We hear so much about Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days. From how it’s helping to spot cancer to fighting climate change and deliver better customer service. The stories seem to suggest that AI can only be applied for Fortune 500 companies or mega projects. While that was the case for a while, AI can now be leveraged by small and medium sized businesses as well.

Understanding AI’s Role in Business
AI is really an umbrella term for a set of technologies that can work alone or are combined in different ways to offer a solution to a problem. There’s Machine Learning (ML) where software learns how to do something, usually a specific task, Natural Language Processing (NLP) which is applied to text and voice (hey, Siri?), Neural Networks which also plays a role in NLP applications like Siri or Alexa.

The primary reasons a small business might employ AI is to automate tasks thus reducing the time needed and human headcount and thus costs, to help analyse data to provide insights, thus improving profitability and or enabling the business to provide better customer service (e.g. chatbot), thus improving customer retention. Especially valuable to companies with subscription type business models.

Where can small to medium sized businesses go the get AI tools?
Larger organisations have more budget to spend on AI and they also tend to run more trials with it and spend time to figure out the value. But they have the ability to experiment and being larger, they have more complex systems to deal with. Small businesses can’t really afford to experiment and customize and run trials, they want something more out of the box and easier to apply.

While there are tools available, you will still need to train them, either with data sets connected to other data sets or inputting workflows for example, for workflow automation.

Four Artificial Intelligence Tools for Small Business

Timely App: This is made for companies such as agencies, engineering services, architects, designers, law firms…any business that manages multiple clients at a time and needs to track employee time. The AI works behind the scenes to help track efficiencies of time use to help manage costs.

Bold360: One of the more advanced chatbots, this can help you provide initial customer service and sales inquiries. It’s great for when you don’t want to be reached at 3AM in the morning for that overseas customer! They even have some purchase capabilities…money while you sleep is pretty sweet.

CrowdStrike and Sentinel One: These are cybersecurity tools that use AI to help protect your data, networks and desktops. They can catch malware, ransomeware and other types of nasty software using AI and get rid of the danger.

C3AI: This one is a CRM application whithin Microsoft Dynamics, so if you’re already invested in that CRM platform, implementation is a lot easier. It can help with forecasting, churn rate analysis, lead prioritization and even sales agent churn (so they claim.) Other CRM’s have varying degrees of AI capabilities.

What to Consider
We’ll get into this more in a future post, but keep in mind that these AI apps are in the Cloud. You’re not going to download them onto a server in your offices and run them. If you’re wary of the Cloud, there really aren’t any AI tools that are going to be available. That may change, but it’s unlikely except for applications where all the businesses in that vertical have serious data privacy considerations due to a regulatory environment such as healthcare.

If you’re okay with the Cloud and either partially there or getting all the way there, such as AWS, Azure of Google Cloud, then you’ll likely find a whole host of AI apps you can gain access to. It’s a benefit of being on major platforms in the Cloud.

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