There are many promising capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology. Use these tips to determine if AI adoption could have a positive impact on your small business.
As a small business owner, have you dismissed artificial intelligence as a technology whose daunting complexity is rivaled only by the price tag that comes with it? It’s easy to imagine that AI is reserved for Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, and venture-backed startups vying for unicorn status, but the reality is a little different.
With AI, as with many technologies, early adopters have paid a high price of admission. As AI gains traction, however, increased adoption and falling prices mean it’s becoming more accessible to a wide array of businesses. The technology is likely to become more affordable and more accessible as time goes on.
According to a survey from Intuit, 66 percent of small businesses are already using some form of automation technology, and 52 percent believe that AI will have a positive impact on their business. From billing automation to customer service chatbots to forecasting through data analysis, there are many promising capabilities of AI and machine learning technology — even for small businesses.
To determine whether it’s worth it to join the ranks of those capitalizing on AI, do these three things:
1. Pinpoint your biggest problem.
In order to provide a healthy ROI, AI solutions must solve a pressing business problem. As Vinay Seth Mohta, CEO of AI engineering services firm Manifold, explains, “The best AI innovations stem from actual business problems. Starting with the data itself often leads to elegant solutions that provide little value.”
First, determine what would be a groundbreaking solution for your organization — market segmentation or staffing, for example. AI can accomplish big things, so start with a big problem that would provide an excellent return. Once you’ve identified a problem that AI can solve, you can dive into your data to decide how AI technology can contribute to an effective solution. Just don’t succumb to the temptation to put the cart before the horse.
2. Determine how AI can make you more competitive.
AI solutions can comb through raw customer feedback and categorize the sentiments into user-friendly spreadsheets. Historically, humans have had to perform this tedious task, but machine learning and natural language processing tools like MonkeyLearn and Keatext allow it to be done instantly and accurately.
In this case, adopting AI would make it easier to provide exactly what customers are looking for. By streamlining the analysis of formerly unwieldy feedback, AI can help you determine best product-market fit, which is something other small businesses might not expend the resources to do. If AI can differentiate your business from the rest of the competition, it’s worth considering.
3. Chart your adoption course.
AI adoption should start with setting specific goals, whether they’re about increasing employee productivity or better targeting your market segments. Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, identify the data that will help you realize your goals through AI. Small businesses typically haven’t had access to the quantity of data that multinational corporations collect, but that’s beginning to change. In the same way open-source code can be used by anyone who wants it, some providers, including governments, are releasing open data sets for public use. For small businesses, these data sets change the game and make it possible to train AI systems quickly and effectively.
Once you have your goal and your data, verify that your technology stack will support your AI ambitions. Specifically, your tech stack must allow you to give the AI tools access to your (or any acquired) data, something that’s typically done with API-to-API integrations. If your solutions provider hasn’t built these, you will need to factor in the cost of building them yourself or acquiring them as a service from third-party providers.
AI isn’t magic. It’s a tool, and like any tool, it needs to be applied properly to perform a task. As more and more small businesses add AI to their tool kits, it’s worth doing some research to determine whether you should do the same. The longer you wait to consider AI, the further ahead the rest of the crowd will get.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. Readers should consult their own financial advisers, attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article.
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