AI is more about feelings, if you want to succeed as an SME
Competitors who have already embraced AI are reaping the benefits.
13 Jun 2024

As a future-focused tech professional, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve at the moment. Every week, new and exciting developments emerge in the tech landscape, most of which are based on AI models. I thought, ’The future has arrived, let’s all celebrate’! Little did I know until I saw the real stats of AI adoption among companies.

2%. Not what you would call a revolution.

As the CIO of XAI, a consultancy dedicated to democratising AI technology, I needed to talk to my clients about it. Obviously, they got it. But they might know why the remaining 98% wasn’t where I thought they would be in the AI evolution. Their answers blew me away. As one of the CTOs said bluntly, ’People don’t get it.’ A bit harsh, I believed. But then it hit me: It’s not that they don’t ’get it.’ They don’t feel it.

Yes, feelings. Not the first thing you think of when associating business development with hardcore AI tech, but it’s the truth. People won’t do what they think is right. They do what feels right.

So, how does AI ’feel’? That’s the million-dollar question.

Our mission at XAI is to ensure that AI is as accessible and easy to utilise for SMEs as it is for large corporations. Personally, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of AI for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The potential impact is vast, to say the least.

When SMEs experience how AI can automate repetitive tasks better than humans, it frees up human time to focus on what matters more. This leads not only to significant productivity gains and cost savings but also to a deeply purpose-driven culture where people can address societal root causes.

AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data quickly and accurately, providing insights that inform better decision-making. Instead of focusing on what the Business Intelligence responsible might be doing, try asking AI the right questions about your data. Not just sales and progress, but also questions on quality, happiness, customer experiences, and value connections.

AI enables SMEs to offer deeper and personalised experiences to their customers, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty. But customers won’t react to AI. They will react to your ability to be present, energetic, empathic, and curious.

’What does it cost?’ is the most common question I get from an SME. A fair one. But the answer is another question: ’What do you want to do?’ GPT-4 is free for everyone. You can implement it during lunchtime and get going. But how deep do you want to go? Is GPT your right tool, or do you need a truly transformative movement where your data becomes intelligent? Are you siloed within each of your AI accounts, or are you collaborating across functions? Are you aware of how AI could change your entire go-to-market strategy, a highly sensitive strategic exercise? Then we have silence, and then we have a new client.

How can AI benefit my specific business? AI is like a mirror. It will confirm how you think the world looks. How it will benefit your company depends on how you want to be beneficial to your surroundings. Short answer: AI will help you get there. Want to save costs? Got it. Want to expand? No worries. But it’s up to you to leverage what AI provides and connect it to real people in the real world.

I often experience how SMEs are afraid of doing wrong in their AI journey. Again, it’s the feeling. Anxiety about ’failing’ is strong, especially since AI for business is as new as it gets. Many SMEs are hesitant to adopt AI due to fears of high costs and complexity. And of course, there are some challenges to take seriously:

Many SMEs also often make the mistake of trying to implement AI without a clear strategy, leading to poor outcomes. But why not make a strategy that promotes ’failing fast’ and gets everyone on board? That’s a great way to open up opportunities.

”Competitors who have already embraced AI are reaping the benefits”

The best way to do it better is, as often, to begin with small things. Communication, generative AI, and cultural exercises can collect people around tasks without risking a new product failure. Then reflect, learn, and expand your AI journey. Make the feelings positive, enjoyable, and social. Then you will see that AI can fit into your culture since it’s a reflection of yourself. Overall, three steps:

  1. Start small: Begin with pilot projects that address specific business problems. This allows you to see the benefits of AI without a large upfront investment.
  2. Educate and train: Invest in training your staff to understand and work with AI technologies. This helps alleviate fear and build internal capabilities.
  3. Partner with experts: Collaborate with AI consultancies to guide you through the implementation process.

AI adoption is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Competitors who have already embraced AI are reaping the benefits of increased efficiency, better customer insights, and higher profitability. To stay competitive, you have to determine which areas of your business could benefit most from AI. Common starting points include customer service, marketing, and operations. Then launch a small-scale pilot project to test the feasibility and impact of AI in your business. Lastly, learn how to measure and iterate, and train your AI accordingly.

The future of AI is bright and full of potential. AI will continue to evolve and become more accessible, enabling SMEs to leverage advanced technologies without needing extensive technical expertise. We will see AI driving innovation in areas such as personalised healthcare, smart cities, and sustainable practices. SMEs that embrace AI today will be well-positioned to thrive in this future landscape — and we are committed to helping you navigate this journey to achieve your full AI potential.