Michael M. Carter, Founder and CEO of BizEquity, discusses with CEO Today the impending proliferation of AI technology, with some pointers on how best to prepare in four simple tips.
As technology and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to disrupt industries, they are often met with hesitation, reluctance or even fear. Early adoption has already begun among large enterprises by incorporating AI into their products and service offerings, yet when it comes to the wider implementation of this kind of technology, little is understood or known about how AI will benefit businesses, specifically the 28 million SMBs that operate in the US[i] and 5.4 million in the UK[ii].
In fact, research from software company Sage Group says that 43% of respondents in the US and 46% in the UK admitted that they have ‘no idea what AI is all about’ and are unsure of how to use artificial intelligence to benefit their business. This is surprising and worrisome as recent reports indicate that AI is expected to be worth over $14 billion by 2023, up from $525 million in 2015[iii].
While many may be hesitant to begin integrating AI into their current systems, the AI revolution is among us and businesses, specifically SMBs, would do well to begin undertaking processes now to embrace the change and exploit the business opportunities or risk being left behind.
- Strategize rather than improvise
Although AI is a trending topic, businesses shouldn’t get caught up in the conversation and jump into planning for AI without having a strategy around its use and implementation. Business owners and leaders must define what it is that they would need AI for and how it would benefit their business before they dedicate their hard-earned time and money to its implementation. This can be done, for example, by analyzing all departments and processes to understand how and where automation will help improve business functions and allow employees to focus on high-value tasks.
Building or refining an AI-driven strategy can be a lot of work and a roadmap will help to identify the people, processes and expenditures required for a transformation. A phased approach that emphasizes goals and milestones will help to keep your business organized and on track while allowing you to correct errors and be agile throughout the process.
- Consolidate business data
Businesses should begin consolidating their business data into one source to make it easier for AI tools to find correlations and trends. For example, for business owners and leaders, having a deep-content analysis of their data, including dark data, will provide owners the insight they need to improve their performance on all fronts and become more competitive in their respective markets.
- Hire individuals with the correct skills
One of the most common fears of AI and technology is that they will replace jobs typically held by humans. In fact, a 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne that examined the probability of computerization for 702 occupations found that 47% of workers in America had jobs at high risk of potential automation compared to 35% of the workforce in the UK[iv].
However, while machines will not entirely replace humans in the workplace, the tasks that humans will begin to undertake will shift from cognitive skills to more social skills. For businesses, this means hiring a team that has managerial and interpersonal skills that will improve client relationships and customer service.
Business leaders should also be sure that they are having conversations with their existing employees about the role automation will play within the company but more specifically, within their job remit. Keeping them informed of how their role may change and how they can continue to improve their knowledge will help reassure employees that you are invested in their continued role in the business.
- Collaborate with machines
As AI is not a replacement of humans in the workplace but rather an enhancement tool, having a team with the knowledge and experience needed to collaborate with machines will help to improve efficiency and productivity. For example, one of the most challenging parts of an advisor’s job is making cold calls to potential clients, especially when they have little information or background knowledge on the individual or company. By incorporating tech like big data, advisors will be armed with additional insights, including the company’s businesses’ valuation, revenue, capital and collateral, allowing them to engage with existing clients and prospect new clients more accurately and smarter.
To ensure that existing employees are knowledgeable and prepared for automation within the business, companies should offer continued employee education through online courses, seminars or programs, to ensure that employees are able to adapt to their changing environment.