Bringing Artificial Intelligence To Your Small Business

For many small business owners, the first thoughts to come to mind when artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) enter the conversation are often, “Great. I get it. AI is the next shiny thing. But until you can show me how it’s really going to work day-to-day in my business, I’m out.” For others, they worry that the promise of this technology might be all too real – and ready to replace them.

We have found that not only is AI more than a trend (it is here to stay!), but the technology is rapidly evolving in a way that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can leverage it to solve day-to-day business problems and save time in the process). Taking advantage of these developments will make you and your employees smarter, more efficient, and more effective.

To take a step back, some of you might still be asking, “What is AI?” At its most basic, AI is the ability for computers and machines to show real intelligence. It’s a computer’s ability to understand your request and work out the best action or answer from all available information. One example of this is Google’s “did you mean” function when you misspell a search term. Banks also use AI alongside human review to figure out if a transaction is fraudulent.

Machine learning – a subset of AI – essentially provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Much of what you see on websites like Amazon or Target rely on machine learning to predict what you are likely to buy.

The days of AI requiring huge labs and extensive resources have been replaced with cloud-based services that cost a fraction of what they used to. This means that they are much more accessible for SMBs. That said, we have found that these enterprises are far more successful if they set a plan for the application of AI before jumping into anything. Include the topic of AI into your next strategy meeting to take a comprehensive look at where and how the technology can improve your business.

To get the conversation started, we have compiled a few of the many great AI resources available to SMBs:

    Amazon AI
    Amazon’s AI platform allows businesses to add deep machine learning without needing to invest in their own infrastructure. It’s not a simple plug-and-play system, but Amazon AI provides the tools necessary to reduce the price of admission. One of the tools available right now is Amazon Lex. Lex uses the same technology that powers Amazon’s Alexa to provide automatic speech recognition and natural language understanding. Developers can use this API to create powerful chatbots without having to create their own speech and language systems.

    MonkeyLearn’s platform gives SMBs a way to do machine learning without having to hire data scientists. It analyzes reviews, saving small businesses the cost (and time) of reviewing them. If there are complaints about a price point, or comments about a feature that needs to be improved, MonkeyLearn’s machine learning algorithms will distill those disparate reviews into one solid report.

    Quill by Narrative Science
    Quill takes a specific set of data and weaves it into a written document. This makes generating earnings reports, for example, a nearly automatic process. And the app is so smart humans cannot distinguish its writing from that of a person. Forbes is already using Quill to research companies and publish earnings previews.

    Einstein by Salesforce
    Salesforce’s AI platform, “Einstein,” is a suite of products that makes machine learning and deep computation available to everyone. By incorporating AI throughout their products, Salesforce is streamlining work processes and make customer interactions more frictionless.

    Textio uses AI to help companies write better job listings. It analyzes every single word to determine how attractive a job listing would read to a potential candidate. It also offers suggestions so you can strengthen the way your phrase something, or even eliminate a subconscious gender bias in a job description.