Techaisle’s most recent survey data shows that the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to increase by 79% within small businesses, 63% in core-midmarket firms, and 53% in upper-midmarket firms. AI has become a priority for 41% of small businesses, 75% of core-midmarket firms, and 79% of upper-midmarket firms. ChatGPT and Large Language Models (LLMs) have recently become the topic of conversations and business usage. When ChatGPT comes up in conversation – especially a discussion focusing on SMBs – the first question will likely be, “How many organizations are using it – and how?” Techaisle extended its artificial intelligence survey to pose the same question to 1872 SMBs. Both small and midmarket businesses forecast a substantial rise in the use of ChatGPT in the next one year. 17% of small businesses, 39% of core midmarket firms, and 79% of upper midmarket firms plan to use systems/tools/other products that embed ChatGPT. Results indicate that ChatGPT penetration within the midmarket, driven primarily by firms with more than 250 employees, will be reasonably robust. However, Techaisle feels that the planned adoption data is likely conservative.
The data indicates that SMB adoption of ChatGPT and LLMs’ capabilities is still early. Small businesses have little to lose by treating 2023 as an evaluation year and understanding how it can create real advantages within their organizations. The situation differs for midmarket organizations, where early adopters are already gaining experience (and potentially benefit) from LLM-based systems. This probably won’t cause many midmarket firms to alter their 2023 plans, but it does mean that ChatGPT and LLMs’ capabilities should be on IT’s radar and, maybe, on evaluation lists for new tools/solutions as well.
In the SMB market, AI is not a stand-alone capability waiting for a spark to animate it into being. Instead, as robots were popularly imagined to take humanoid forms but have arrived as mechanized single-function machines or software code, ChatGPT is arriving within SMBs as a capability integrated within other solutions.
To understand where ChatGPT is most likely to impact SMB businesses, Techaisle inserted two questions into the survey instrument: one asking respondents to identify areas where ChatGPT will be integral to business success and another asking which internal functions were most likely to benefit from LLM-based systems. Results from the first question show that small businesses and midmarket organizations have very different yet similar visions of which processes will be enhanced by ChatGPT. Small business respondents are, by a healthy margin, most focused on ChatGPT to positively impact customer experience and marketing/advertising. Midmarket firms want to apply it to risk reduction, customer experience, and process automation. They also see “automation of repetitive tasks” and IT automation and management as high-potential areas for LLM-based solutions.
Data shows that 18% of small businesses, 30% of core midmarket firms, and 36% of upper-midmarket firms plan to invest in conversational AI/chatbots to improve customer experience. Overall 24% of SMBs are planning increased investments in ChatGPT-enabled customer experience solutions. This is substantially higher than 4% in 2019 and 5% in 2021, when there was no ChatGPT, and the only recourse was rudimentary AI-based solutions.
SMBs are seriously considering ChatGPT as a powerful tool that can be used to improve customer service, marketing, and sales.
Undoubtedly, other variants of ChatGPT will emerge as the technology and its use cases mature. This is a potentially-fertile opportunity for SMB users and suppliers, but flexibility will be critical to success. Data will remain a key asset for every organization and an essential input to virtually all business activities. Both analytics and AI will help SMBs to capitalize on data – and as a result, both will be critical components of SMB IT/business strategies.
Many lenses can be used to assess the importance of AI and ChatGPT in the SMB market. One that illustrates the pace of these segments is the often-cited ‘hype cycle,’ which begins with a “technology trigger,” soars to a “peak of inflated expectations,” crashes down to the “trough of disillusionment” and then rises (if the technology is destined for long term success) through a “slope of enlightenment” to a “plateau of productivity.” AI is an excellent example of how this process plays out in an IT-centric world. As a concept, “AI” has lived in the peak of inflated expectations for many years, borne aloft by an amorphous vision of systems that will automatically know what’s needed next, based on some elixir that combines a large quantity of data with fuzzy algorithms, supported by computational capacity delivered by Moore’s Law, the rising quantum, or some combination of breakthroughs.
Given the early stage of ChatGPT, these findings should be taken as indicators of interest rather than definitive statements on market readiness. ChatGPT is just entering a phase requiring more definition, helping SMBs and midmarket firms better understand its uses and potential benefits. Multiple modes of ChatGPT and LLMs - algorithmic intelligence, autonomic intelligence, or adaptive intelligence - will exist. Most SMBs will ultimately use some or all of these modes. This is not a case of ‘pick a lane and bowl;’ SMB IT leaders will need to be able to support ChatGPT across multiple ways. Suppliers’ offerings should be able to promote its benefit to SMB buyers, tailor messages, and offer support for SMB IT leaders who will likely need guidance as these technologies are deployed.
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