Mr Arun Meena is an IIT Kanpur graduate from department of Computer Science, and visionary of the unique trust dependent outsourced tech co-founder offering of RHA Technologies Pvt Ltd. He has developed the organization to provide an empathetic and synergistic technology consulting, digital transformation, and technology services and solutions to the founders of start-ups and SMEs worldwide. He thus enables the client organisations to realise and strengthen their innovation, differentiation, valuation and market offering.
SMBs have always fought to challenge the scale advantage of large enterprises. In the last decade technological innovations, cloudification and technology-as-a-service has helped SMBs be nimbler and more innovative in leveraging meagre resources for out-proportioned impact. However, advent of Artificial Intelligence in the weaponry of larger fat-wallet enterprises threatened to undo the speed advantage of SMBs. Enterprises are leveraging artificial intelligence in Healthcare, Robotics, E-Commerce, Human Resource, Agriculture, Gaming, Automobiles, Social Media and Marketing etc.
Nevertheless, as is the wont of technological progress, AI is also available as a service with appropriate reasonable pricing. SMBs should seriously consider its deployment as this could prove to be a game changer for them. SMBs with AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) could actually move ahead of the larger enterprises in the market as opposed to just trying to catch-up. The power of AIaaS can exponentially enhance the SMB’s competitive capabilities in the market.
AI-as-a-Service powers combined with many other packetized and SMB optimised inputs available in the market including talent, supplies, finance, ecommerce market access, and government schemes signal a complete change in fortunes of SMBs. SMBS can leverage these to optimise current offerings and create new disruptive offerings.
AIaaS enables SMBs to implement AI in their business at a fraction of the cost of a full, in-house AI implementation. Till now artificial intelligence was extremely investment absorbing as:
- a) the hardware required was massive and expensive due to the amount of computing power and storage required in addition to redundancy provision.
- b) AI talent was limited and priced extremely high due the specialised skills required and the increasing demand.
- c) Most companies did not have the large pool of historic and market data to base their AI decisions on. AI requires plentiful base data that can be leveraged for pattern and trends identification for decision making.
However, today numerous vendors are offering AI capabilities to SMBs as a service. These include Amazon (Web Services), Google (Cloud Platform), Microsoft (Azure), IBM (Developer Cloud), Salesforce (Einstein), Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Oracle Corp., SAP SE, SAS Institute Inc., as well as startups like Dataiku, BigML, and ForecastThis to name just a few. The plethora of choice while difficult to decipher does make AIaaS pricing incredibly competitive. It also means that each SMB’s preferred vendor for cloud services will also have an AIaaS offering that can easily be leveraged.
According to Technavio “Artificial intelligence-as-a-service market is expected to grow by $ 14.70 bn, accelerating at a CAGR of almost 41% during the forecast period of 2021-2025.” AIaaS advantage is globally being leverage for three key competitive result areas by SMBs in their existing offerings. These being better customer experience, better customer attraction, and better operational efficiency.
Customer experience starts from the moment the customer decides to buy an organisation’s product category and therefore makes the first interaction with the organisation. It is one of the most important matrices for improving market share for organisations. According to an HBR study, “there are six benefits for adopting AI to analyse customer experience. It can 1) show you what you’re missing in your qualitative surveys, 2) help train your employees based on what’s actually important to customers, 3) determine root causes of problems, 4) capture customers’ responses in real time, 5) spot and prevent declines in sales, and 6) prioritize actions to improve customer experience.” SMB can thus provide customers with offerings that are more personalised (style, variant, specifications), give more value to customers (offers, addons, customisation) and also predict what the customer needs (complimentary services, preventive maintenance).
With respect to customer attraction, organisations already have a fantastic number of data points on their prospective clients and customers whether it be B2B or B2C. AIaaS gives SMBs the ability to create a feedback loop that helps focus the strategy, timing, and expectations. According to recent McKinsey research “Reps should not spend unnecessary time and energy on smaller deals. Companies with a range of deal sizes will want to make sure their reps are differentiating their interactions. Firms with many small deals should focus on developing specialized, well-trained teams of inside reps who send emails and make phone calls.” Thus, having better understanding of deal size categorisation for your organisation, with dynamic data point interpolation leveraging AI will improve customer acquisition. Additionally, AIaaS enhanced marketing with better targeting, testing and responsiveness helps in customer attraction.
Artificial Intelligence as a service can also help SMBs launch new product / service offerings in the market. Many new age offerings such as content curation, image / video manipulation, augmented reality, virtual assistants, expense management, augmented learning are now leveraging artificial intelligence to create differentiated user benefits.
According to IBM “navigating through disruptions comes with the territory when the job is managing and planning the operations of everything from supply chains and finance to sales and marketing. For SMBs, the ability to plan and forecast future performance with a high degree of confidence can be critical.” AI provides the tools to navigate these complexities to create optimum plans that are in line with the SMBs lifecycle. Being AI driven these plans can be quickly realigned with dynamically changing ground situation thus improving the operational efficiency of SMBs.
The journey for SMBs in AIaaS does not have to start with complete immersion. There are point products available as services that can be implemented to give an AI advantage for different business operations as per criticality. These AI driven services range from Marketing Data Optimization, Chatbots, Legal Robot, Product Quality Assurance, Scheduling, Security, Financial Forecasting, Supply Chain Management, and the list can go on for different industry verticals.
The key for SMBs considering the game-changing plunge in to AIaaS is to remember that according to a survey by McKinsey, AI resulted in 20% revenue improvement for most organisations. Even more important is the market competitiveness that emerges with use of AI, especially the cumulative advantage this continuous improvement can create for the SMB.