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Let’s Talk: Practical strategies for successful AI adoption in your small business


Small businesses are increasingly recognizing the potential benefits of implementing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

Yet, the prospect of diving into the complex realm of AI can seem overwhelming, particularly for smaller organizations with limited resources and expertise.

However, amidst the challenges lie numerous opportunities for growth, efficiency, and innovation. With the right strategies and guidance, small businesses can harness the power of AI to streamline operations, enhance decision-making processes, and gain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

Throughout this discussion, we’ll explore practical approaches and actionable tactics that small businesses can adopt to navigate the AI landscape effectively. From identifying suitable AI applications to overcoming implementation hurdles, we’ll provide insights and best practices to help businesses embark on a successful AI journey.

In this week’s edition of Let’s Talk, our experts delve into the essential approaches and tactics that small businesses can utilise to seamlessly integrate AI into their operations.

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Brad Pulford, Managing Director ANZ at HP

Brad Pulford, Managing Director ANZ at HP

“Small businesses have an opportunity to dive into the AI landscape with clear, practical, and tailored advice. Avoid overcomplicating new applications of AI.

“To harness its power for small businesses, focusing on personalisation is key. Instead of solely considering it as a means to improve productivity, acknowledge its potential in enhancing individual experiences. By tailoring services and products to meet specific needs and preferences of customers, businesses can create a deeper connection with their target audience.

“Personalisation not only improves customer satisfaction but then in turn will increase productivity and foster innovative practices. We believe that the best innovation is personal and impactful, and AI allows us to be more personal than ever before.”

Laura Burgess, Analyst at Capterra

Laura Burgess, Analyst at Capterra

“Whilst there are various steps to AI implementation that smaller businesses must consider, employee training stands out as a crucial part of its adoption. AI-powered software can be used across many business areas and when used correctly, can enhance efficiency and productivity. However, without proper AI training, employees may struggle to interpret AI-generated insights, perhaps leading to business decisions based on misunderstood information.

“Educating workers about AI concepts, tools, and applications is a must from a business perspective but can also contribute to employees’ professional growth and development.

Capterra’s 2023 Digital Natives Survey found that 64% of employees had received training or support on digital tools from their company. However, just over one in five said they haven’t had any digital training but would like to. Of these respondents who have had training or would like to, 83% said their company should make more efforts to train staff on such tools.

“When training employees on AI-enhanced tools, consider different learning preferences and offer workshops, seminars or online courses to cover fundamental and advanced AI topics. Inviting external AI experts and industry professionals to give talks or guest lectures can also expose employees to the latest trends in AI.”

Nikita Atkins, AI Lead at NCS

Nikita Atkins, AI Lead at NCS

“To make AI implementation smoother for small businesses, strategies should focus on identifying high-return projects where AI can significantly impact operations. Leveraging pre-trained AI models and enriching them with proprietary data can offer a competitive edge. Businesses should invest in developing prompt engineering skills and augmenting AI models with custom developments for specific tasks. Additionally, considering the deployment of Generative AI in areas that align with business goals and have a feasible implementation pathway is crucial. Addressing potential resistance to change and ensuring data quality and availability are also key to successful AI projects. Small businesses can differentiate their AI applications by focusing on these strategic areas, ensuring they leverage AI effectively while managing the risks and challenges associated with its adoption.”

Dan Bognar, Vice President & Managing Director JAPAC at HubSpot

Dan Bognar, Vice President & Managing Director JAPAC at HubSpot

“While the efficiency and productivity benefits of AI are increasingly becoming recognised, education around relevant use cases and knowing how to best leverage AI, is proving a significant hurdle for Australian SMBs.

“SMBs are falling behind when it comes to AI adoption, with HubSpot research revealing that only 54% are investing in AI tools today, compared with 66% of larger organisations. The key lies in upskilling employees — and businesses that don’t, risk falling behind. Now is the time for creativity and innovation.

“AI has the potential to level the playing field between SMBs and larger organisations by applying enterprise grade capabilities to smaller organisations. This will help businesses make sense of growing volumes of data for faster and better decision-making, as well as to automate highly manual tasks.

“With a potential productivity gain of nearly two days per week, businesses that successfully educate their teams and implement AI will experience benefits beyond time-saving. SMBs can also expect to benefit from generating more personalised customer facing content, improving conversion rates and enhancing data analysis. This will ultimately lead to  deeper, more scalable connections with customers.”

Claire Tran, VP of Engineering at Sendle

Claire Tran, VP of Engineering at Sendle

“Smaller businesses don’t have the same resources as enterprises, and AI is well recognised for the role it plays in levelling the playing field. However, our latest research has revealed that 17% of SMBs are planning to invest in new technologies in 2024. Implementing AI as one of those technologies could help unlock and achieve new levels of growth.

“Our CEO is a firm believer in finding one thing a day to try with AI. There’s no doubt that AI will shape the future of prompt engineering, so curiously learning every day about employing AI will not only upskill the workforce, but it’ll also reveal where operational efficiencies can be made across the business.  The key to successful AI implementation for SMBs is testing and learning, to determine which strategies make sense and will deliver the best ROI for your business.

“Focus on starting small rather than overhauling your entire tech stack. For example, in the logistics industry, AI can be used for routing optimisation, enabling the collection and analysis of data to help SMBs improve the customer experience and boost delivery efficiency.

“Understanding how AI can be trained to recognise patterns with customer support enquiries can help streamline and improve the customer experience, which is especially important for small teams or sole traders who wear many operational hats.”

Bede Hackney, Head of ANZ at Zoom

Bede Hackney, Head of ANZ at Zoom

“There is a disparity between AI optimism among leaders and employees as they fear potential job losses. For small businesses, fostering an inclusive AI culture is paramount. Through prioritising transparent communication, education, and resource provision, small businesses can help demystify AI misconceptions and bridge the gap in familiarity.

“The majority (93%) of Australian leaders are favourable towards AI adoption. By involving employees in AI decision-making and providing accessible training, small businesses can help democratise AI tools and ensure trust. It’s imperative to showcase AI’s role in enhancing collaboration and productivity, driving momentum for adoption.

“Small businesses can also tackle cost-cutting challenges and elevate employee and customer experience when leveraging AI. AI-powered chatbots on your websites or social media can help handle routine customer inquiries efficiently, freeing up employees to focus on more complex and personalised customer interactions. This can enhance overall customer satisfaction and allows small businesses to provide 24/7 support without straining resources.

“Considering these steps, small businesses can embrace AI’s transformative potential and confidently navigate the evolving workplace landscape through empowering employees. When leveraging AI for collaborative gains and time-saving measures by emphasising employee involvement, small businesses can support a harmonious integration of AI into their workforce.”

Mollie Eckersley, Head of Operations ANZ at BrightHR

Mollie Eckersley, Head of Operations ANZ at BrightHR

“There’s a huge gap between the number of employees using generative AI at work and the number of workplaces that have policies and training in place guiding their employees’ AI usage.

“Bridging this gap is vital, especially for small businesses looking to embrace AI in their operations. It starts with having robust policies in place and sharing this information with your staff. So, they’re aware of how they can use AI, who can use it, your stance on data privacy, and any other pressing topics.

“Next, it’s important to keep your employees up to date with tech and how to make the best—and most responsible—use of these tools through regular training. The training you provide should be as comprehensive and accessible as possible; covering everything from specific tools to cybersecurity awareness that keeps your employees and your business protected.

“It sounds simple but setting this foundation helps any small business grow sustainably while staying ahead of the competitive market.”

Adam Beavis, Vice President and Country Manager ANZ at Databricks

Adam Beavis, Vice President and Country Manager ANZ at Databricks

“In many ways, 2023 was year one for the generative AI (Gen AI) boom, with organisations across industries excited to use the technology. While ‘boring AI’ has been around for many years (think about your Netflix recommendations or online chatbots for customer services) ChatGPT brought on an AI awareness revolution in the past year and has become a C-level priority for most businesses. Moving ahead, we will not only see an even higher uptake in Gen AI, but can expect a greater emphasis on effective implementation of the technology as well.

“The first step for businesses is to consolidate disparate data from various sources into a central hub, such as a data intelligence platform, which not only centralises data but also enables users to interact with it using natural language, democratising data and AI across the organisation. With greater data visibility, access, and a unified approach to data governance, teams can understand what is available to train large-language models (LLMs) and make the most out of the capabilities of Gen AI.

“Another key element in effective AI implementation is to identify the best use cases for AI within your particular business. Ideate a list of potential use cases by pulling in different minds from across the organisation. Next, prioritise the use cases by calculating the expected return on investment (ROI) for each one of them. Not only is this necessary to efficiently use your resources, but this process also provides an opportunity for members across the business to align their efforts and get on board with the process of implementing AI.”

Caitlin Zotti, Co-CEO at Pin Payments

Caitlin Zotti, Co-CEO at Pin Payments

“To ensure a smooth AI implementation, small businesses need to start with a strategic approach. Begin by focusing on well-defined projects where AI can provide clear solutions and try to prioritise easier to use AI tools that don’t demand extensive technical knowledge. As cost is likely to be a consideration, try to find cloud-based AI platforms or pre-trained models. Likewise, training your staff on how to ethically use AI is crucial if you intend to implement it into everyday business. You may also want to consider consulting AI experts who can provide guidance through the implementation period and show you how to best utilise new tools. With technology constantly evolving, it’s a good idea to consider educating yourself on the benefits and potential risks associated with the use of AI that could impact your business.”

Deepak Ajmani, Vice President of APAC Digital Natives & Emerging Markets at Confluent

Deepak Ajmani, Vice President of APAC Digital Natives & Emerging Markets at Confluent

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great potential for businesses of all sizes, but the saying ‘data is the new oil’ is particularly salient for AI solutions. Extracting value from data for AI use requires having clean, trustworthy, up-to-date data, but many businesses still rely on batch-processed data where data is at ‘rest’ and quickly outdated.

“This is why data streaming, where data is continuously fed in real-time, has become indispensable to critical business systems and AI solutions. Accordingly, the most effective first step for small businesses leveraging AI is to address data accessibility. Building a real-time data mesh can liberate data across the organisation and enable AI to tap into them. When context is applied, this data can become information that can be reoriented for insight and innovation. For example, a generative AI-based system coupled with data streaming – bringing information from different data sources in the moment – can provide live conversation intelligence in contact centres to deliver predictive support and hyper-personalised recommendations based on the questions raised.”

Luke Kelly, Director of Fuse Fleet

Luke Kelly, Director of Fuse Fleet

“By integrating artificial intelligence (AI), businesses can thrive in the digital market. As technology advances, embracing AI becomes a strategic advantage as well as a necessity. Here are a few strategies you can implement:

Define your goals and objectives: This process involves a detailed analysis of the specific problems or challenges the business intends to address using AI solutions. It requires a deep understanding of where AI can bring significant improvements to ensure the AI’s tools match the business strategy and meet the needs of the business.

Integrate your team: Introducing AI to may face resistance, fear, or misunderstanding. Managing this transition involves preparing the workforce with training, communication, and involvement in the AI integration process. This mitigates the perception of AI as a potential threat.

Learning from successful AI integration stories: Learning from businesses who have experienced a successful integration and addressing the potential challenges of AI will be key for businesses aiming to thrive in the digital world. The experiences of businesses that have successfully integrated AI into their operations offer invaluable lessons.

“As AI reshapes the business landscape, entrepreneurs must advance their companies to adapt to our interconnected society.”

Brad Drysdale, Field CTO at SnapLogic

Brad Drysdale, Field CTO at SnapLogic

“To facilitate smooth AI implementation for small businesses, leveraging business psychology principles can be instrumental. Communication is paramount — a well-structured AI action plan coupled with consistent and frequent communication builds awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement (ADKAR model) among employees.

“Creating a prime time for exposure to AI concepts is crucial. Regular, small stimuli, such as emails, meetings and mission statements, enhance trust and familiarity, making the adoption of new practices more likely. Ensuring your IT team is aligned with organisational goals and well-versed in AI benefits is essential, as they serve as influential advocates for change. Addressing natural tendencies like anchoring effects and confirmation biases requires leadership to navigate cultural mitigation effectively.

“Engaging executives and team leaders through workshops can showcase the potential and benefits of AI, fostering understanding and positivity. Hands-on training for employees, coupled with patience and support, aids in overcoming skill-related apprehensions.

“Finally, celebrating milestones and communicating technological advancements collectively reinforces the positive impact of AI on the company. Employing these strategies, small businesses can navigate AI implementation successfully, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptation.”

Renée Chaplin, VP – Asia Pacific at Constant Contact

Renée Chaplin, VP – Asia Pacific at Constant Contact

“SMBs, from your corner store and market stall operator to the fledgling tech start-up with rapid growth aspirations, are often hamstrung by two essential ingredients required for any AI implementation: time and capital.

“For many, the best option is to source ready-to-go third party applications which take implementations from a capex investment to an opex spend, while taking the burden of further innovation off their shoulders and leaving it with the third-party provider. It also saves them significant time in testing, training and business disruption.

“So it’s a matter of assessing what you really need. Successful SMBs take some time to sit down and assess their business goals and where inefficiencies are in their operations that may be better undertaken by AI solutions. Take marketing: some tools can generate campaigns and subsequent email and SMS communications using a Generative AI engine and just a few prompts, acting as a virtual CMO of sorts.

“There are hundreds of tools already available today and that number is growing on a daily basis; research from Microsoft and the Tech Council of Australia revealed that Generative AI technologies could augment or automate nearly 44 per cent of tasks carried out by workers across the country.

“It’s time for SMBs to get serious about AI and take a look around, as there’s a good chance that what they need from AI is already available, if not just over the horizon.”

Terry Maiolo, Vice President-General Manager, Asia Pacific at OVHcloud

Terry Maiolo, Vice President-General Manager, Asia Pacific at OVHcloud

“Generative artificial intelligence (AI) continues to take the world by storm, and with it, questions on how to best make the most of this new disruptive wave. So how can Australian businesses set their operations up for success and take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity?

“With the wide variety of solutions available, Australian businesses should take up accessible, new and affordable AI solutions that can help them to participate in this new digital revolution. To ensure a smooth AI transformation, businesses should look for solutions that can assist them with:

Processing workloads to provide efficient computing resources for graphics, simulation and data analytics

Organising data pipeline and analytics to enable employees to start new projects with a few clicks

Building contextualised generative assistants that can host private datasets in a secured cloud environment

“At OVHcloud, we leverage over 20 years of expertise in cloud infrastructure to make AI accessible and easy to use for Australian businesses. Our solutions with efficient yet powerful compute resources act as a complete set of tools for our customers to use, design with, train AI models and put them into production.

“Adopting solutions that meet these criteria will enable Australian businesses to succeed in their AI transformation and implementation and unleash AI’s full benefits and opportunities. AI is here to stay, and with it, a new digital frontier for Australia’s small business community.”

Pete Murray, Managing Director ANZ at Veritas Technologies

Pete Murray, Managing Director ANZ at Veritas Technologies

“Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay but the technology can raise questions around security, trust and business operations. We know that in many cases, AI can streamline tedious manual processes and allow employees to focus their energy on more impactful, valuable and innovative work – which is a huge boon for productivity.

“However, while AI can support productivity at work, it can also trigger concerns about data protection and compliance risk. Aussie businesses can make the best of AI by adopting three habits to ensure smooth AI implementation and unlock the full potential of these new technologies, whilst bolstering their cyber resiliency:

Educate: Routinely educate staff on AI best practices to protect data and help reduce accidental policy breaches. Doing so will reduce the risk of exposing classified and sensitive information to the likes of malicious AI chatbots.

Fortify: AI is no longer a nice-to-have for data protection. By using advanced machine learning algorithms, businesses can better keep up to speed with the challenges of today’s increasingly complex IT ecosystem.

Identify: Consider using AI-powered data classifications to ensure business data is not only protected from malicious actors, but also stored and handled in a compliant manner.”

Gareth Rydon, Co-Founder of

Gareth Rydon, Co-Founder of

“Generative AI represents a fundamental technological shift; think electricity, railways, and the internet. In this new landscape, strategies for AI implementation aren’t the traditional ones….small businesses have to understand Generative AI represents infinite expertise.

“With access to infinite expertise, you need to frame growth as 10x growth, not 5-10% and do things differently.

Firstly, there needs to be a sense of urgency about it.

Secondly, Generative AI is all about prompts. In a world where getting answers has become far easier, the questions you ask become a lot more important. AI will not reply, “That is not what you should ask. You really should be asking….”

Thirdly, if you have access to infinite expertise, don’t ask incremental questions. Ask the questions to 10x your growth.

Summary: This mindset is what to take into when you are thinking about the strategies to make implementation smoother.

You have access to infinite expertise.

Getting answers is far easier.

The questions you ask have become far more important.

What questions will you ask of AI to make implementation smoother?”

Jamie Hoey, Australian General Manager at Wunderkind

Jamie Hoey, Australian General Manager at Wunderkind

“Before you look towards implementation of AI, you must spend time understanding the problem you’re looking towards AI to solve or the functions you need streamlined and then looking towards what type of AI will be best suited. However, regardless of what AI tools you’re looking to implement, there are three takeaways for a smoother transition.

“Explore the gaps in your current skill set. In an era where data protection is a significant concern, implementing new AI tools into your business effectively also necessitates exploring how our own skill sets need to adapt in order to manage AI from an ethical, strategic and capability perspective.

“Start with a trial run or a small-scale AI project to test the waters before diving head first into the unknown. That way, you can see how AI fits into your business and make any necessary tweaks. This allows you to evaluate the impact of AI on a smaller scale before committing to a full-scale deployment.

“And critically, do your due diligence on potential technology partners to ensure they have vast amounts of historical data and a proven track record of turning this data into revenue and results.”

Stefan Steenveld, Account Director – APAC at Litera

Stefan Steenveld, Account Director – APAC at Litera

“Research tells us that most change efforts fail, with McKinsey reporting 70% of change programs don’t achieve their goals, largely attributed to employee resistance and lack of management support, and 20% of a transformation’s value is lost after execution.

“As law firms and legal departments embrace AI to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and provide more effective client services, how do they mitigate the post-implementation value loss and ensure the change is meaningful and durable for both the individuals experiencing and implementing it?

“Here are the best practices law firms need to consider when navigating the complexities of integrating AI into their operations:

Understand the technology landscape

Establish clear objectives and expectations

Cultivate a culture of adaptability

Collaborate across departments

Prioritise data security and compliance

Provide comprehensive training programs

Monitor and evaluate performance

“Successfully integrating AI into legal technology requires a strategic and thoughtful approach to change management. By understanding the technology, setting clear objectives, cultivating adaptability, fostering collaboration, prioritising security, providing comprehensive training, and monitoring performance, legal professionals can navigate the challenges associated with AI implementation and unlock the full potential of these transformative technologies in the legal field.”

Aiden Heke, CEO at Decision Inc.

Aiden Heke, CEO at Decision Inc.

“Recent research highlights that 91% of Australian businesses are small, with less than 20 employees, contributing to one of the lowest productivity improvements in developing countries. Despite criticisms of the Australian economy being lazy, it’s argued that Australians excel in balancing work, consumption, and lifestyle. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming increasingly accessible, it presents an opportunity to enhance productivity. AI, including Generative AI, can create content like text, images, or videos, aiding or replacing human decision-making.

“For businesses considering AI integration, it’s crucial to assess ambition, technological savvy, and the specific needs and risks of the business. Knowledge-centric and manufacturing businesses will have different AI applications. Identifying a tech-savvy leader within the organisation can spearhead AI initiatives, supported by external expertise from networks or AI-using suppliers. Evaluating current technology infrastructure and identifying processes for efficiency gains are key steps. Starting with low-risk experiments, such as using AI for email or proposal writing, can build momentum. Persistence is vital, as incremental advancements in AI utilisation can significantly impact business productivity and allow for more leisure time, countering international criticisms with tangible success.”

Tim Sharp, Founder & Principal at GEN8

Tim Sharp, Founder & Principal at GEN8

“Generative AI in particular brings world-class models into any business, regardless of size. But with the lightning pace of change, success depends on managing both opportunity and uncertainty.

Develop Fluency: Don’t be afraid to stop and ask ‘what is AI?’, ‘what is Generative AI?’, ‘what is it not?’. Really getting up to speed with key concepts allows you to think strategically about use cases, rather than force-fit (or feel like you’re playing catch-up).

Run Experiments: Test away from the pressure-cooker of a live project. Assess how LLMs could help with routine tasks. Or what you marketing ‘might’ (not ‘must’) look like with image or other generative tools. Or what shape your own data is in.

Evolve Governance: We now live in a world where a voice or likeness can be convincingly cloned in seconds, for the cost of a meal. Sadly, preparing for the good, the bad and the ugly of AI is no longer a nice-to-have.

Allocate Budgets: They needn’t break the bank. ChatGPT for Teams starts from $30USD. Those using it already work 40% better, 25% faster, getting 12% more done. The key – with any type of AI – is to do so strategically, effectively and responsibly.”

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