Josh Holmes, Head of Digital at Local iQ, Cumbria, explores how SMEs can unleash the potential of Ai to ensure their business remains competitive

He says: "Ai has emerged as one of the most discussed and transformative technologies in recent times. It has become deeply ingrained in our daily lives, from the applications we use on our smartphones to the tools that assist us at work.

Ai refers to the development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks span a wide spectrum, including natural language comprehension, pattern recognition, decision-making, and problem-solving. Ai can be broadly categorized into two types: Narrow Ai (or Weak Ai), which specializes in specific tasks, and General Ai (or Strong Ai), which possesses human-like intelligence. Currently, we are in the era of Narrow Ai, where Ai systems excel in well-defined domains, with no risk (currently of a world-wide Terminator style take over!).

It is not a distant, futuristic concept; it's already integrated into our daily routines. Applications like Microsoft Word have incorporated Ai for years, aiding in grammar checks, spell checks, and even offering style suggestions. Recent developments, such as Chat GPT have brought Ai into the limelight by demonstrating its conversational and creative abilities.

For SMEs, embracing Ai may seem daunting, but grasping its potential is crucial for future competitiveness. While not every aspect of an SME's operation may benefit from Ai immediately, it's essential to identify areas where Ai can make a substantial impact, especially in automating repetitive, time-consuming, or monotonous tasks.

A practical approach to integrating Ai is by visualizing your business processes as flowcharts. Almost every task in an organization follows a process, and the objective is to pinpoint stages within these flowcharts that can be automated to save time and resources.

For example, consider customer service: Ai Chatbots: Thanks to advancements in Ai language models, chatbots have evolved significantly. SMEs can employ them to handle basic customer queries, even beyond regular working hours, via their website or other platforms. These chatbots can collect crucial customer information, providing insights that can be compiled into an email or report for the customer service team to address promptly the next day.

Artificial Intelligence is not merely a buzzword; it's a transformative force that SMEs can harness to enhance efficiency, improve customer experiences, and drive future growth. Understanding its potential and strategically implementing it will be key to staying ahead in a rapidly changing business landscape."