AI – a smart move for small business

There has been a lot of media coverage about recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) and new applications suitable for small business, but how exactly can a small business utilise AI and reap the benefits?

Artificial intelligence has come a long way from being the realm of science fiction to forming an integral part of our daily lives. The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was coined back in the mid 1950’s, when a number of academics and professionals in the field of technology first proposed a study of the term.i In that same year, the first AI program was developed.

Once considered to be exclusive to big business with deep pockets, the technologies that use AI are now cheaper and more accessible and being widely embraced by small businesses. You may already be using AI without realising it.

Not just for big business

A recent study from Deloitte and Stanford University found that around a quarter of small businesses are currently using AI in some form or another including chatbots, predictive analytics and marketing automation.ii

While that adoption may seem a little slower in the context of large enterprises’ use of AI which sits at around 40%, many small businesses have the edge on the bigger players when it comes to embracing innovative technologies.

The benefits

The beauty of AI is its ability to do tasks that human beings either find tedious or take a long time doing. Used wisely AI can save time, reduce costs, and improve customer service. Some areas of the business where AI can play a powerful role include:

Administration: AI can help small businesses reduce the time spent on administration tasks, eliminate duplication, and minimise human error, ultimately freeing up resources for other activities. AI can be used for time and task management, bookkeeping activities, scheduling meetings, managing emails, and generating reports. Another area where AI is making an impact is in data analysis, which can be time-consuming, especially when dealing with large data sets. AI-powered analytics tools can make it easier for small businesses to extract insights from data and make more informed decisions.

Sales and client support: One of the most common applications of AI is the use of chatbots to answer frequently asked questions. These can include questions on available products, delivery dates, the status of orders and more, freeing up your resources to focus on more complex enquiries. AI also has the potential to assist with lead generation, marketing automation, client engagement and sales forecasting.

Supply chain enhancements: AI’s capacity for data crunching makes it ideal for identifying supply chain trends and making predictions to assist in the optimisation of a supply chain.

How to incorporate AI into your small business

These are just a few examples of some of the most common ways AI is being utilised by small businesses. For your business to get the most out of AI, the first step is to identify your specific business needs and then choose the applications that can help you meet those needs. Take advantage of the wealth of online resources available to familiarise yourself with the potential AI offerings.

It’s important to also recognise the potential risks of using AI. Some review of the information generated by AI is needed as mistakes can occur. Also consider security risks and take the appropriate steps to keep your customers’ details and information about your business secure.

When it comes to implementing AI within your business consider the business case for its deployment (it’s easy to get carried away when it comes to new technology) and how it will be managed, what resources will be required including internal processes that need to be refined before you get going.

The real beauty of AI is in freeing up the humans in the business to do what they do best, so think about how you can utilise AI to make the best of the people in your firm, reducing onerous admin tasks and freeing up resources for the mission-critical stuff. 


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