As businesses prepare for the time that will inevitably be known as ‘post-pandemic Britain’, one thing is certain – small businesses need support and a structured plan.
Even before COVID struck, Britain’s business outlook was rather unsteady with Brexit lurking in the background and so, when lockdown commenced and businesses were forced into the new normal as it is affectionately known, supply chains faltered, and demand fell by the wayside.
Pandemonium ensued and small businesses were hit disproportionately, particularly in East Anglia, London, and the North West. Their problems were caused by the difficulties that we’ve mentioned above but, also because of many SMEs struggled with the rapid adoption of digital technologies.
Sink or swim
Survival mode was very much a shared view by business decision makers throughout the UK. ESEI, when discussing how to weather the storm, suggested that businesses need to invest in innovation, take their business online, respond to logistic demands, alter the existing business model, and rebrand.
Of course, not all of them above are entirely achievable but, some of them at least were attempted by nearly every business in the United Kingdom – in reality, they had to do something. Unfortunately, for SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses in the UK, the cost of COVID is expected to be around £126.6 billion, a sum that will have detrimental impacts on these businesses for years to come.
ESEI’s first proposal, to invest in innovation, sits at the very forefront of business events which took place during the initial months of the pandemic. Businesses found themselves turning off most, if not all, of their physical operations to focus purely on digital.
Microsoft Teams and Zoom quickly found their feet as the centralised office environment while the Cloud became the new filing cabinet. Companies that had barely used these new technologies before found themselves entrenched in their capabilities, making a number begin to ask the question, ‘well, what else can my business take advantage of?’, and the answer is ‘plenty.’
Then came AI & Machine Learning. Business decision makers call upon the help of these technologies in a bid to reduce their operational costs, increase their efficiency, grow revenue streams, and improve the overall customer experience. Sound familiar? Yes, these are exactly the same ways in which businesses can survive – by cutting costs, increasing profits, and holding on to customers!
Why go with AI & Machine Learning?
Prior to exploring the rapid growth of these technologies, it’s worth explaining what they mean.
AI, or artificial intelligence to give it its appropriate title, is the mimicking of human cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving. It uses both maths and logic to re-enact the reasoning people use to form new decisions and learn information. Meanwhile, machine learning is an application of AI that uses mathematical formulae and data to allow a computer to learn without instruction. Ultimately, this allows the device to be let loose on self-improvement and knowledge enhancement.
For small business owners, this is probably the stage where you think you are way out of your depth, thinking that advanced digital infrastructure like this is way beyond their business but, the fact of the matter is, every business can benefit from learning more about themselves and their operations through the power of data, regardless of what you do.
Big data – sounds daunting, doesn’t it? The term big data, often used for the data used by AI and machine learning, may come across as intimidating but it’s not about providing all the data associated with your business throughout history. Rather, it is about harnessing relevant data and technology to get a clearer picture of the current situation and what the future is likely to hold.
In even better news for small business owners – most of the groundwork associated with AI and machine learning has already been done, so all you have to do is implement it and start reaping the inevitable rewards.
Cost and reward
For small to medium size businesses, before investing, ensure that you can acquire a solution or software that gives you access to the data analysis that you need, rather than a full suite of tools that are redundant to you.
Thanks to the size of your company, your journey time from deployment to integration should be considerably lower than that of a major corporation as you should be able to get it running in conjunction with your current setup.
In recent years, the price of technology associated with accessing data has dropped significantly – use free government databases and social network stores to power your insights combined with in-house data that you have already been collecting.
By introducing AI & machine learning you can successfully position your business as one of the most competitive within the market, anticipating trends and making moves ahead of fellow business decision makers.
Innovation is at the forefront of business decision makers’ minds within SMEs however, business these individuals often find themselves swamped in the day-to-day decisions that could easily be made by AI. Take the time back from less important decisions and reassign it to those which could be taking your business to the next level.
Where do I begin?
Before you press go, you need to understand the problems that you face rather than automatically trying to come up with a solution. Likewise, implementing AI and machine learning throughout the business at every possibility will simply result in you becoming inundated with data that you’re unsure how to utilise – find the areas that need assistance and start there.
Emails, social media, web traffic, and customer data – all of these places will provide you with the necessary data to feed the machine – it really is everywhere and ready for you to manipulate.
For small businesses in a post-pandemic world, there are plenty of lucrative opportunities – no more so than within the public sector! Did you know that the government has pledged its support to start ups and SMEs either directly, or through the supply chain? That means businesses like yours, regardless of size, could be winning the next government contracts today!
Find new opportunities
S2G can help you find new tenders in the public sector – and those who haven’t traditionally supplied to the sector will be encouraged to do so with such heavy investment from government.
Start your free trial or ask for a demo today to begin your journey in supplying to government.