The changing landscape for SMEs: How to make AI work for your SME

According to 2022 statistics from the government, there are 5.5 million SMEs in the UK making up 99% of the total business population.

The changing landscape for SMEs: How to make AI work for your SME

According to 2022 statistics from the government, there are 5.5 million SMEs in the UK making up 99% of the total business population. They are the backbone of a healthy economy and generate growth and employment opportunities, contributing more than £2 trillion in turnover to the UK.

More than just the latest buzzword, AI has the potential to revolutionise how SMEs operate, supercharging the economy and the people and businesses involved. The key is in understanding how these technological advancements can impact your specific business and how you can harness their power.

How can AI help SMEs become better at what they do?

AI can help businesses of all shapes and sizes in all kinds of ways, everything from repetitive tasks, for example to predictive analytics, finding trends in noisy and complex data and pulling out those small nuggets of information that were previously hidden to identifying fraud or security threats.

Specifically for SMEs, however, AI can be a powerful tool in customer experience. From using chatbots to provide a timely and seamless service to automated support tickets and order confirmations, AI can help to create a more efficient customer experience, driving growth and loyalty. 

Al can also be used to personalise the customer experiences by analysing customer behaviour, purchase history and preferences to improve your customer’s experience. In addition to this, SMEs can also use AI to help them to create the content, based on analysis of what performs best, like product descriptions. 

However, please note in all of this, that people are an essential component of checking the AI and in its potential.

How to determine the best AI tools for your business?

  1. Understand where AI can have the most impact. Look for areas where your business is experiencing pain points around manual and repetitive tasks, where there are high error rates or where processes are too slow. 
  2. Determine if your business has the necessary data and volume of data to support an AI based solution. Be clear on the business objective you’re trying to solve through AI, is it cost reduction, improved experience, or efficiency. 
  3. Evaluate potential AI solutions to see if they can help with the pain points you identified. Then, create a plan with a clear set of success metrics and ensure your train and educate your teams on the new technology. Often introducing AI will be a big cultural shift for a business so it’s important that you take your people on the journey and explain how the technology will help.

Understanding the limitations.

It is easy to get caught up in the amazing things the technology can do but it’s also important to understand its limitations. First, review case studies of other businesses that have used the technology successfully and ideally talk to them about the challenges they faced. Ensure there are no regulatory issues impacting your use of the technology and understand your responsibilities in this space. Make sure you have a robust set of test criteria that you use to test how the technology works for edge cases. If your use of AI is complex, seek out expert advice that can give insight into the technology and ensure it’s right for you.

The future of business. 

We do not know where the AI journey will take us but what is clear is that businesses that adopt AI now will be best placed to take advantage of new capabilities as they are created. Businesses that are open to digital transformation and are agile enough to pivot and adapt as the technology evolves will benefit the most. What we do know is that AI will help businesses to be faster decision makers, more cost effective and more resilient to change.

How will AI affect the security of my business and supply chain?

AI is already having a huge impact on business security and the supply chain. It is being used to improve threat detection, identifying potential security threats in real-time such as cyber-attacks and data security. Processing streams of data in real-time to identify and classify anomalies such as sensitive data being accessed that could indicate a security breach. Increasingly AI is being developed to pro-actively block inbound attacks and to learn during an attack so that it can better protect a business from a cyber threat. 

AI is also being used to optimise the supply chain by providing real-time visibility and predictive analysis of inventory levels, shipments, and deliveries. Helping businesses to be lean while reducing the risk of running a just-in-time supply chain.

What about the ethics of using AI?

Take the time to reflect on the ethics and impact of AI to ensure that it benefits everyone. While it is easy to focus on the positive aspects of AI, it is equally important to consider unintended consequences that may arise. Ideally you should have a person or group within your company to oversee AI initiatives. This group should evaluate projects based on a set of principles, including transparency, privacy, fairness, and the potential for discrimination and bias. They will be responsible for ensuring that any AI initiatives align with the company’s values and expectations, and that relevant regulators are informed and give their approval for the project. 

Finding the perfect balance between people and tech?

In identifying initiatives that help to remove repetitive and mundane tasks you are helping to supercharge your staff through efficiency gains and insight. That is the goal. If the AI is helping your people to work on more fulfilling tasks or they are performing their jobs at a higher level with the use of AI, you’ve nailed it.

SMEs need to embrace the potential and see the amazing places this technology could take us. Technology cannot get there without a vital missing component: people. And people cannot get there as efficiently without technology. People will accelerate the technology, and technology will accelerate the people, sending business on a sustainable growth trajectory whilst at the same time also doing better business.

Pete Hanlon
Pete Hanlon

Share via
Copy link