Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more than just a tech buzzword. Along with automation, AI is very much here to stay, and is currently revolutionising the way we live and work. But when, and how, should small businesses jump on the AI bandwagon?
For small business owners, the question shouldn’t be whether to get involved with AI, but rather when to take the leap.
AI in small businesses inevitable
AI strategist Daniel Faggella says that it is inevitable that AI will be implemented across every business sector. However, in an Emerj article, he warns against proceeding without caution. And small businesses, in particular, should be wary of investing in this area too soon.
Small businesses typically have limited cashflow, resources and, often, data science knowledge. While AI is becoming more common, it is still highly complex, and there is little direct evidence of return on investment (ROI) yet.
AI is not yet diverse or flexible enough to easily solve problems for small businesses. The talent pool of people able to understand, build and follow up on an automated or AI application is still small. It takes time, talent and money to develop and implement. Many small businesses do not have any of these in the amount necessary to take the leap into AI development.
AI not yet necessary for profitability
AI tech also needs a tech infrastructure and data management system that is simply beyond what most small businesses are happy to invest in. Faggella says that no business should move into AI without a very clear objective and aim. He says in his article for Emerj, titled Is Artificial Intelligence for Small Businesses? Factors to Consider for Technology Adoption: “99.9% of small businesses don’t actually need AI right now to become profitable.”
As this field becomes cheaper, easier to use and has improved businesses uses, we will see AI move into the small business sector. It’s not that it should be ruled out completely, rather that right now it is costly, risky and not necessary. However, Faggella does recommend looking for applications and tech that use AI, so that small businesses can incorporate it in user-friendly formats. It’s possible to buy ready-made ‘off the shelf’ AI products for use in small businesses.
Caution is the watchword for small businesses
While it is possible to invest in AI products, or even to employ data science employees to develop in-house products, caution is the watchword. AI should never be considered anything other than a new way to solve a problem. In other words, it shouldn’t be implemented just because it’s a new, fashionable tech.
It’s important not to be swept into using AI applications simply because of what they are, rather than considering what they are doing to the company’s bottom line. AI is not guaranteed to solve any business problems, and needs an enormous amount of resources, money and high-levels skills to build from the ground-up.
Any technology should be chosen by small business owners based on what they can deliver to the business, and not because they use automation or AI.
James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited, says: “The business world is currently on the cusp of widespread adoption of AI applications, technology and automated products. There will undoubtedly come a time, in the not too distant future, when small businesses will use AI every day.
“It is likely that AI will become as user-friendly, widely accepted and easily installed as any other software. Until utilising AI makes a positive difference to your bottom line, and gives a guaranteed ROI, it’s just not yet necessary for small businesses to use. However, you should be focusing on ensuring all customer data is properly stored, which is already necessary, both to comply with guidelines but also to enable you to prepare for AI.
“As a small business owner you should ensure that you’re managing, governing and storing data in the most effective way to help you prepare for the advent of mainstream AI applications. That time may not be right now, but it’s unlikely to be too far into the future.”
About Turner Little
Founded in 1998 in Yorkshire, UK, Turner Little is a specialist UK and offshore company formation, banking and corporate services provider. Our services include company formation, UK and offshore banking, asset protection, credit correction, trademarking and trusts. Other services include Internet services, mail forwarding, wills and probate. Turner Little’s vision is to offer the best possible service, together with market leading products.