Artificial Intelligence is a business luxury that entrepreneurs feel they can’t afford--but if they don’t buy it, they risk falling behind their competitors.Michelle Breitstein
The state of artificial intelligence (AI) is that while AI is seen as the wave of the future, and businesses are starting to acquire AI as a business tool, it is still emerging in the business community. All of the hype surrounding AI appears to be lost in much of the business world, even though machines are becoming increasingly more effective at acquiring the algorithms it needs to mirror human thought and human action. Don’t expect that AI is going to be able to run a business by itself, but AI can help many entrepreneurs with their businesses.
While network management seems like a problem best left to the techies, in reality, network management has more to do with managing the network of a business owner across multiple devices than it does the network of the business. Think about using an AI assistant, such as Google or Cloze, to manage dates, calendar, meetings, email follow-ups and other details no business owner has time for. AI assistants are able now to work across devices, within the cloud, and on the Internet to handle the business of business owners, often without the owners giving it a second thought. AI represents time saved for the business owner, which means he or she has more time towards client prospecting and customer service, as well as employee management.
Task-Driven Applications and Business Process Efficiency
Entrepreneurs are forever complaining that they do not have time to keep up with the sheer amount of data they have come across their desks every day. From emails to market updates, to the sheer volume of files and documents, to receipts, entrepreneurs often cannot find the time to clean off their desks and get to what is really important. This is when AI can take some of the load off the business owner, through task-driven applications and a general speeding up of process efficiency. There are many AI programs that can help business owners. For example, AI can help the business owner sort, file and trash emails within their programs, so that the trash and spam emails get weeded out, emails from clients or employees can be looked at or filed into folders, and those really important emails get answered immediately.
In addition to emails, communication with voice AI integration can be a help to the business owner, both in terms of helping clients get to the services that they need and improving the chances that employees are able to communicate effectively, not only with clients but with each other as well. While AI for communication may seem a bit impersonal at the beginning, many small business owners have found it helpful, again because of AI’s ability to handle menial tasks, and leave more important tasks to others. AI is even able to gauge sentiments of both employees and customers in order to ensure that employers target those employees or client who need the most help as quickly as possible, which makes both clients and employees feel important and valued.
Market Intelligence with Accounting and Sales
Market intelligence no longer represents the newspaper at the doorstep every morning before work. Instead, it represents up to the minute information about the marketplace, which is constantly changing at speeds no one person can keep up with, no matter how fast they read. AI can help business owners comb through the inevitable Kardashian story and instead find the information vital to their business success. AI allows entrepreneurs to find information that is business specific 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so nothing important is missed.
There is perhaps no greater area where AI can be of help than in accounting, especially with manual data entry. Think about it. Businesses used to hire dozens of workers to manually enter important figures into a computer program in order for the business to keep track of accounts payable and accounts receivable. Now, AI programs can enter all the data without a human ever typing in numbers. AI programs are able to fill out and send invoices, notify customers when their invoices are ready, accept online payments and notify customers that their payment has been posted, graph the sales outcomes by the month, as well as expenditures, so that business owners can make sure they are headed in the right direction. In addition, AI can handle the payroll side of the business as well. There are programs which have employees fill out their tax information, enter their times they worked and when they need to take off, issue paychecks electronically, and assess and pay taxes with the proper forms. The entrance of AI into accounting has greatly reduced the amount of time needed for business owners to complete accounting tasks.
Of course, in order to have money to issue paychecks, and pay bills, business owners have to have sales. AI has also made great strides in the sales arena. First, AI is able to work with existing software to generate leads for businesses, which is a vital part of sales. Second, AI can find entrepreneurs leads in a wider field that the owner was previously looking for leads in, as AI can recognize niche parts of the business that the business owner may not have thought of or didn’t realize the potential of this area of the business.
While many business owners are concerned about the role of AI within their small businesses and the amount of money it might take to begin using AI, in reality, many business owners have at least had a brush with AI through virtual assistants and were not even aware of it. AI, while not ready to do the heavy lifting in a business, is certainly ready to take some of the most mundane tasks out of the hands of the business owner and therefore, help the owner do a little desk clearing.