Robotic process automation, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer an advantage to businesses, especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking to compete with much bigger corporations. In fact, such technologies are increasingly essential to our own approach to innovation and better ways of working.
Innovative SMBs should be continually looking for new ways to use digitalization and AI to make work easier, faster and less repetitive. These technologies, now widely available for SMBs, enable better sharing of workplace knowledge and expertise, and improve decision making and open up new opportunities for adding value and creativity can all help level the playing field for SMBs in today’s competitive global business environment.
Automation offers a world of possibility and, like AI, is becoming widely available outside the enterprise space. Automated solutions can free small and medium-sized businesses from the inefficiencies – such as time-consuming manual processes, human error and needless paperwork – that have long plagued accounts payable processes.
Our commitment to such intelligent automation and efficiency improvements has given us a unique perspective on how AI can help SMBs. Below are five impacts such businesses can expect to see moving forward:
- You’ll see more AI everywhere
Small and medium-sized businesses often have limited budgets and IT expertise, but they increasingly have access to AI capabilities through business and consumer apps. Those apps range from Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri to Google’s G Suite and chatbots for customer service, marketing and other tasks. In fact, recent research from Gartner says “[t]he generation born after 2010 only knows a world with Artificial Intelligence technology”. The chances are, if you’re using apps or cloud software in your business, you’re already using AI.
- More and more, you’ll need AI
Businesses – especially midsize enterprises – that don’t use advanced digital tools will be at a growing disadvantage in today’s ‘winner-takes-all’ business world, Gartner has warned. And a growing number of SMEs are taking such warnings to heart with 76 percent of those recently surveyed by the SMB Group “strongly agreeing/agreeing that digital technologies are reshaping their business practices,” and 50 percent recognizing that AI, machine learning and natural language processing are important for their business success and longevity.
- Your customers now expect AI
People are used to apps like Netflix and Spotify making recommendations based on AI analysis of their past choices – and they’ll increasingly expect other businesses to do the same. What’s more, as Small Business Trends recently reported: “With AI, you can predict customer service issues before they happen. AI can help you identify the prospects that are most likely to buy your goods and services. Your marketing efforts become more personalized because you have more information about customer preferences to work with.”
- AI will improve how employees work
By applying intelligent automation to many activities, businesses could save $2 trillion globally, PwC estimates. And, despite the common fear that “robots will take our jobs”, the World Economic Forum has found that, by 2022, algorithms and other transformative technology could create more jobs – as many as 58 million – than they render obsolete. AI can also empower employees by eliminating dull or repetitive tasks, giving them more time for rewarding work or to learn new skills – especially beneficial for SMBs’ smaller workforces.
- Smarter working enables more innovation at a lower cost
Like businesses of any size, SMBs today are flooded with data of all kinds: Market data, customer data, supplier data, operations data, etc. AI can quickly pull out insights from this data to make it easier to identify trends and spot, as well as resolve potential problems. Coupled with a more efficient workforce with more time to spend on creative tasks, this can not only save time but also boost a business’ ability to innovate.