Navigating AI And Automation In Mid-Size Businesses

Mid-size businesses must navigate hurdles to leverage automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to gain efficiency, growth, and to stand out in the market.
Navigating AI And Automation In Mid-Size Businesses
Photo by Lukas Blazek

For mid-size businesses, the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) is essential in today’s business landscape. These technologies not only drive operational efficiency but also foster growth and develop market differentiation.

However, integrating AI and automation in mid-sized businesses is not simple. Outdated and mismanaged IT systems pose challenges and require intelligent revitalization of technology stacks. This article walks through the hurdles of adopting automation and AI so that technology is not just a solution but a key driver of success.

Revitalizing Mid-Size Businesses Technology Stacks

For many mid-size businesses, existing technology reveals information about priorities, where the business has been, and where the business is going. For many, the information revealed is aging IT systems that have weathered the years. These systems, the backbone of the business, are often hurdles to the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation. To move forward with modern and cutting-edge technological platforms, mid-size businesses that have aged or mismanaged infrastructures must start with modernizing their core technology stack.

For companies reviewing their infrastructure, one of the most critical elements is the modern Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These interfaces are bridges, facilitating the transfer of information between legacy systems and cutting-edge AI and automation frameworks. Systems without APIs may require file transfer integrations, message brokers, direct database connections, or developing custom code.

APIs are considered to be a more efficient and reliable way to integrate data between systems, providing standardized ways for systems to communicate. APIs can help reduce the complexity of integrations and provide a more secure way to transfer data between systems, as they often use encryption on top of complex authentication. Lastly, APIs offer more control over the data that is being transferred between systems, improving data quality and reducing the risk of errors.

Many mid-size businesses were built upon custom solutions – many of which haven’t maintained active development. Businesses must consider whether these solutions are still aligned with the present business goals. Innovation requires rethinking old ways and whether the technological foundation is still sound. Innovation demands that the status quo be challenged and proven.

As mid-size businesses head down the path of adopting automation and AI, revitalizing the core technology stack is a prerequisite for success.

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Success Story: AP and AR Automation

A client that was looking to improve core business operations in the area of accounts payable and receivable. They were operating with manual workflows that traced their process back to the days of processing bills and invoices that arrived in the mail. Workflows adapted to email, but the process was largely the same and involved cutting a lot of checks in the office. These processes showed signs of inefficiencies – delays, errors, and rework. The challenges underscore the need for change.

We helped the client review solutions and landed on an advanced automation platform that seamlessly integrated with their back-office software. This transition from conventional methods to a web-based, mobile-first approach marked a pivotal moment in their financial operations. The new workflows for receiving payments and paying invoices drastically reduced the repetitive, and dare I say boring, labor for the AP and AR teams, allowing the employees to focus on the more challenging and critical areas of their respective roles. Errors, delays, and rework were all reduced, increasing satisfaction and reliability.

There was an added benefit to this transformation. The client’s customers experienced a vastly improved customer journey. They now had available to them a user-friendly portal that offered real-time insights into invoices and payments. This transparency elevated customer satisfaction and fostered enduring relationships.

Overcoming Resistance to AI and Automation:

When mid-size businesses begin evaluating and implementing AI and automation solutions, there is often a fear of headcount reduction among the employees. It’s a valid concern – a recent report showed that nearly 25% of surveyed CEOs say AI will result in headcount reductions. But, for many companies, the reality is more nuanced. Automation and AI cannot wholesale replace human workers. More often than not, they cause roles to evolve. By automating routine tasks, these technologies free up human capital to focus on the more challenging aspects of work.

The power of AI in particular is its ability to amplify human productivity. Workers who embrace these technologies find themselves not replaced but enhanced. Allowing AI to handle the mundane and routine allows skilled knowledge workers to focus on complex problem-solving. In this new era, the role of knowledge workers becomes increasingly pivotal. These employees have critical knowledge of the industry and business and can navigate between human insights and technological outputs. With the right leadership, employees are empowered by AI to have a larger impact on the organization.

Overcoming resistance to automation and AI requires reframing the technologies as allies in human progress, rather than cost-cutting endeavors. It’s a narrative of human potential, creativity, and strategic thinking.

Industry Insights and Nuances:

AI and Automation within the mid-sized business landscape involve diverse ecosystems of various industries. Each sector has its challenges and opportunities.

  1. Manufacturing: Within the manufacturing realm, AI-driven predictive maintenance and process automation hold immense potential. This journey is not just about efficiency, it’s an alignment with safety standards and compliance requirements.
  2. Healthcare: The healthcare sector envisions AI as a catalyst for improved diagnostics and customized treatment plans, navigating data privacy and ethical considerations with precision.
  3. Retail: In retail, AI can revolutionize inventory management and customer engagement. The challenge lies in technological integration and in crafting seamless experiences while respecting data privacy.
  4. Finance: Financial institutions are leveraging AI integration for fraud detection, risk assessment, and improved customer service.

For AI and Automation, industry-specific nuances guide mid-sized businesses. Tailoring solutions to the unique demands of each sector ensures that the transformative impact reaches its full potential.

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation within mid-sized businesses means overcoming the challenges posed by outdated technology stacks and communicating a nuanced perspective on human roles in the AI era. It requires considering industry-specific intricacies. Automation and AI are about leveraging challenges as drivers for change. The integration of AI and Automation is a technological leap and a strategic advantage that leverages challenges as opportunities, embraces successes, and aligns human innovation and technological evolution.

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