Practical applications of Artificial Intelligence for Small Businesses


Its unclear where AI will lead us, however history tells us if businesses don’t embrace new technologies they will not survive. If SMEs don’t move from legacy technology systems to modernise, automate and innovate they’ll be swept away by the age of digital transformation.

But where do you start – many SMEs don’t know where to begin or which technologies to embrace. A sensible strategy is to build your organisation’s Intelligent Automation functionality in incremental steps, propagating the culture of Intelligent Automation over time.

Recent business successes, make RPA (robotic process automation) a great place to begin for UK SMEs to start their journey towards utilising Aritifical Intelligence technology.

AI and RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses software robots to automate mundane, repetitive tasks.  Once this has been achieved, Businesses can look at moving to more complicated AI-based automation.

For instance, improved business intelligence can be gained by using visual and cognitive intelligence to deliver more superior automation that draws and interprets information from multiple sources.  But how do SMEs leverage this technology and more importantly, how do they get there from here? 

Start with your Infrastructure

Ideally, your staff, no matter of their location, would have secure access and data sharing allowing your business to realise huge benefits in performance and productivity.

A number of companies, such as Microsoft, VMWare and Citrix allow secure and easy access to your business applications and data regardless of location and device

Working with a managed IT services partner can ensure you could have the best technology combination to enable you to create a successful modern workspace that could possibly be operated on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis.  Here you pay, per user, monthly allowing you to scale as appropriate and benefit from software upgrades without the capital cost usually associated with such upgrades.

In part, your digital transformation will most certainly involve relocating your data from on-premise servers to the cloud.

By engaging with a cloud services provider you remove the burden on IT and enhance business agility by allowing you to provision apps and desktops faster.

And, you will benefit from the latest security features and administration functionality of a modern operating system like Windows 10 that will not go out of support.

Once your infrastructure and security has been taken care of, the real work towards automation can start.   Currently, SMEs can begin to automate businesses processes using software robots as there are now RPA offerings that use software robots as part of a SaaS offering.

This makes them affordable in addition to effective. Combined with Artificial Intelligence-based technologies, the use cases for process automation are even wider, and provide even greater returns.

AI tools for SMEs

Take for instance, a healthcare provider that has to register every patient as they come to the practice. RPA can automate patient registration making certain every patient is put into the system as soon as they enroll or check in.

Your ‘virtual worker’ robot reduces waiting room time releasing up employees to concentrate on patient healthcare.

Once this fundamental task has been automated we can then enhance user experience by leveraging facial recognition in order that patients are automatically checked in once they arrive.

In HR, for instance, RPA can be used to make sure every department has the identical information about every employee without the typical challenges of multiple system records and repetitive re-entry of information.

Digital employees and Chatbots

RPA can also be used for absence management and for processing applications saving time for your employees to concentrate on more strategic work. Additionally, organisations can then make HR information more accessible by implementing chatbots.

RPA can be utilised to simplify the process of reporting on credit for 1000’s of customers. The information required to provide credit reports for one retailer concerned accessing data on an inefficient, legacy mainframe system. 

Using an RPA ‘virtual worker’ that was capable of precisely imitating a human producing one of these reports, the retailer decreased reporting time by 91 per cent creating financial savings of over £100,000.

For one manufacturing firm it was taking an unacceptable 1.5 days to ship key customer service reports.  They needed to identify a technological solution to expand and enhance their services, without increasing costs

By using a ‘virtual workforce’, reports that previously took this firm 1.5 days, are now produced in a mere 6 minutes – a 300 per cent increase in productivity.

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