What is the role of artificial intelligence in SMEs? We want to provide guidance for owners on how to use the technology, and how to use it ethically.
Have you heard of DALL-E Have you used OpenAI? Have you used –
No matter where you work, you’ve likely been encountering AI software like the ones listed above. As happens whenever new technology steps up to the plate, businesses everywhere are keen to see what it can do for them, and if it can help them make their practices more profitable. Some don’t, but some can help in a big way.
A FreshBooks study
suggested that the majority of small businesses are looking to implement more AI tools in their workplace, even the CBC has provided guidance
on how they will report on AI going into the future. So, what should small businesses be doing with this new technology? How can they be responsible? How can they be ethical?
Our Founder & Chair, Margo Crawford, along with our COO, Katherine Clarke-Nolan, reflected on these questions.
Technical Limits of AI
Despite its seemingly rapid advancement, AI tools still have a litany of technical glitches that need to be sorted out as technology advances. That’s why our Margo argues against diving into complete reliance on AI, “for small businesses, don’t block and tackle everything that is coming, try to work with it in a way that doesn’t negate the skills your team has”, Margo says, noting that it is easy to spot copy and images that are completely AI generated.
That brings up an important consideration for businesses as well – when you completely rely on AI, it is noticed by people, and in our human nature, we reject it. Furthermore, Google
has signaled that companies who rely on AI generated content to write their blogs, mainly SEO focused pieces, will be penalized in the ranking. Content writers that write helpful, human, and factually correct can still use AI to help write their blogs, so long as it doesn’t come across as spammy.
“If anything, this could be part of your first draft procedure” says COO Katherine. AI can be used to develop skeletons of articles, or policies, that a business needs, with people whose job it is to review and improve upon what the AI gives you. AI is still missing critical nuances that make us human, so while it can make our work more efficient, the idea that it will eliminate roles is, for now, far-fetched. But as for changing the way people do their work? Most definitely going to happen.
Small Businesses and Artificial Intelligence
“Think strategically, look at what you can do if you lean into AI, but also what the setbacks are of leaning into AI, and then go from there” Margo says, urging businesses to be cautious. Small businesses will benefit from an AI assistant to help start their blog articles, which can free up time for marketers to think more strategically. With every technological integration, there is always a sweet spot where you’ll get the most out of technology, and now it’s up to businesses to find that spot.
AI can also be used for data processing and clarification, for businesses looking to make strategic decisions. This can be extremely beneficial to small and medium businesses, where every dollar counts. While we encourage you to use it in data interpretation if you see the need for it, it remains crucial to not share any confidential information with the program, as not only is it unethical, but it can be perceived as dangerous.
Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence
Of course, then the next question is, how do we use AI in an ethical way? Ultimately, work you pull directly from tools like ChatGPT is not work you’ve created on your own, so you should credit, or disclose to the reader, that the text is made using AI. If you use AI to structure your writing, but don’t use what it gives you verbatim, you’re at the liberty to choose whether you want to disclose the writer.
When it comes to delivering for clients, what remains important is the quality of your product. “At the end, people are paying you for a quality product” Margo says, and if you rely solely on AI to deliver that product, the result will lack critical nuances that raise a product from merely okay to great.
For now, a best practice would be to incorporate AI into one of the many technologies you use to provide your service or product to a client.
AI should not be perceived as a threat, according to management at BSG. It should be viewed like any new technology is viewed, through a critical lens where you can identify both opportunities that could arise using it and setbacks that come with its arrival. Businesses can be smarter with the help of AI, but they will not be as human as they used to be and will lack critical insight and context cues to elevate the value of what they deliver.
At Business Sherpa Group, we’ve developed our own guidelines on AI usage for our team, and, like workplace policies, we will be revisiting it as the technology evolves. Businesses have been adapting and adding technology options since the start of the digital era, and this is yet another evolution of that. So rather than diving completely into artificial intelligence and using it for all your business functions, proceed with caution and optimism.