Artificial intelligence is already playing an important role in businesses large and small. It is everywhere, often unnoticed by its users. It’s likely that you interacted with AI as you found this article (if you found it through a search, then you harnessed the power of intelligent search algorithms). AI is often pigeon-holed as either job-stealing factory robots or as anthropomorphic machines that act as mere novelty.
The truth is, the future of AI is probably a lot less visible than you think. AI has almost endless potential for small business, and its primarily on the backend. It’s likely there is room for it in your business.
Recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond said that he expects AI to “delivery enormous benefits to our society”. While there will need to be processes to managing the disruption [of implementation], “the potential to drive productivity increase cannot be ignored”. He also stated that AI, “could double the rate of economic growth in advanced economies by 2035”.
AI is no longer in the realm of sci-fi movies. There are a lot of ways it can be deployed now, and the scope for future growth is almost unfathomable. This article will highlight some of the ways you could use it in your daily operations now, and also broader trends that are predicted to occur in the next 5 years.
What is AI?
We’re talking about narrow AI in this article – intelligent tech that can complete tasks within a narrow scope of instruction (playing chess, analysing data, driving a car). This type of AI cannot function outside of its prescribed scope. General, or strong AI is the kind of artificial intelligence that you see in movies, with intelligence that surpasses that of its creator – us. Even the field’s leading experts cannot agree on a timeframe for that kind of technology to arrive, so it’s unlikely to affect your business in the next 5 years.
How could AI impact small business?
While it’s true that automation has caused higher unemployment in some industries (notably manufacturing), there are predictions that it will help create new jobs in sectors like the public service, education and health care. There is little fear that AI will completely replace the need for human labour. Indeed, while lower skill, repetitive jobs may be under threat, there is a new market opening up for support and management of the technology. As the number of machines and programs increases, there will be a spike in demand for creating, servicing, deployment and management of the AI. Undoubtedly, providing secure digital environments for AI to operate within will also be a huge growth area.
As with any major disruption to a system or industry, we’re likely to see a common pattern emerge of short term job losses, a period of normalisation and recovery, followed by new growth in adjacent industry. When you consider how AI may play a role in your business, you’ll need to consider what jobs may be lost, and what new roles could be created, alongside initial investment costs weighed against productivity gains. Flexibility and adaptability will be key. Negotiating how AI can play a role in your business can be complex. Securing ongoing support from experienced experts could be the difference between growth and being left behind.
The role could AI play in small business in the next 5 years
This is a very exciting field. As mentioned above, AI is highly unlikely to completely replace human employees. Instead, it’s likely to complement human needs, which will result in higher productivity, reduced costs, better customer experiences and increased profits.
Social media marketing will become highly personalised. Currently, analysing social media for time and use trends is incredibly time consuming. AI can perform deep dive analysis on user behaviour to tailor personalised content. Brand interactions become timely and relevant, leading to positive associations and increased sales.
Client-based relationships can flourish with less groundwork using new SaaS technology called Service Operations Automation, or ServOps. New business contracts can take a lot of time to build while both parties gather the relevant information and determine needs. AI can scan all interactions with the client and provide reports with every request or point previously discussed. This type of thorough data collection can help determine if contracts should be applied for, and if so, strengthen service delivery and client relationships.
E-commerce customer experiences become smoother and less costly with the implementation of chatbots. They can operate 24/7 and provide constant customer care while completing a majority of routine enquiries. As the technology improves bots can detect negative emotions resulting in invisible transfers to human operators for completion. Complementary programs can pull together relevant information about the client, so the operator can provide specific advice quickly.
Accounting and compliance procedures will be far less time-intensive as AI programs take over routine data entry roles. Using rules-based categorisation and data feeds from financial institutions reduces the burden on human operators. Analysis and pattern recognition programs may highlight errors or opportunities for further efficiencies. If specific documentation must be submitted for compliance purposes, it can be done automatically.
Artificial intelligence will change the way we all do business. It may be challenging to accept there will be a level of disruption when some routine tasks are no longer done by people, but by programs. Be confident that any losses will be countered by business growth and new employment opportunities. Start looking to see how AI can bring benefits to your customers, staff and ultimately, your bottom line.
About Mustard IT, your artificial intelligence partner
Mustard IT provide the design, build, and installation of secure IT servers and networks, alongside artificial intelligence consultations and cyber security protocol. Our trusted team are experienced and able to explain complex issues to you in a language you’ll understand. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.