Introducing your small business to the power of automation and AI


Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have become buzzwords in today’s digital-first world. As consumers, we loosely understand these technologies as self-driving cars or clever technology that might reveal our celebrity look-alike! But what does this mean in a business context, specifically in the context of small businesses?

As with many trends and technologies, it’s easy for a small business owner to assume that advanced technology and AI are the privileges of only the largest organisations. However, embracing these capabilities today can actually supercharge small businesses. But to encourage more small businesses to embrace this potential, we must first demonstrate how and why they benefit.

That starts with debunking the myths that still deter many small business owners from capitalising on the technology their businesses deserve.

Automation is for small businesses

I’ve spent my entire career working in and around automation and AI and never before have I seen its potential be greater or more accessible for small businesses. According to McKinsey, small businesses are less likely to invest in automation, although they actually enjoy more success when they do. 

Your small business is indifferent to robotic shopping assistants or self-driving cars. What you may care about is powerful technology that is vigilant in the background and can extricate you from mundane busy-work, eliminate human errors, and provide real-time, data-driven insights.

For example, instead of wasting hours sending emails to prospects from your spreadsheet or contact lists, you can set it up in a CRM and automate it through AI that watches and learns from your tasks and takes them over, before they become rote. It can observe differences across your customers and segment them, so you can understand how to be more effective and compelling to specific groups, based on their unique responses and preferences. It watches, it learns, and it does.

Small businesses do possess the expertise

Adopting AI and automation can feel daunting and time-consuming for many small business owners, but it needn’t be. First, carry out an audit to identify time-consuming, tedious, and repetitive processes. Then identify business automation tools that can streamline multiple critical processes in your organisation. Smart software can even look at your workflows and recommend efficient alternative pathways that you may have overlooked.

Once you’ve made this short-term commitment to embrace technology, you needn’t worry about your lack of expertise. The vendor with the right technology can provide the expertise and guidance to usher in the change and leave it ingrained into your business. Zoho One, for example, contains over 50 apps, spanning most of your individual business process. A thread of automation runs across the platform, allowing you to interchange data from different processes, for example, selling, marketing, and invoicing to streamline your overall sales process.

Small businesses can afford it

It’s natural to think that such advanced capabilities come with a blinding price tag. But today we live in an age when technology is being “democratised”. This means small businesses like yours can tap into the expertise and functionality of larger, more sophisticated businesses without breaking the bank.

Office workers spend, on average, three hours every day on repetitive manual tasks that would be ripe for machines. Meanwhile, nine in ten small businesses say they can compete with larger competitors using technology that allows them to work faster, more efficiently, and more strategically. Modern business process software can often make your customers overestimate your size and sophistication, leaving the exact impression you seek. Smart software and AI are neither buzzwords nor inaccessible and unaffordable technology for small businesses. They offer the potential to level the playing field and spur innovation that can keep the bigger players playing catch-up, rather than steaming ahead