Like it or not, the world we live and work in is becoming more automated by the day. Everything is moving online, and recent world events have only accelerated and exacerbated an existing trend. Our computers have become the windows through which we see the world; we use them to interact with friends, see family, and as a tool to conduct our businesses. No matter what industry you work in, chances are your business relies heavily, at least in part, on computing services. We send emails, create documents, update websites, sell products, manage finances and hire employees all through the internet. E-commerce sales rose by 14% last year, and this is only set to continue. Some businesses are even going fully online, eschewing any physical premises in favour of the cost-effective option of an entirely digital operation.
As a business owner, it is no use fighting against these inevitable changes; the world is moving forward, and we must move with it. Instead, the best steps you can take to protect and grow your business in these changing circumstances are to not only move with the tide, but to get ahead of it. If you can develop your knowledge and awareness of the online business landscape, you will be in a perfect position to capitalise on new technologies, and be at the cutting edge of a fast-growing business world.
Some of the people and employees who will be most in demand during this era of digital businesses are those working in computer technology. Twenty years ago, programmers, coders and software engineers were seen as outsiders, peripheral to the world of business and profit. Now, they are essential workers. You may need to utilise many of their skills in the coming months and years, and it will be very important to know who you should contact in which situation, and which job titles confer which skills upon a freelancer or new hire you may be considering.
Below is a short list of some computer, online and digital-based roles that any business owner should have a basic understanding about, and be able to contact in case of need.
As the title of the role suggests, software developers specialise in designing and installing new software packages for a variety of purposes. They are often capable users of many different coding languages, and they have the skills to create unique solutions to streamline and adapt your systems. Consider hiring a software developer if your business needs a specially designed online tool, or in-house programme, to assist with its smooth running. Software developers can also have some knowledge of how to create apps for phones and other devices, which can help widen the reach and accessibility of your business for both employees and consumers.
DevOps stands for Development and Operations, which should help clarify what their role entails. Unlike software developers, DevOps engineers do not create new systems or programmes. Instead, they are hugely useful for streamlining, adapting and utilising existing systems in the best way possible. The purpose of a DevOps engineer is to improve communication between the development of software and the departments who are having to use it, and they are invaluable for ironing out any operational problems either online or within your company software.
This is a role which could prove vital in helping you make business growth decisions. Data analysts work by crunching numbers and analysing data sets to produce summaries, outcomes, targets and strategies. These could involve anything from website hits, to products sold, to connections made. Some data analysts can also develop the initial tools for data collection and analysis, as well as developing the best long-term goals and strategies based on cold hard numbers and facts.
Whereas analysts interpret data and present their findings, data engineers are able to build the systems for handling and processing data from the ground up. If your business is one that will require the ability to process and filter large amounts of data, this role will become very important. Data engineers can be responsible for data handling from beginning to end, through designing, testing and implementing systems, to developing recovery plans in case of disaster, and even finding ways to acquire the data itself.
Information Security Analyst
Just as shopkeepers need to be aware of burglars, in the age of digital commerce, business owners must be aware of potential security breaches in their systems. Hackers are an online business’s worst nightmare, and they are a growing phenomenon. As the world goes online, cyber crime is becoming more and more of a risk, and even huge companies have been the victim of high-profile data hacks. Information security analysts can help to minimise this threat to your company by monitoring and testing your systems for weak spots, and advising how to fix these problems.
Computer forensics Investigator
Computer forensics investigators are the next step in the cyber security world. They work to investigate cyber crimes, including those involving hacked data. These roles are often linked to law enforcement, and they will be key players in any investigation should your company be compromised by a hacker or another malign body. However, they’re not just useful for after the fact; computer forensics investigators also often have the skills to aid you with protecting computer systems and even restoring deleted or corrupted data.
Website Developers and Designers
For the public-facing part of your company, web designers are an invaluable resource. If you are a small business owner who, up until now, has been attempting to design and upkeep your own website, stop immediately. Attractive, ergonomic website design is a lot harder than it looks, and yet can have a huge impact on how your business is perceived by customers, other businesses, and the wider market. Working with a website developer is the best way to make sure your website promotes you in the best way possible. A good website can streamline sales, gain traction with potential customers, and help boost your profile across the world. Website designers will have graphic design as well as coding skills, which are both vital in the creation of a website.
This is perhaps the most day-to-day role you will need to interact with as part of the digital side of your business, and one which it is well worth even small businesses consider hiring as a full time employee. Systems administrators should be able to provide help and support for most software and hardware issues, solving problems before it becomes necessary to call in a specialist. They have a good knowledge of systems and are able to back up data, upgrade security measures, and install and test any new hardware or programmes. This will be your go-to person for anything technological, which is an invaluable resource for any business to have.
The Bottom Line
In short, the world is changing fast, and businesses will either sink or swim. The best way to get ahead of the curve and make sure your business not only survives but thrives in an age of digital commerce and online working, is to have an awareness of the opportunities and issues you may face, and know how to handle them. No one is expecting you to become a technological guru overnight; these skills are complex, specialised, and would require years to learn properly. Instead, if you know who you can hire or contact for specific tasks, and you can delegate your online business set-up and maintenance to the right people for the job, you will be in a perfect position to take advantage of any changes in the business world.