After nearly 20 years in the IT industry, it’s safe to say that the current industry landscape is the most exciting and promising that it’s been in my tenure. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to cybersecurity to blockchain, new technologies and trends are changing the way that we do business. In addition to my role as a Lead Systems Administrator at a logistics company, I have also spent the last three years as a consultant bringing advanced IT solutions to small businesses and startups.
With clients as small as local mom-and-pop shops, I often work to set up networks, VPNs [virtual private networks], cybersecurity, and IT infrastructure that streamlines business processes. Once available only to the most prominent companies, AI technology has recently become accessible enough for even small businesses to take advantage of its incredible potential. From greater efficiency to lower costs, AI solutions are game-changers for small businesses, whether they operate in healthcare, finance, retail, or any other industry.
Benefits of AI in Small Businesses
If your business requires you to spend time on repetitive tasks, chances are that AI can eliminate those from your schedule. If you have a lot of data that needs sorting, a machine can do that too. AI can create time savings for your business in a way that other solutions can’t.
Investing in AI can feel daunting at best. In many cases, you need at least one IT professional to come on as a consultant – or work with a team – in order to custom-build a solution that works for your business. But in the long run, the time and money invested in AI will result in huge savings of both, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your company.
AI can be used to gather information from your customers about how they use and feel about your products. This information can help you to understand any issues and also guide future product developments based on customer feedback.
Small businesses are the target of cybersecurity threats the same way that big businesses are; in fact, many small businesses are less prepared for phishing attacks or malware. Adding an AI solution that detects suspicious activity early on can be a lifesaver in protecting your company, your customers, and your reputation.
How to Best Use AI in a Small Business
We’ve established that AI can save you time and money, guide you in future business decisions, and improve your online security. But what are the best ways to apply AI for maximum return?
In customer service, AI can be used to classify support requests as well as analyze customer feedback data. In business operations, AI can be used to differentiate between task types, allowing for a more organized and streamlined approach to assignments. In product development, AI can gather the most commonly used words to describe current products, which can then be used to determine the next steps.
How to Get Started with AI
If you’re a small business or startup looking to get started with AI solutions, it’s possible you don’t have an in-house IT person or team. Don’t let this deter you. By working with a consultant or local IT firm, and starting small, you can still take advantage of this technology.
When choosing who to work with, make sure that training is provided and that the solution will be usable by your entire team. Be certain that the solution will grow as you do, and that future support will be available when you need it.
No matter the size of your business, or what industry you operate in, the advances in AI have the potential to help. By saving you time and money, and increasing efficiency, investing in AI can allow you to focus on the bigger picture for your specific business.
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