The mention of artificial intelligence (AI) often conjures images of robots running amok, but in the real world, AI is used in much more mundane activities. Examples include data sorting and email marketing, or automating repetitive activities like stock management and price markdowns at your local Coles or Woolies supermarkets.
As a small-business owner, you might not think there’s much use for artificial intelligence in your operations, but it isn’t just for large companies. In fact, small business arguably needs this technology more. With fewer employees and fewer resources, harnessing it can allow you to do more with less.
So, where to start?
First, identify the problems you want AI to solve and that starts with considering what activities take up most of your time.
It may be as simple as using a chatbot to answer basic customer questions on your website or to direct your customer to the right person to talk to.
AI can also help with your marketing. For example, both Facebook and Google have advertising platforms that are powered by AI. This allows you to target specific customers, making it easier to collect and analyse data and ensure you are maximising the reach of the money you spend on marketing.
If you don’t have an assistant, why not use an AI-assisted virtual one? Similar to Siri, Google Now, and Echo, there are AI-powered virtual assistants designed specifically to help small business owners manage their day-to-day administration.
Another easy area to get AI involved is to manage financial accounting and the scheduling of daily tasks to employees. These tasks can be managed more effectively with the help of AI-enabled tools. As one example, QuickBooks is releasing 50 new AI tools for small businesses, including a Cash Flow Planner that predicts cash flow over the next 90 days and alerts owners when there’s a “negative situation” coming.
Artificial intelligence supports humans, enhancing productivity by helping reduce manual work and the mental load required to get through your to-do list. It can help small businesses save time performing mundane, repetitive tasks and enable owners and staff do more with less.
So yes, the robots are coming. The good news is, they’re here to help.
Kane Munro, Director, Accountancy Online