AI and small business: expert answers to 7 burning questions

Businesses can unlock multiple benefits from AI when they understand how to approach it. The real question: where to start?

Even though AI systems are already in action on phones, photos and even fridges, it can be daunting to take the first deliberate steps to deploy an AI tool in your own business. However, those who are leaving AI untapped risk being left behind. 

We tapped human experts in AI to explain what that means for small business owners.

How can AI benefit my small business?

Duncan Taylor, Director of Financial Services at Microsoft ANZ, nominates marketing and communications as a key area where AI can help. “You can automate a lot of the marketing content generation, a lot of the email engagement,” says Taylor. “AI can create more capacity in your business. By getting AI to do some of the more mundane tasks, you’ll free up the precious, limited resources you’ve got to focus on growing your business and driving value.”

Why should I care about AI right now – there’s enough to think about already!

“You might not realise it but AI is already behind the majority of our digital infrastructure and our digital payments,” says Tariq Scherer, CommBank Executive Manager of Modelling and Data Science. “If your business is already operating online or through social media, AI is there to help it better reach customers, better serve products and better deliver solutions.”

How do I know if my small business is ready for AI?

“Ask how overworked and overextended you are,” says Jacky Koh, founder of Relevance AI, a platform that helps you build an AI workforce. “If you find yourself constantly doing really manual and repetitive tasks on a daily basis, you should start looking at AI to help you streamline and automate some of that.”

Can I introduce AI to my small business without derailing people or raising concerns about jobs?

“AI is not magic, it’s just another piece of technology,” says Taylor. “Like any technology, its success comes down to user adoption. People need to learn how to use the technology and where to get value. Start small, win the hearts and minds of your employees and they’ll love you for it.”

What’s the biggest challenge for small businesses leveraging AI? 

“Probably the main barrier to entry is thinking that you really have to understand AI to be able to use it and I don’t think that’s true,” says Andrew McMullan, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at CommBank. “A lot of big organisations around the world have invested a lot of money to make AI accessible and understandable.”

What will it cost my small business to implement AI?

“AI doesn’t have to cost anything initially,” says Taylor. “There are a lot of free tools out there, which you can use to learn about and understand where the value could be before you make any potential investment decision on a paid tool.”

Is AI even reliable? 

Koh says the more specific your AI’s task, the more reliable it will be. “It’s really important to actually give it steerability and to teach it more about your business,” says Koh. “Teach the AI what role you want it to perform – giving that guidance to the AI is crucial. If we think about how the systems are built for AI, it’s trying to act as everyone. By giving it more of a role and more context about your business, it’s able to learn from that and become more reliable over time.”

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Things you should know

  • This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial or tax situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of this information to your circumstances before acting on it. 

    ChatGPT is an AI-powered language model developed by OpenAI. ChatGTP provides a point in time response to an exact question submitted. Responses may change if the same question is submitted at a different point in time.