The hype is everywhere. It is hard to get away from the blogs, social posts, ebooks, podcasts (etc.) regarding how artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (AI), natural language processing (NLP, but also known as “chatbots”), and blockchain are expected to change the way that business is conducted and supported. Although many small-to-businesses (SMBs) do not yet fully understand all the hype around AI, ML, NLP, and blockchain, there definitely is a palpable fear of losing out. Especially as other companies and technology firms tout all the innovative use cases (i.e. examples) where these technologies are helping them to streamline operations, launch new product offerings, add a new sales or service channel, or expand into new consumer markets.
In a recent survey conducted by the SMB Group, 76 percent of SMBs strongly agreed/agreed that digital technologies are reshaping their business practices. They need to look no further than the consumer applications they use every day—such as Alexa, Spotify, and Waze—to see AI, ML, and NLP technologies in action.
In addition, 50+ percent of SMBs now view AI, ML and NLP as important or very important to the very survival of their business and vendors to provide more of these technologies as a standard part of their offerings—and to deliver them in a more intuitive and turnkey fashion. And many are doing more than just making statements. They are investing. In a recent Oracle/SMB Group survey
Some are already reaping benefits through innovative uses of these technologies. For example:
And that is not all. Some SMBs are also seeing how chatbots and NLP make it easier for employees to query and use data for problem solving and planning. Medium-sized businesses are leading the charge, but demand from businesses on the smaller end of the spectrum are catching up quickly.
In a recent survey conducted by Oracle and the SMB Group, 65 percent of responding SMBs were over 10 years old. 45 percent were younger.
It is true that younger businesses are much more proactive in using technology than their older counterparts. They were born in the cloud. In fact, companies that have been in business fewer than 10 years are 2.2 times more likely to be planning to increase their technology spending. They are also more likely to put technology to work to pursue new business growth initiatives than firms older than 10 years. This more active use of technology adoption also correlates with growth. Firms that have been in business fewer than 10 years are 1.4 times more likely than older companies to forecast revenue growth. Younger companies also feel that they have the agility needed to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.
But companies less than a decade old do not need to corner the market. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and natural language processing/chatbots all have the potential to change the way that companies (of all sizes) do business. If they all work together, such as embedding them in the cloud application suites you use every day, then potential becomes transformational, opening up new business/pricing models, establishing new markets, and building customer loyalty.