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The Business Advisory Blog

Insight, news and updates from Alliott NZ Chartered Accountants, Auckland New Zealand. The views expressed here are the views of the author and should be discussed in further detail should an article be relevant to your individual circumstances.

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Vanessa Williams
Published on

How small businesses are navigating AI

The hype around artificial intelligence (AI) is making small businesses feel that its development and adoption are moving at lightning speed.

Curiosity outweighs concerns

Even with ethical concerns in the frame, and with AI tools becoming more easily accessible, small business owners want to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve. New Xero research found that globally, 32% of businesses are experimenting with AI tools, and 21% are investing in them. The results also showed:

  • one in five small businesses were dedicating more resources to AI
  • more than half (51%) said they trusted AI tools with identifiable customer information 
  • 45% of respondents said they would trust AI tools with sensitive commercial information

In fact, new Xero research shows that 80% of small business owners globally are concerned that the fast pace and nature of AI are leaving regulation in the dust. They told Xero they want governments to do more, given the potential big impact on industries and the workforce.

Xero launched their Future Focus research on AI at Xerocon Sydney this year, taking an in-depth look at how 3,000 small business owners from across New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States feel about AI and the potential impact on their business.

Mixed feelings about research findings

So, what did the research say? In a nutshell — small businesses have mixed feelings about AI. They’re curious and excited, but there’s also concern about ethical implications and data privacy. 

Almost a third (32%) of small businesses are intrigued about AI, while others are feeling anxious (31%) and excited (30%). Half of small businesses believe AI will be more helpful and have a positive impact on their people, processes and workflows, compared to 20% who said they believe it will be more harmful.

Sensitive information disclosure (41%) and data privacy violations (41%) were considered to be the biggest ethical challenges relating to AI use in their business. Some (38%) respondents were also concerned about the ethical challenges around worker displacement that could be caused by AI utilisation.

The challenges of using AI

While AI has piqued the interest of small business owners, it’s not the top priority for small businesses just yet. Only 8% of respondents ranked adopting or investing in AI as their number one priority over the next 12 months. 

In terms of the small businesses that are already using AI, 69% are reporting some drawbacks, and 23% have seen increased security or privacy issues since using generative AI tools. These drawbacks included:

  • increased biases or inaccuracies in content (18%) 
  • decreased employee morale (18%) 
  • decreased efficiency due to time overseeing the quality control of AI content (16%)
  • reduced headcount (14%)

While reduced headcount can be seen as a drawback, it can also support small business owners to be more efficient and save on costs. Though 59% of small business owners said they don’t see their hiring plans changing over the next three years, a third (31%) said they plan to hire fewer people.

A reminder to use data responsibility 

The interest in generative and predictive AI is understandably driving curiosity among small businesses. But if exploration of this technology leads to sharing personal identifiable information, that could put their customers’ data at risk. 

Because of how important protecting sensitive data is, Xero has had, for many years now, responsible data use commitments that guide them as a business, and help support Xero customers as they navigate their own data use.

Xero also announced a number of new, exciting AI-powered features and generative AI experiments at this year’s event. 

Considering Xero for your business? Alliott NZ's Xero Certified Advisors in Auckland are here to answer any questions or to help your business upgrade to or optimise using Xero.

Source: Xero

Topics: Artificial Intelligence (AI) cloud accounting customer experience data employees Privacy small business staffing technology Xero