Despite the great value that technology brings to companies, there is an unfounded belief that new and innovative tools, especially those powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), are expensive and not very accessible for small companies.
From my perspective, this idea has largely caused the technological backwardness of SMEs, which translates into companies with great growth potential, but little chance of being competitive in an increasingly complex economic environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great accelerator for thousands of businesses, regardless of their size, to venture into digital transformation; However, many SMEs began their path to digitization more out of necessity than as part of their business strategy.
According to data from the Entrepreneurship Radiography 2020, carried out by the Association of Entrepreneurs of Mexico (ASEM), in Mexico 36% of SMEs have a maximum one year with digital presence; In other words, although they have been in operation for several years -some even up to 10 or more-, for the digital market they are very young companies.
Although these data speak of the willingness of Mexican entrepreneurs to emerge afloat in the face of any crisis, it also puts on the table the need for this sector to have experts to advise them in their digitization process to achieve tangible results, and that allows them to take advantage of all the competitive advantages offered by technologies.
New technological “normality”
At this point, it is no surprise to anyone to talk about a new economic scenario in which the most technologically advanced companies are also the most competitive; however, it is important that this adoption of disruptive tools reaches all business sectors.
International organizations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO), have pointed out on several occasions the importance that SMEs have access to digital tools that make them more competitive, can preserve jobs, contribute to improving the quality of life of communities and encourage post-pandemic economic reactivation.
ECLAC estimates that, if they are not digitized, they could close more than 2.7 million formal companies in the region, causing the loss of 8.5 million jobs. These are data that reflect the importance of bringing technology closer to SMEs.
Today there are a large number of digital tools that help automate and simplify processes, one of them, Artificial Intelligence, is a great bet, since it is the only technology that has the ability to learn and improve by itself. In my experience, some of the AI tools that are available and can enhance the development of any SME are:
Chatbots. As the demand for online sales increases -which has been very evident since the onset of the pandemic-, the need for companies is also created to have efficient, personalized and close communication channels that help their users to have a unique shopping experience.
Chatbots are extremely valuable tools, since not only can they fulfill the functions of an assistant with 24/7 availability, they also help increase sales, get more and better leads, convert potential customers into consumers, increase the purchase ticket by offering personalized suggestions, and much more.
Human Resources (HR) tools. Today it is possible to streamline the work of these areas through AI-based software. This technology can be programmed to autonomously carry out payroll payments or any other internal procedure, such as management of vacation calendars, bonus payments or overtime, among others.
Likewise, AI platforms can be accessed to hire talent remotely or to form balanced work teams based on the skills and knowledge of each employee.
Cloud computing. This is perhaps one of the most familiar technologies for SMEs, since many of them had to resort to cloud computing to be able to operate remotely during the pandemic. The tools offered by the cloud are very varied and flexible, allowing it to adapt to the needs of any SME.
Accounting and billing. Artificial Intelligence can also make these processes more efficient, which has facilitated the path of many SMEs, especially those that are in the process of growth and require all the energy and effort of the entrepreneur for the company to continue growing.
These are just a few examples of how AI can be of great use to any SME, regardless of their turnover or number of employees. The great momentum that electronic commerce has recently experienced worldwide has made it possible to facilitate the access and diversification of new and better digital tools, affordable for all companies and designed to create more efficient and competitive organizations in the digital environment.
Currently there are solutions for sales, marketing, logistics and other critical processes, but it is important to identify those that can generate significant added value for companies and drive a phased implementation plan.
For this, it is necessary to adjust the processes, tools and metrics to the new technological platforms to guarantee the profitability of the business and validate if it really adapts to the needs of the companies. Solutions must be found that help improve response times and operating costs, since if they do not comply with these two basic premises, they will be of little use to the success of SMEs.