovations such as mobile computing, cloud services and social media are recasting the competitive landscape by giving smaller, more agile firms an edge over monolithic corporate organisations.

Here, Raja Saggi, Head of SME Marketing, UK & IE at Google, picks his five top trends which he believes will shape business over the coming months.

1. Cloud computing 

Cloud computing is a key enabler of IT, and has an outsize impact for smaller, faster-growing businesses. Traditionally, organisations’ total cost of ownership for IT equipment was a significant drag on adopting the latest systems. This was doubly true of fast-growing businesses, as their IT systems rapidly fell short due to architectural or storage concerns. The ability to utilise storage and processing on tap, as a utility, means that IT administrators are able to devote their resources to sourcing, procurement and integration, as opposed to deployment and maintenance. Products such as Google Apps are specifically geared to address these requirements.

2. Mobile computing

Mobile computing is an umbrella term that can include laptops, tablets and smartphones. Organisations are just beginning to harness the power of being able to connect with their employees and users at any given time and place. Current applications such as mobile CRMs and virtual private networks for corporate extranets are only the start of this trend. As mobile internet coverage benefits from higher bandwidths and more technology gets packed into mobile devices, such as high-definition cameras, GPS, and health sensors, the number of applications are going to proliferate, giving fast-moving businesses the opportunity for breakthrough productivity and services. 

3. Data-driven decision-making

The ability to store data on your operations as well as optimise using minor tweaks is a significant competitive advantage. For example, Google trialled 40 different shades of blue font on our search home page, to see which one worked best. Football teams routinely gather mountains of data on their players before making decisions on team structure. Data-driven decision-making, though not without its pitfalls, is a significant improvement on the alternatives. 

4. Corporate social networking

Corporate social networking is the collaboration tool of today. From the rise of consumer social networks came the idea that organisations could break down internal silos and unleash the forces of collaboration by adopting social tools. Posting a request in a cross-company network is able to generate and refine creative ideas and a means of solving tricky cross-functional problems. Some organisations have taken this to the next level by implementing ‘extraprise’ networks, which allow employees to interact with alumni and external providers of best practice.

5. Culture of innovation as a differentiator

Innovation is more important now than it ever was, as the speed of product introduction ramps up, and companies have months or weeks of advantage before their rivals catch up. The best approach is to create a culture of continuous innovation, rooted not in silos, but in a multi-disciplinary nature that integrates feedback from the shop floor into the product design and development process. In order to do so, organisations have to recognise not just the wins, but also the big bets that failed, and what was learnt from them.