A recent survey by business management platform MYOB, capturing the views of more than 1000 Australian small business owners and operators, revealed that only one fifth (19%) are currently utilising artificial intelligence (AI) tools in their operations.
According to the survey, the main benefits documented by these businesses were efficiency and improvements in productivity. Interestingly, 44% of respondents anticipate that AI will influence their sector within the next five years.
AI technology is only starting to take hold in the Australian SME sector as 90% of respondents began using it in the past year, according to the survey. From those using AI tools, 88% have experienced time savings in their operations and 81% have noted an increase in productivity. MYOB suggests the benefits of adopting AI indicate a trend for future growth in usage among small businesses.
AI tools are being utilised for a broad variety of tasks, including generating social media and marketing posts (49%), crafting copy for marketing materials and press releases (34%), authoring technical documents (25%), and conducting market, trend, and risk analysis (25%).
Emma Fawcett, MYOB's General Manager for SME, highlighted the adoption of AI as a key element of digital technology uptake for small business owners. She indicated that freely available AI tools, such as generative AI options like ChatGPT, have allowed smaller businesses to explore the power of AI.
Despite some barriers to entry, which include a lack of complex understanding about AI and concerns about cost when implementing new systems, Fawcett believes the positive impact of AI on productivity and efficiency show it is a valuable option for SMEs. She said, "Forty-four per cent believe the use of AI will impact their industry over the next five years. So, it's time for small and medium-sized business owners to understand what opportunities are available to them, and how they can harness these to maximise their business efficiency."
MYOB's survey revealed that 11% of respondents spend more than eight hours a week on administrative tasks such as paperwork, finances, and timesheets. If these were accomplished via AI systems, 44% of business owners would repurpose this time on growing their business. Approximately a third (31%) claimed they would use the additional time to rest, while others would focus on innovation (24%), developing new products or services (24%), or enhancing team engagement (24%).
This research shows that leveraging AI can be as valuable for streamlining time-consuming tasks as it is for developing business growth. Fawcett encouraged small business owners to explore AI options within their industry, stating, "Don't be afraid to take the plunge. It doesn't have to be a significant time or cash investment, but it's worthwhile knowing what's on offer and how it can help."