Artificial Intelligence in the form of Siri or IBM’s Watson get a ton of press these days, but AI as a resource for SMB management and growth often goes overlooked. AI is perhaps one of the best tools out there for better business management, improving everything from management to analytics.

Any entrepreneur or SMB owner can speak at great length as to the difficulties of trying to grow a business safely. Small Routine tasks need to be conducted; Data needs to be correctly understood; and the right data needs to be collected and reported upon. The good news is that the trend towards smarter programs means lower costs for business owners.

While many hunger for the day when we have true Artificial Intelligence, AI as it is today still offers a lot, especially for SMBs. This post will look more specifically at 3 major ways AI can help SMBs grow safely, quickly, and sustainably. So without further ado:

Automation of Business Processes

Tesla employs engineers who specialize in Robotics and limited AI. What do they do? Write code for Tesla’s machines—and no, not their cars. The machines that build the cars. Artificial Intelligence, even in its limited form we have now, is quickly becoming capable of automating things usually performed by people. This is everything from when a certain machine should run to what task a machine is to perform at a given time.

Manufacturing businesses stand to gain the most from using AI to automate formerly manual tasks; however, clever application can see great results when applied to any routine task. In fact, many economists are drawing parallels between AI for routine tasks and Machines at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

AI is already weaving its way into a variety of businesses, to the aforementioned Manufacturing industry to HealthCare and even Legal firms. Artificial Intelligence is capable of automating nearly any routine process, allowing business owners to apply employees to other critical areas of that need it.

Artificial Intelligence and Business Insights

A good business insight (i.e., a key look under the “hood” of a business) is one that is informed by the data generated by said organization. The problem with data is that it’s everywhere. It’s omnipresent and at times seemingly omnipotent. In other words, it can be very hard to know where to look—a needle in a haystack doesn’t even do it justice.

The first step is to seek help from people who specialize in this kind of thing. These are people who make a living figuring out how to apply Big Data analytics to any business. They can easily identify actionable metrics and provide tools for real-time analytics. Most of them are pretty inexpensive and well worth it.

But Artificial Intelligence takes analytics even further. Any piece of code can provide a breakdown of data, or can create statistical prediction models (which tell business owners where their data is heading). AI actually learns from the data it collects and learns how to better predict trends in a market. While not exactly Nostradamus, it’s about as close as one can get today.

Unstructured Data

To begin, some definitions are necessary: Structured data is data collected and stored in databases. This is the stuff from actual sales, or search results. But digital traffic is tracked everywhere—which leads us to Unstructured data. This is basically everything that people do on the internet not overtly tracked or analyzed.

To put it more starkly, Unstructured data accounts for approximately 80% of all data generated by internet users. So, for all intents and purposes, digital marketers have previously only been capable of analyzing about 20% of data users create. Consider the aforementioned difficulties with the mountain of data that this 20% represents; it’s downright impossible for a human being to process and handle.

Which is where Artificial Intelligence comes in handy. AI can derive personalities from conversations. It can learn from previous tests; it can grow in effectiveness with time; it can take data from literally billions datapoints, analyze it all, and present the relevant important data. Out of all the AI benefits discussed in this post, AI’s ability to derive real, actionable insights from Unstructured Data may offer the most help to SMB owners.

If data is the ocean in which the modern business owner is drowning, Artificial Intelligence is the life raft that just bobbed to the surface. That doesn’t even really do AI justice: it’s more like the a giant luxury yacht that just bobbed to the surface, complete with a live and undrowned crew.

rob-lapointeAuthor: Rob LaPointe is VP of Sales at Software Developers Inc (SDI), based out of Silicon Valley. You may reach them at 408.802.2885 or via email at team@sdi.la or Follow us on Facebook

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