Artificial intelligence ("AI") has been around for a while. In fact for the last 30 years it has fuelled most science fiction novels and movies. But it is now becoming more approachable for every day people and many people whether they realise it or not are using it already in their home and office. The rapid growth of ‘smart home’ devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa demonstrates the consumers appetite for such products. So where does this leave small business?
Ayman El Tarabishy is the Executive Director of the International Council for Small Business and a professor at George Washington University. He says that there are many reasons small businesses should be adopting new technologies like AI. He suggests some small businesses can create time and cost savings through remotely accessing customers machines for repairs and monitoring. Other businesses are also taking advantage of offshoring and outsourcing, both of which can be done seamlessly through AI.
But what do small businesses need to consider before adopting AI into their business?
Firstly, it is in it's infancy. While it may be more accessible than ever before it is still at its early stages and moving fast. Heavy investments now could mean that it is quickly outdated. Secondly, it is still expensive. There are a limited amount of people that can work this sort of technology, and cutting through and getting machines to do something they haven’t done before is time and resource heavy.
If you liken it to computer adoption in the 1980s. Purchasing computers for a small business in the 1980s was expensive and unnecessary because even if they had them, they probably didn’t need them. Other processes and procedures and services needed to change first in order for computers to be a useful component of a small business. All small businesses eventually adopted computers, but it took time for the technology to be of use.
The process for artificial intelligence is similar. All businesses will eventually use artificial intelligence to a large extent in their business. This will be sooner rather than later depending on their need, the availability and the cost. However, the timing needs to be right. Investing too early could create unnecessary cost and your customers may not be ready to for this.
However, it is imperative that you understand your industry and customers. Keep abreast of the AI changes and possibilities within your industry and be open to embracing this technology as it becomes accessible and useful for you and your clients. AI presents incredible possibilities, however, you need to be open to how it may work in your industry and embrace the opportunity as it arises. Being an early adopter could mean that you have a competitive advantage so make sure you are staying informed.