Business owners have been looking for ways to give machines their mundane work for centuries. Economists have long envisioned utopias in which machines have freed us from labor, allowing humans to follow their own creative pursuits.
This may sound incredibly sci-fi, but artificial intelligence is already amazingly effective when it comes to automating the kind of repetitive tasks that small business owners, HR specialists, and salespeople would otherwise spend hours on each week.
Historically, SMEs have held back when faced with new technologies. It’s easy for startups, new entrants to the market, and large businesses with scale and resources to take advantage of disruptive opportunities as they emerge. Small and medium enterprises in the middle are often left behind.
With artificial intelligence, holding back is a big mistake. Since this technology is so accessible, and the benefits so massive, SMEs should be welcoming these advantages with open arms. When it comes to the automation race, the winners will be the quickest to pivot and embrace change, and not necessarily the biggest.
Automation and artificial intelligence is an accessible, low-cost way for SMEs to get insight from data in real-time so they can make better decisions. In many industries, this is already happening, such as the agriculture industry, with machine-learning techniques helping analyse soil fertility so business owners can use climate and weather predictions to know when the best time is to fertilise crops.
Predictive algorithms are also being used in retail markets. This helps businesses anticipate which products and services customers may want next. This ability for companies to anticipate customer behaviour continues to improve as artificial intelligence matures.
Artificial intelligence also offers SMEs numerous ways to deepen and improve relationships with customers. This is because it offers greater personalisation with the same or fewer staff members.
Here are just a few ways that SMEs are using AI to scale their business:
Big data analysis
While big data has been collected and analysed for years, only big corporate companies had the resources to do so. Now though, there is a huge variety of AI-powered tools which are user-friendly and affordable for SMEs.
SMEs can use intelligent data to analyse customer information, explore new markets, and cut operational costs. Businesses that are able to understand what they’re doing right and wrong are in a much better position when it’s time to scale.
A law firm in China is already using artificial intelligence for legal advice. Users can get reliable, accurate answers to legal questions from the firm’s robotic lawyers. These answers include legal guidance and consultation, document drafting, and references to real cases.
SMEs can also use an AI tool called LegalRobot to help them understand legal terms and language. Users simply take a photo of legal documents like contracts, and the machine will go through thousands of other legal documents so it can analyse it and help users understand their current contract or write a new one.
SMEs have seen the effect recent cyberattacks have had on larger businesses- both to their reputations and to their operations. For this reason, many are using AI tools to combat these security threats and protect their data from hackers. Almost all new cybersecurity tools are now using machine learning to highlight vulnerabilities, detect unusual behaviour, and flag new threats.
Customer relationship management
Artificial intelligence has a unique ability to make companies’ sale processes more efficient. Many of the latest CRMs use intelligent technology to eliminate manual data entry tasks, reveal important customer insights, and even remind key people to get in touch with customers.
SMEs that leverage artificial intelligence early will be able to achieve operational efficiencies quickly and well before competitors have a chance to catch up. Adopting AI is crucial, but business owners will need to have a future-focused mindset and be willing to embrace change.