Artificial intelligence (AI) can help a business understand its customers, keep accurate books and spot cyber threats. Gone are the days when AI was a tool available that only big businesses could afford. Now, small business owners can harness the power of AI to improve their bottom line. If you’re exploring how AI can help automate tasks and streamline operations in your small business, here are a few things to consider.
How to implement AI in your small business:
• Identify where you need AI. There are many ways AI can add value to your business. Most commonly, AI is employed to improve marketing, customer service, accounting, data collection and insights, and cybersecurity. To determine where AI can help your business, list all the tasks you’re responsible for. Next, estimate how much time you spend on each task. Rank the list by time spent to see where AI could save you the most time.
• Next, run a cost/benefit analysis. As with any business investment, it’s essential to base the decision on a cost/benefit analysis rather than a desire for the latest trending product. Take a hard look at how AI can generate money for your business or free up your employees’ time to focus on more profitable tasks. If the gains aren’t there, or if they are too minimal to matter, you may want to hold off on investing in AI.
• Start small. Start with low-risk, low-cost projects and use a small dataset for your first project. If you need to, adjust along the way. Look into low-cost or even free software solutions. Then, expand to bigger initiatives after you get some measurable results that prove AI’s value to your business (and confirm your strategy is working).
• Prepare your data. With your objectives determined and the benefit confirmed, it’s time to gather your data. AI algorithms only work when you have a clear goal and data for the AI to learn from. Ensure your relevant data is as accurate and organized as possible before you get started. Also, ensure you have a reliable, ongoing way to collect data related to your business goals. The more high-quality data you have, the better your AI will work, especially over longer periods.
• Stay up to date. This field constantly evolves, and staying on top of trends and changes is essential. Read up on new AI products targeted at smaller businesses and “test” them out. You may find a new product that’s better than what you currently have or addresses your specific need.
• Look at your existing software. Many existing software solutions are rolling out new AI features. Here’s one example. Before purchasing new software, review your existing programs and speak to their customer support. You may find that the AI feature you want is already on their product roadmap.
• Do your research. No matter what route to AI you choose, doing thorough research is vital. Look to businesses with a good reputation. Search for business ratings and customer reviews on BBB.org and other third-party websites. Don’t skip this step. Your business and sensitive data are on the line.