By Adrien Schmidt, CEO of Bouquet and co-founder of Squid Solutions.

I've noticed that today's news media is enthralled with artificial intelligence - specifically about how it will enable the self-driving cars of the future, what the government will do to regulate it, and plausibility of a robot takeover.

From my own ongoing efforts to make big data accessible to growing enterprises, I have learned that AI is a very practical resource that is already impacting small businesses in a number of tangible ways, and will continue to change the way that these companies grow and scale.

Enterprise Sales

Artificial intelligence is already having an impact on enterprise sales tactics and resources. Data analysis is being streamlined with accessible and user-friendly interfaces reviewing and providing key insights on massive data sets. AI is assisting in the training and research process as well, providing real-time insights into call data as it happens.

Companies like Gong.io are providing conversation intelligence to make sales teams smarter and more efficient. Conversation intelligence has been programmed conveniently into the palms of our hands since 2011, when Apple introduced Siri. Microsoft then released Cortana in 2014, followed by Amazon's Alexa in 2015. Google added its addition to the AI family in 2016 with Google Assistant, prompted by voice recognition of the phrase, "OK Google." Self-service is continuing to thrive as well: Going well beyond automated voice menus, self-service options for complex online shopping experiences are allowing consumers greater control and helping focus enterprise sales efforts on self-selected prospects.

Marketing Automation

A successful digital marketing campaign involves numerous variables. However, AI is beginning to streamline this process with tools like Wordsmith, Quill, Yseop and IBM Watson Text to Speech use natural language generation to turn short outlines into print-ready stories. Additionally, AI helps pair SMBs and freelancers based on an in-depth analysis of both content quality and style.

AI is also enhancing chatbot technology. Facebook's wit.ai bot engine or tools like ChattyPeople are empowering more advanced automated responses. Tedious tasks like tagging videos and images are now being automated with tools like Clarifai and Dextro, additionally reducing the cost of maintenance, because machines are now capable of accurately recognizing photographs.

Predictive Analytics and Forecasting

Small businesses use AI to mine massive volumes of worthless data to filter out key insights. Tools like SAP's HANA are being used to process transaction records, mobile data and manufacturing inputs to produce predictive analytics and forecast demand and potential cost savings. InsightsOne and Loom Systems are being designed to work in real time and to provide insights as they are produced. This machine learning process allows small organizations to improve risk management, reduce marketing budgets without impacting results, and/or improve HR processes.

Human Resource Management

Without the constraints of a database and the vigilance of human operators updating that database, there wasn't much you could do to automate analysis. AI is already providing a valuable look into the hiring process, training process and evaluating employee performance. Predictive hiring utilizes key components of employee resumés, performance reports from current and former staff, and more to evaluate candidates as they are screened. This same technology is being used to measure and analyze employee productivity, providing key insights into what helps, what hurts, and what can be done to monitor and improve key metrics for small business teams.

Customer Service

Automated chat systems on websites have been helping small businesses scale their customer service efforts for years. However, AI integrates a more sophisticated natural language that can answer increasingly specific questions from users by drawing on a database of insights. Customer cases can now be triaged automatically, routing them to the appropriate department, or in some cases. This allows human customer service agents to focus on the toughest of problems, reducing the backlog for assistance and improving care for those who have legitimate concerns (such as a delayed flight).

How Data Is Changing Business

With recent advances in AI, the insights being gleaned by small businesses are stronger than ever, revolutionizing offerings like sales engagement, customer service, hiring procedures and more. The focus may be on the next big breakthrough in AI, but for many businesses, it's already here.

Adrien Schmidt is CEO of Bouquet, an enterprise chatbot solution that converts data analytics into meaningful conversations

Published on: Nov 21, 2017