Small Businesses Should Embrace AI
Just as the invention of the printing press and steam engine ushered in periods of rapid global change, spurring the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution respectively, the rapid development of computing technology and data networks has ushered in the next phase of global economic change.
At first, small businesses might believe that artificial intelligence technology, or AI, only benefits big businesses. It’s true that larger companies are better positioned than smaller competitors to afford the upfront costs of implementing new technology, have more data for AI to leverage and have more operational opportunities to benefit from AI’s efficiencies.
The risk to small businesses is that early adopters of this revolutionary technology continue exponential growth, take up more market share and reduce opportunities for small businesses to compete. Economists are assessing the risks of internet age “winner-take-all” economics.
AI technologies also will have consequences on our workforce. This is playing out in real-time as businesses turn to AI technology to help quickly fill in the gap of workforce shortages because of COVID-19. AI companies focused on B2B services help small businesses automate customer service, sales, and marketing.
They are also helping small businesses leverage online marketing to expand their customer base and increase sales while reducing overhead.
So what does all this mean for your small business?
Approach AI technology with cautious optimism and think strategically about how and when to utilize it. The goal should be to use technology to work smarter, not harder; to help your workforce act more efficiently, not replace them altogether. When AI is used to eliminate the routine and tedious tasks from daily life, people can be freed to pursue more creative, interpersonal and self-fulfilling activities.
- Stay competitive: The growth of information networks makes it easier than ever for small businesses to monitor competition. AI behemoths like Google and Facebook, as well as smaller B2B AI companies, produce free or affordable tools to help you identify strategic opportunities to differentiate yourself.
- Improve efficiency: Every small business should assess its operations to identify inefficiencies or pain points, then research what technology can address the problem. For example, Client Recourse Management tools, or CRMs, offer small businesses the chance to work smarter, not harder. There are dozens of options with niche market appeal to help improve operations. Many offer plug-ins to popular point-of-sale technologies and accounting software, making inventory tracking and bookkeeping even easier.
- Act strategically: Speaking of accounting, when Intuit, owner of QuickBooks, pivoted from desktop software to cloud-based service, they applied AI technology to their entire data network. Now they use machine learning to analyze all that data, and their Cash Flow Planner tool helps small businesses make strategic spending and hiring decisions with confidence.
There is no stopping the wave of AI technology. All we can do is wax our boards and hop on!