Procurement · 4 September 2015

The advantages and threats of artificial intelligence for small businesses

The "Amelia" product in action
The “Amelia” product in action

Frank Lansink, European CEO of IPsoft, sat down with Business Advice to give an insight into the world of artificial intelligence (AI) – explaining how the modern day business environment means small businesses are able to harness technology at a much early stage, and where the advantages of breaking boundaries lies.

(1) Tell me a bit about your role and background?

I’m the European CEO of artificial intelligence and automation specialist, IPsoft. I look after the European activities in a business and operational capacity and focus a large part of my time on our European growth strategy and expansion plans.

Before joining IPsoft, I was an entrepreneur for 13 years, during which time I founded, built and invested in a number of tech companies. I enjoyed a short stint in corporate finance before meeting Chetan Dube (CEO and founder of IPsoft) and moving into this role eight years ago.

(2) What does IPsoft offer and which businesses has it had the biggest impact on?

IPsoft started out as an IT managed automation company, today supplying automation solutions for two thirds of all Global 2000 businesses. Because of this – and the 30 per cent decrease in operational costs it brought to businesses – it’s where the core business focus and greatest impact has been.

However, the launch of Amelia, our groundbreaking knowledge worker, last year has seen the business branch out into artificial intelligence to help businesses increase efficiencies, lower costs and remove the repetitive tasks from daily life. By doing so, workers can enjoy more creative and value added roles, while focusing on the businesses strategy instead of mundane or manual tasks.

Amelia has now been deployed with its first eight customers and is starting to demonstrate not only bottom line efficiencies but also top line growth.

(3) In what ways could AI be a threat to small businesses and in what ways could it be an advantage?

One of the biggest advantages for businesses, especially SMEs, is that each are able to scale rapidly without the usual, sometimes crippling, costs. Technology has allowed for the removal of traditional barriers and it is now easier than ever to start a business and scale up incredibly quickly.

New entrants to the market can leverage AI from every angle and become a huge success – and threat to others – almost overnight. Uber and Airbnb are prime examples of this, demonstrating just how cloud and app based businesses with relatively low investment can grow into successful global enterprises.

Because of this, it’s vital that businesses continue to innovate and break boundaries when it comes to embracing tech, especially AI, as the risk that comes from not adopting it is far higher than for those who embrace it.

Every business that can be digitalised is going to be impacted by AI in one way or another. Put quite simply, if you’re not capable of changing your business at the same speed of the rest of the world, then you’re doomed. For businesses to grow, those leading them must be able to adopt and adjust; the greatest gains will be seen by those who embrace and harness the power of new technologies.

(4) Is there a possibility that business owners looking to focus on where their strengths lie will be able to use AI to focus on getting the laborious admin out the way, making for a more efficient firm?

Bringing AI into the workplace allows the digitalisation of tasks so that business owners can focus on trends and more top level management and strategy. It’s through using these technologies that operational excellence occurs and businesses really start thriving. Now, the competitive edge comes from customer experience and value proposition, rather than your core offering and balance sheet.

(5) There has been a lot made of businesses not finding the candidates each are after due to the skills shortage in the UK – do you think AI has a role to play here?

By taking away repetitive and mundane tasks, employees become far more than workers doing a particular role. They have the ability to become subject matter experts in their desired field, with an invaluable knowledge of an area, trend or sector.

The skills shortage in the UK highlights how quickly the world is digitalising and how we are struggling to keep up. It’s through knowledge workers, such as Amelia, that we will take the pressure of the day to day tasks and allows workers to learn, develop and grow at the same rate as the technology around us.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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