AI: The intelligent future for small businesses

By Mark Woodhams, Managing Director, EMEA for Oracle NetSuite

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are the buzzword technologies impacting almost every business – no matter how large or small. They have the ability to give small and particularly scale-up businesses that are bold enough to adopt these technologies a true advantage and can be the difference between success and failure.

2018 is expected to be the year that AI really takes to the mainstream. Furthermore, industry analysts predict that by 2020, up to 85% of customer interactions will be managed by machines. And the benefits of artificial intelligence aren’t just on offer to large companies. In fact, small businesses and scale-ups have an advantage over larger, more established competitors when it comes to embracing intelligent automation. They are less likely to be burdened with cumbersome legacy infrastructure and systems that can make change complicated and expensive. For scale-ups, AI offers the prospect of high growth without growing headcount and costs at the same rate.

Taking advantage of AI’s power

If you are thinking of turning to AI, here are three ways in which forward-thinking businesses can make the most of the technology:

Look forwards, not backwards. Traditional business intelligence systems allow SMEs to look back at what has happened in the past in order make decisions about the future. AI, on the other hand, can answer ‘what will happen next?’ by analysing huge amounts of data, identify outliers and trends in real-time and recommend decisions. With such foresight, management is able to predict outcomes and make smarter decisions more quickly.

Embrace intelligent interaction. Applications built upon artificial intelligence will have the power to tell users what they need to know. They will dynamically construct dashboards showing data the user needs to see based on current activities and behaviour. Trusting in such capabilities may feel a leap of faith, but it can bring a level of speed and efficiency to data analysis and decision-making which has previously been out of reach of small businesses.

Automate processes: One of the most powerful ways AI can transform a business is through the automation of business processes. AI allows employees to easily configure computer software to automatically reason, collect and extract knowledge, recognise patterns and then learn and adapt to new behaviours. By automating processes, businesses can drive greater efficiency throughout their organization, remove cost and complexity and focus on delivering value and growth.

While AI is not a panacea for all business issues, it has the power to significantly change how businesses work. For scale-ups and SMEs, adopting these technologies will help them move faster and grow smarter. With all that’s on offer, would you risk ignoring the benefits and being left behind?