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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Piette

Unleashing the Power of AI: Is Your SME Ready for the Future?

 

In a world abuzz with discussions about Artificial Intelligence (AI), it's hard to escape the ubiquitous chatter surrounding its transformative potential. AI promises efficiency, innovation, and a paradigm shift in how businesses operate. Yet, amid this noise and futuristic promises, many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) find themselves entrenched in familiar routines, often neglecting the critical task of auditing their processes and ‘future-proofing’ their business. 

 


AI for Business: A Concept with Historical Roots 


The notion that companies can enhance operations and decision-making through technology-driven process automation isn't new. Originating in the 1960s, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has evolved significantly since then, emphasizing the enduring importance of leveraging technology for streamlined and informed business management. 

 

ERP systems enable companies to track relevant data across different departments and functions, facilitating more informed decision-making. By automating routine tasks and providing a comprehensive overview of business activities, ERP systems enhance efficiency and reduce the risk of errors. This centralized approach also promotes collaboration and communication among different departments, breaking down organizational silos. 

 

The ability to track and analyze data in real-time has become a key advantage of ERP systems. Companies need to be able to generate insightful reports, monitor key performance indicators, and adapt their strategies based on up-to-date information. This not only improves operational efficiency but also allows businesses to respond swiftly to market changes and customer demands. 


At its core, Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool that excels in analyzing vast datasets to extract valuable insights and optimize decision-making processes. However, the efficacy of AI is contingent on the quality and reliability of the data it processes. As a business owner, it's essential to ask a fundamental question: Do you trust the data your business possesses today? The success of AI implementation hinges on the accuracy and completeness of the information it relies upon. 


The technology is already out there today, so why are so many SMEs still running the company on spreadsheets, manual processes, using outdated systems and still struggle to find and organize their data, let alone make quality decisions from analysing it? It wouldn’t be unfounded to believe AI is already out of reach for these businesses, but is this the case? 


 

The Current State of SMEs 


The reality is that while AI dominates the headlines, a significant number of SMEs remain sheltered in traditional practices, unready or unaware that they find themselves on the cusp of the largest technological shift they will ever face. 


The average SME may find itself unprepared for the AI revolution, but acknowledging this reality is the first step toward meaningful change. SMEs must proactively educate themselves, plan strategically, and overcome challenges to become active participants in the next technological wave. Interestingly, irrelevant of the technological shift of the time, a common set of factors has been present in businesses that struggled to adapt to tech innovations throughout the past decades.  


  • Lack of awareness – leaders have their heads down in daily activities and don’t look up to see where there are heading. A lack of awareness of possible improvements in efficiency and competitiveness is enough to deter leaders to look for new ways and better solutions. 

  • Resistance to change – The fear of the unknown affects us all, not just managers and employees. Humans like comfort and get used to their routines. Change management is an essential component to any successful project. 

  • Resource constraints – Lack of budget, lack staff and expertise. Remember that a great leader doesn’t need to do everything themselves – they need to gather a team of people that can. 

  • Customisation challenges - Legacy systems necessitated extensive customization to align with users' specific requirements. This practice has emerged as a considerable impediment to the sustainable maintenance of these processes in contemporary business environments and causes many users to now have to ‘trick the system’. Presently, organizations encounter challenges in comprehending the intricacies of customized modules and understanding the rationale behind the design of particular processes. Furthermore, the individuals possessing the knowledge about these intricacies are often no longer within the company's workforce due to retirement or departure, leaving a knowledge void. 

  • Uncertain ROI – The hesitancy to invest in modernization stems from a perceived risk regarding the realization of anticipated benefits. The uncertainty surrounding the return on investment (ROI) acts as a deterrent, impacting the willingness of stakeholders to commit to the necessary financial resources for the implementation of modernization initiatives. This apprehension underscores the importance of establishing a clear and comprehensive understanding of the potential returns, thereby mitigating uncertainties and instilling confidence in decision-makers contemplating strategic investments in business modernization. 

 

 


Lack of Awareness

Leaders engrossed in daily tasks may overlook potential efficiency and competitiveness improvements, deterring them from exploring innovative solutions. Heightening awareness is crucial for fostering a proactive approach to organizational advancement.

 


Resistance to Change

Fear of the unknown affects both managers and employees, highlighting the importance of change management in successful projects. Recognizing and addressing the human inclination for comfort and routine is vital for facilitating a smooth transition. 



Resource Constraints

Limited budget, staff, and expertise can hinder progress. Effective leadership involves assembling a capable team, emphasizing collaboration over the need for leaders to undertake every task individually. 



Customization Challenges

Legacy systems, extensively customized for specific user needs, pose sustainability challenges. Understanding customized modules and the rationale behind processes becomes complex, exacerbated by the departure of knowledgeable individuals, leaving organizations with a critical knowledge gap. 



Uncertain ROI

Hesitancy to invest in modernization stems from perceived risks in realizing anticipated benefits. Clear and comprehensive ROI understanding is pivotal, mitigating uncertainties and instilling confidence in decision-makers for strategic business modernization investments. 

 

 

 

 

The Best time to Prepare was 5 Years Ago – Now is your next chance


In the impending years, the influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on businesses will draw a distinct line, creating two categories: those that were ready to embrace the transformative wave and those left trailing in its wake, now grappling to catch up. The businesses that proactively integrated AI into their operations, audited their processes, and fostered a culture of innovation will emerge as trailblazers, leveraging the technology to enhance efficiency, insights, and customer experiences.


On the other side, enterprises that remained ensnared in traditional practices, neglecting the urgency to adapt, will find themselves at a significant disadvantage. The growing divide between these two categories will underscore the pivotal role of readiness in determining a business's trajectory.


To get an idea of which category your SME will be part of, ask yourself this question: will we be following our competitors’ moves or will they follow ours?  There is no stopping this technological shift, it is happening with or without you. 

 

 

The era of AI is not just about technological adoption; it's about a strategic decision that will separate leaders from laggards, defining the future success and relevance of businesses in a rapidly evolving landscape. 


It's time for SMEs to break free from old habits, pause, and conduct a thorough audit of their processes today. By doing so, they not only safeguard their relevance in the current market but position themselves at the forefront of the revolutionary changes that AI is bringing to the business world. The future is now – and it's time to ensure your SME is ready to embrace it. 

 

 

Here are some steps your company can adopt today if you find yourself facing some of the challenges mentioned above: 

 


Increase Awareness

  • Implement regular awareness programs and workshops for leaders to stay informed about technological advancements and best practices. 

  • Foster a culture of continuous learning, encouraging leaders to allocate time for strategic thinking and exploration of industry trends. 

  • Establish channels for open communication and idea-sharing among employees to surface innovative solutions. 

Address Resistance to Change

  • Develop a comprehensive change management strategy that includes communication plans, training sessions, and ongoing support. 

  • Highlight the benefits and positive outcomes of proposed changes to alleviate fears and build enthusiasm among employees. 

  • Involve employees in the decision-making process to foster a sense of ownership and reduce resistance. 



Overcome Resource Constraints 

  • Prioritize investments by conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis to identify areas with the highest potential return. 

  • Explore collaborative partnerships or outsourcing options to overcome resource limitations. 

  • Invest in training programs to upskill existing staff, maximizing the capabilities of the current workforce.



Mitigate Customization Challenges

 

  • Evaluate the necessity of existing customizations and assess the feasibility of standardizing processes without compromising efficiency. 

  • Document and centralize knowledge about customized modules to ensure continuity, even in the absence of key personnel. 

  • Consider gradual system updates or migration plans to modern platforms that reduce the need for extensive customizations. 



Clarify ROI and Instill Confidence

 

  • Conduct thorough ROI assessments, considering both short-term gains and long-term strategic benefits. 

  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the success of modernization initiatives. 

  • Communicate transparently about the expected outcomes and potential challenges, fostering confidence among stakeholders. 

 

 

If you're ready to start a processes audit and get to the newest cloud best practises with NetSuite book a free strategy call with Sky High to kickstart the process here.

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