Microsoft highlights impact of AI on small businesses in a new report

Kevin Okemwa

a bunch of people using a laptop in a conference room Microsoft 365

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The Microsoft Store recently released its second annual Small Business State of Mind report. It’s designed to highlight the impact artificial intelligence has on small business owners as well as other people.

The study sought to understand whether business owners are ready to embrace new technology and hop on the AI craze and what measures they are taking place to adapt to the new changes. The report is based on a “survey of 1,000 nationally representative U.S. small business owners with 0-24 employees, including an oversample of Gen Z and BIPOC owners.”

Here are the key findings from the report:

  1. Balancing act: Inflation and data security are the largest, growing pain points for small businesses.
  2. Entrepreneur to admin: Small business owners are too bogged down with mundane tasks to focus on innovation, though aspirations remain strong.
  3. AI optimism: AI is seen as a game-changer, potentially providing the level of support small businesses need to grow.
  4. Closing the AI knowledge gap: Many small business owners still need to become more knowledgeable about AI to fully realize the benefits for their business.

It was discovered that small businesses don’t have elaborate measures in place to protect them against data breaches. 49% of business owners admitted that they didn’t have security measures in place to help mitigate such occurrences, while 43% indicated that the lack of capital was the main reason why their operations were still susceptible to compromise.

On the other hand, 29% of the sample surveyed indicated that they were unable to make an informed decision on the security solution to deploy to their systems because of the wide array of options. 28% of the business owners cited that they didn’t have trained personnel in their team to implement data security measures in their operations. “This number jumps for Gen Z (65%) and BIPOC (52%) owners,” Microsoft told OnMSFT.

Admittedly, 47% of small business owners have admitted that generative AI has the potential to revolutionize how business runs. “And greater understanding yields higher expectations: 88% of those who consider themselves AI experts said the same.”

Likewise, 56% of the sample size has indicated that AI capabilities could be leveraged to run business operations effectively and efficiently. 49% showed a keen interest in automated customer data analysis as a means of determining their venture’s success, while 46% are more rooted in automating recurring tasks like customer service and more.

At long last, most business owners admitted that they didn’t have the technical know-how that would allow them to leverage AI capabilities fully to ensure that they are able to push their business to the next level. From the sample size, only 10% indicated that they were able to leverage AI capabilities and incorporate them into their workflow, while 67% highlighted that they had very little knowledge of how the whole thing works.

At the end of it all, 79% indicated that they were willing to go the extra mile to learn more about AI, ultimately taking their businesses to the next level. In comparison to the just-released Work Trend Index report by Microsoft, generative is definitely redefining how people run their operations across companies. But at the end of the day, users need to be equipped with the right information and skills which will allow them to properly implement these changes.