We are living in an age where if you’re not employing artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize business operations, you’re likely competitively behind the eight ball. If you’re implementing AI for AI’s sake, you’re also likely falling behind competitors, as this might create additional overhead and make operations less efficient than they were in the first place – specially for small to medium size businesses (SMBs) to compete with enterprise giants. Thoughtful implementation of AI is critical for revenue gain, growth and overall long-term success.

The explosion of ChatGPT into the mainstream earlier this year put increasing focus on generative AI and how that technology will continue to shape business operations as we know them. As different size companies lean into the AI boom, there are several factors they should consider and keep top-of-mind, including:

Allowing humans to do what they do best

Automating back-office mundane tasks is a no-brainer in any implementation strategy, but what about tasks that may free up time but aren’t necessarily excessively arduous? In many cases, SMBs are leveraging AI to manage specialized areas of their business that they don’t have a surplus of dedicated team members to manage directly – think accounting, legal, HR, marketing, etc. That said, it’s important for business owners to employ AI alongside human expertise and knowledge – not replace those jobs with AI.

For example, leveraging generative AI within your digital marketing allows for quicker decision making, scalable insights and significantly more efficiency so employees can focus more of their time on the parts of their job that only humans can do: Empathetically connecting with customers and leveraging their knowledge and experience to solve novel or more complex problems. Through this human/machine collaboration, generative AI can also turn a one-sentence idea into a full-form blog post. In turn, humans are freed up to thoughtfully edit, curate and think through more strategic ideas for content. AI also has the potential to find more customers like the ones employees have already identified as best fit. If the algorithms are being properly trained by humans, this can significantly increase lead volume. 

Staying true to brand identity and mission

In addition to freeing up time in your employees’ days to train and refine AI algorithms, it’s also critical that businesses don’t water down a brand identity and mission by automating too much of the business. When we think about the service industry, most of those owners and professionals started their businesses because they’re good at what they do and want to be able to help people. This passion can’t be lost in translation as business owners employ AI to receive more leads, more interactions and more attention/visibility. Owners need to stay focused on the brand image while AI is employed, as AI should underscore this original brand identity, not diminish it. If this brand image starts to fade or changes drastically in any way, it’s time to reassess how AI is being employed and how humans are managing this technology. 

Understanding AI’s limitations

AI models are far from perfect, and a human’s detailed guidance when it comes to ethics, accuracy and biases is essential. Providing feedback and ensuring there is always a human in the loop to double check the AI’s work is also key. Before implementing an AI strategy or even before investing in the technology itself, it’s important for business owners to invest their time in understanding how a particular AI offering works, the limitations of the technology, and how they will fill gaps that otherwise unfilled could be detrimental to the business.

Assessing a businesses’ current technology stack, understanding the return on investment of new technologies, and implementing any chosen technology with ethical care should be a very intentional process – the alternative is wasting budget on unnecessary tech that humans can do or vice versa, investing in employees that are carrying out mundane tasks that could be automated instead of contributing to creative innovation.

To remain competitive, it’s important for business leaders to place a high value on their human workforce, have confidence in the original ideas and visions behind their businesses, and implement generative AI effectively and ethically. Consistent refinement of this strategy will also be essential as we navigate a new world of business operations and embrace AI for the better, together.