10 July 2018: 80% of South African small and medium enterprise (SME) owners surveyed in the first quarter 2018 Business Partners Limited SME Index believe that they will need to invest in automation or other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and robotics over the next three to five years in order to remain competitive.
This is despite 67% of respondents saying that the evolution of such technology has not yet contributed to the growth of their businesses.
Commenting on these results, Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), says it is undeniable that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has already started to take the world by storm. “Technologies such as AI are becoming more of a common feature in society and in the business realm. As such, it is imperative for local SMEs to strategise as to how they can start to incorporate these technologies in their businesses moving forward and benefit from them.”
Lang says despite the talk around how AI may jeopardise jobs, not only in South Africa, but globally, it is important to note that during the development of the previous three Industrial Revolutions many jobs became redundant, but evolved into new positions. This is supported by a recent report by Gartner which states that by 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out.”
As AI becomes more intrinsic in business processes, XX points to examples of how AI can take a small business to the next level by streamlining business processes and cutting operational costs:
Customer Service: AI can assist with making customer service more efficient by automating answers and responding quickly. This can free up customer service employees to deal with issues that require human engagement. By using AI in their customer service process, small businesses can minimise the average response time and automate repetitive questions to ultimately improve both employee and customer satisfaction.
Human Resources: When it comes to hiring processes, AI can be used to assist the HR department in its hiring decisions. Not only can AI products be used to scan resumes and applications for keywords, they can also analyse applicant responses and scan profile information to determine the level of experience as well as whether the applicant will fit into the business’s culture.
Protection: It has been said that SMEs are at a greater risk of cyberattacks than their larger counterparts. However, AI tools can be used to protect data from hackers by using machine learning to detect threats and unusual behaviour.
Entering new markets: In order to determine the market-fit for a small business, AI tools can use machine learning to decipher the consumer segmentation and market analytics.
In order to take advantage of the various benefits that the Fourth Industrial Evolution brings, small business owners need to do some research to identify technologies and software available in their markets.
“Small business owners should ensure that they start incorporating the use of new technologies to stay competitive in an ever-evolving landscape by streamlining their processes, they should also invest in upskilling their employees to be competitive in the future,” says Lang.
About Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS):
Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) is a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, and selected African countries. The company actively supports entrepreneurial growth by providing financing, specialist sectoral knowledge and added-value services for viable small and medium businesses. Visit www.businesspartners.co.za for more information.