Pete Hanlon, CTO, Moneypenny, explains how to ensure AI works for your Business

According to 2022 statistics from the government[1], there are 5.5 million SMEs in the UK making up 99% of the total business population. They are the backbone of a healthy economy and generate growth and employment opportunities.

AI has the potential to revolutionise how these SMEs operate. Pete Hanlon, Group CTO at Moneypenny, is an advocate of embracing AI technology to accelerate people, business and the technology itself. Below, he answers some of the burning questions surrounding the use of this game-changing technology:  

How can AI help SMEs become more efficient?

There are many ways AI can help businesses of all shapes and sizes. It can help with everything from repetitive tasks, for example to predictive analytics, finding trends in noisy and complex data and pulling out those small nuggets of information that were previously hidden in the noise or analysing large amounts of data to identify anomalies, for example, in identifying fraud or security threats.

For SMEs, however, AI can be a powerful tool in customer experience. From using chatbots to provide a timely and seamless service to automated support tickets and order confirmations, AI can help to create a more efficient customer experience, driving growth and loyalty. Al can also be used to personalise the customer experiences by analysing customer behaviour, purchase history and preferences to improve your customer’s experience. In addition to this, SMEs can also use AI to help them to create the content, based on analysis of what performs best, like product descriptions.

Please note in all of this, that people are an essential component of checking the AI and in its potential.

Where should you start when considering introducing AI into the business?

You need to start by trying to understand where AI can have the most impact. Look for areas where your business is experiencing pain points around manual and repetitive tasks, where there are high error rates or where processes is too slow.

Determine if your business has the necessary data and volume of data to support an AI based solution. Be clear on the business objective you’re trying to solve through AI, is it cost reduction, improved experience, or efficiency.

Evaluate AI solutions to see if they can help with the pain points you identified. Once a solution has been identified create a plan with a clear set of success metrics and ensure your train and educate your teams on the new technology. Often introducing AI will be a big cultural shift for a business so it’s important that you take your people on the journey and explain how the technology will help.

Can AI really revolutionise how you do things?

When evaluating AI solutions, it easy to get caught up in the amazing things the technology can do but it’s also important to understand its limitations. First, review case studies of other businesses that have used the technology successfully and ideally talk to them about the challenges they faced. Ensure there are no regulatory issues impacting your use of the technology and understand your responsibilities in this space. Make sure you have a robust set of test criteria that you use to test how the technology works for edge cases. If your use of AI is complex, seek out expert advice that can give insight into the technology and ensure it’s right for you.

What role will AI play in the business of tomorrow?

It’s unclear where the AI journey will take us but what is clear is that businesses that adopt AI now will be best placed to take advantage of new capabilities as they are created. Businesses that are open to digital transformation and are agile enough to pivot and adapt as the technology evolves will benefit the most. AI will help businesses to be faster decision makers, more cost effective and more resilient to change.

It’s important to remember that if a business can’t afford the time and money to buy in AI, or other tech services, it could consider outsourcing to a company that provides this tech and knowledge.  For example, our Moneypenny products are tailored specifically to what a business needs and 90% of its clients would never have access to this communication technology on their own, but we’re providing this access every day.

What impact will AI have on the security of my business and supply chain?

AI is already having a huge impact on business security and the supply chain. It is being used to improve threat detection, identifying potential security threats in real-time such as cyber-attacks and data security. Processing streams of data in real-time to identify and classify anomalies such as sensitive data being accessed that could indicate a security breach. Increasingly AI is being developed to pro-actively block inbound attacks and to learn during an attack so that it can better protect a business from a cyber threat.

AI is also being used to optimise the supply chain by providing real-time visibility and predictive analysis of inventory levels, shipments, and deliveries. Helping businesses to be lean while reducing the risk of running a just in time supply chain.

The ethics of AI: what do you need to do to have the right checks and balances in place?

It is important to take the time to reflect on the ethics and impact of AI to ensure that it benefits everyone. While it is easy to focus on the positive aspects of AI, it is equally important to consider unintended consequences that may arise. Ideally you should have a person or group within your company to oversee AI initiatives. This group should evaluate projects based on a set of principles, including transparency, privacy, fairness, and the potential for discrimination and bias. They will be responsible for ensuring that any AI initiatives align with the company’s values and expectations, and that relevant regulators are informed and give their approval for the project.

How do you find the sweet spot between people and tech?

You can find the AI sweet spot by identifying initiatives that help to remove repetitive and mundane tasks or help to supercharge your staff through efficiency gains and insight. If the AI is helping your people to work on more fulfilling tasks or they are performing their jobs at a higher level with the use of AI, you’ve nailed it.

At Moneypenny, AI and our people work hand in hand: we’re developing communications technologies including AI and deep learning technologies to increase the efficiency of our teams who handle calls, live chats and digital communications for thousands of companies in the UK and US, across multiple sectors.  For example, we’re working with tech giants including Microsoft, Nvidia, Twilio and Jabra to enhance the customer communication experience for both employees and clients.  Using the very latest technologies allows us to develop solutions that provide an understanding of intent and sentiment and can propose best actions for the PAs to use within live chat for example, for maximum efficiency.

SMEs need to embrace the potential, and see the amazing places this technology could take us. The technology cannot get there without a vital missing component: people. And people cannot get there as efficiently without technology. People will accelerate the technology, and technology will accelerate the people, sending business on a sustainable growth trajectory whilst at the same time also doing better business.