AI and Machine Learning are huge buzzwords right now…but it’s not exactly clear what people mean when they talk about them. At NextPoint IT, we aren’t experts by any means, but we’d like to bring a little more clarity to AI and Machine Learning for small business owners.
What exactly is AI and Machine Learning?
Right now, AI and Machine Learning are primarily algorithms that evolve based on feedback from reviewing large amounts of data. The program then identifies patterns within that data to predict and automate actions. The business goal here is 2-fold. First, large enterprises have vast troves of data that are impossible to analyze efficiently by a group of people. They hope AI will speed up the value of this data. Second, AI acts as a programming shortcut to reduce hours needed to program something. Instead of a team of programmers spending months writing a program for every minor rule, a programmer can write a starting point and input data to automate a lot of the more detailed programming.
What does AI and Machine Learning mean for small businesses?
You're probably thinking about how useful AI would be for your small business. You could use it to automate marketing and sales campaigns, analyze customer data for better strategic decisions, possibly eliminate the need for certain positions like a BA, and more.
But AI and Machine Learning are both in their infant stages of development…think of computers back in the 70s. A lot of small business owners were aware of computers, but they didn't really begin impacting them until the late 80s. Small businesses won’t currently be directly involved with AI outside of out-of-the-box solutions like Facebook or LinkedIN advertising tools. The labor and data costs for most small businesses is too high to utilize AI outside of these turn-key solutions.
NextPoint IT tends to align with Roy Amara’s adage that humans overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term while underestimating the long-term impact. AI and Machine Learning are probably not going to lead to the promised huge leaps in the next 5 years, but we could see some major impacts in the next 10-20.
Small business owners should be careful paying a premium for tools branded as AI. You should ask for evidence of the promises made by any AI tool and ensure the tool aligns with your business’s strategy. Facebook ads use AI, but your business strategy may not see Facebook as a good advertising platform. AI and Machine Learning are more in the “shiny object” phase, and there will probably be a lot of snake oil salesmen who capitalize on these buzzwords.
But don’t be surprised if your small business needs to make some IT upgrades in the next 10 years due to the AI revolution. NextPoint IT recommends small businesses keep an ear out for changes but don't rush out and buy everything AI.
If you’re interested some more in-depth analysis of AI and Machine learning, we’d recommend the following resources: