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Submitted by NAV Insights on 24 February 2020

Why Every Business Needs AI, and Why It's Easier to Get There with Microsoft Power BI

Many small business owners think that only large enterprises need or can realistically use artificial intelligence (AI) applications for their business. They believe that either the cost is too high for them to afford it, or that their businesses are too small to benefit from AI.

The reality, however, is that every business can benefit from the introduction of AI into their operations. And, yet another surprise--the cost of these applications can be much lower than you might think.

What is AI?

What exactly is AI? Artificial intelligence is software that can consume vast amounts of information and make human-like decisions based on that information. AI has applications across many disciplines, including learning, planning, and problem-solving.

A subset of AI, machine learning (ML), is used to digest information and apply a series of logical steps in order to produce desired conclusions. These can include anything from sales projections to hurricane tracking patterns. The interesting aspect of ML is that, as more and more data is assimilated and the computer’s results are compared to actual outcomes, the software actually self-corrects or “learns” from its mistakes, making its projections more and more reliable.

Regardless of Your Business or Size, You Need to Tap Into AI

Even if you are a small organization with just five or ten employees, there are many places where AI can help you be more productive, reduce errors, and save money.

Some of these areas include:

Repetitive Tasks: Do any members of your team spend time performing routine tasks? These tasks can generally be easily automated to speed up performance and reduce manual entry errors, not to mention freeing up a valuable resource to help out in other areas. For example, AI can take over any routine task in accounts payable or accounts receivable, or it can handle routing and scheduling of service personnel. In short, anything routine can likely be handled by AI.

Analytics: Having trouble finding the top performing products or store locations? Trying to identify equipment that might be ready to fail? Need to keep up with a competitor’s marketing activities? These can all be handled through AI applications.

On a larger scale, AI can be a big help when it comes to corporate performance management. While traditional analytics typically only involves reporting—which is great for providing historical information—it is not true business intelligence. Business analysis and business intelligence allow you to use historical and current data to gain critical insights and then apply them strategically. Corporate Performance Management (CPM) then adds the process, methodologies, metrics, and systems used for managing the performance of your business.

Chatbots: Want to keep your customer service representatives taking prospect calls instead of providing answers to commonly asked questions? Consider offering a chatbot on your website to handle common troubleshooting questions that take up time without adding revenue.

As you can see, there are many places where AI and ML can help you and your organization thrive and keep pace with your competitors who are already leveraging these technologies.

Small Business Tools for AI and ML

You might not realize that there are already tools you might be using already that give you those capabilities. Think “Alexa” and “Siri”.

But the best all-around application to get your business on the road to AI is Microsoft Power BI. Power BI is a business analytics tool from Microsoft that accepts data from a variety of inputs and combines them to produce reports, dashboards, graphs, and analytics quickly and with a minimum of technical knowledge.

Since Power BI runs on Microsoft’s Azure platform, it can access many of Azure’s AI and ML tools and apply them to your organization’s data.

Plus, there are extensions like Late Payment Predictions pre-built for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central ready for use.

Here are Just a Few of the Features Power BI Has to Offer

Using Azure Cognitive Services, Power BI can be used to identify patterns from images, documents, social media feeds, and more in order to recognize objects within images, identify sentiment, and detect phrases, helping businesses extract actionable insights from their data.

Azure also helps Power BI perform key driver analysis to track metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to identify and understand the factors that influence these metrics.

Azure Machine Learning provides a no-code option for Power BI users to build their own ML models. One example is to build a model to help the sales team predict the likelihood a high-value opportunity will result in a sale.

Don't Wait to Tap Into AI...with Microsoft Power BI

AI and ML have been buzzwords for years now, but only recently have they found their way into the small business world. With an assortment of inexpensive alternatives, there is no reason that all businesses cannot benefit by including them into their day to day operations. Companies can start by automating their routine tasks to reduce errors and free up valuable resources for more meaningful tasks.

Microsoft Power BI is an easy to use tool that makes a wide variety of Business Intelligence tools available to small and mid-sized companies. Power BI can access many of the AI and ML tools from Microsoft’s Azure platform. Reach out to ArcherPoint today to discuss how we can make AI work for you, including how we can help you fine-tune your corporate performance management for better results.