As with most IT innovations, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions were first adopted by large enterprises with the resources to build the requisite infrastructure and hire the necessary personnel. These companies have the capital to invest in AI and use it for various things, from conducting preventative maintenance to predicting consumer behavior.
However, over time, AI innovations became less costly to build, deploy, and maintain. Nowadays, small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can invest in AI tools to help their organizations become more efficient, scalable, and competitive.
If you're an SMB owner or manager and you're interested in leveraging AI for your New York-based business, here are the important things you need to consider.
1. Assess if your business actually needs AI
Just because you have the resources to invest in AI tools doesn't mean you should. Before banking on a digital transformation journey with AI, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the pain points of the business?
- Which areas present opportunities for improvement?
- Which IT tool is best to address each pain point?
- Is an AI-powered tool the best (i.e., most cost-efficient) solution to my problem?
Take note that SMBs typically operate at a much smaller scale than larger businesses, so they won't usually need enterprise-grade AI solutions such as revenue growth management analytics tools. Still, there are a wide range of AI tools that SMBs can use out of the box or with the help of a managed IT services provider (MSP), including those that can address concerns or bring about improvements in the following areas:
If your business needs to handle inquiries, you may want to offload the FAQs to a chatbot. Some chatbots offer multiple choice questions to help customers drill down to their topic of concern, whereas more sophisticated ones are powered by natural language processing AI. Regardless of their features, chatbots generally answer queries or concerns that do not require careful human consideration, thereby freeing up customer service representatives to focus on more complicated and sensitive customer issues.
If you're concerned about data breaches (as all SMBs should be), then you'll want to partner with a cybersecurity provider that uses an ML-powered threat detection and response tool. This tool can learn to recognize anomalous behaviors in your IT systems and isolate threat actors before they compromise your data.
Marketing and sales
If you have an eCommerce store, you can integrate an AI-powered product recommendations tool that gives customers purchasing suggestions based on the contents of their cart and their past purchases. This technique can push customers to browse your site longer, buy your products, or sign up for your service.
2. Determine if the benefits of using AI outweigh the costs and risks
As with any capital expenditure, you must check to see if the benefits of using an AI tool are significantly greater than the costs of acquiring, deploying, maintaining, and ensuring the adoption of that AI tool.
You'll also want to consider potential cybersecurity risks the use of these AI tools will introduce to your SMB. Remember that AI tools often rely on vast amounts of data to function effectively, so before using one, ensure that you can handle customer data with utmost care, respecting privacy regulations and protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access or breaches.
3. Ponder on the ethical implications and social impact of AI implementation
Last but not least, you'll also have to factor in your capacity to apply the principles of responsible AI. AI systems can be immensely powerful and have the ability to influence people's lives and decisions, so they require careful and responsible implementation. For one, AI algorithms can inadvertently preserve biases in the data they are trained on. It's therefore essential that you can actively address and mitigate such biases to ensure fairness and inclusivity in AI-driven processes, especially when making decisions that impact individuals or communities.
Moreover, while AI can automate many tasks, it's critical to still have human oversight for monitoring. Before using an AI tool, make sure that it allows humans to intervene if necessary, particularly in critical decision-making processes.
By adopting a responsible and ethical approach to AI implementation, not only can you build trust with stakeholders, but also contribute positively to the broader societal perception of AI technology.
While AI and ML are not new, data scientists and engineers continue to break new ground. To navigate uncharted territory, turn to one of New York's most relied-upon MSPs: Online Computers. We'll help you realize the potential of AI while avoiding its pitfalls. Schedule a consultation with us today to learn more.