Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now a core part of the human existence. Whether it is directly or indirectly; AI is influencing your life somehow. In many ways, this is forcing many to embrace AI. Businesses are amongst the ones whose adoption of AI is mostly inevitable. This dynamic is fast becoming a norm for small to medium businesses as well. For the most part, AI appears all good. However, just like many other innovations, AI also has its downsides. Let us explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of SMEs using AI.


Increased Speed And Accuracy

AI-based systems or tools are inherently designed to operate faster and deliver more accurate results. Just think of how large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT4 operate. You can enter a simple prompt and get a detailed response in seconds. The likes of Google’s Bard even return results based on real-time current data. This is the general attribute of any application of AI. Processes or operations will be executed with high speed and high accuracy.

Drawing Valuable Insights And Empirical Decision-Making

At the heart of most, if not all, AI tools or systems is real-time data collection and analysis. Consider how analytics functionality is built into digital platforms such as social media platforms, email clients, instant messaging platforms, etc. Data gets collected without you even thinking about it and is done in real-time. This creates the perfect basis for you to draw valuable insights. These insights then inform evidence-based decision-making. In business, this is gold because you get to do things that will work and produce results.

Reduction Or Elimination Of Operating Costs

Another upside of AI for SMEs is reducing or eliminating operating costs. This may not always be the case, depending on context and circumstances. However, it is a reality that holds in many scenarios. Let us explore a simple example to illustrate this. You can develop relevant and engaging content for your content marketing using AI tools. I am referring to written content and visuals such as e-fliers, e-posters, GIFs, etc. This means you can eliminate the need to hire or outsource a Copywriter and a Graphic Designer. This dynamic can apply to many aspects of an SME’s operations.


Overdependence On AI

The foremost downside of SMEs using AI is overdependence on it. This isn’t good in some ways. For instance, when you get used to using AI tools, it can compromise your ability and creativity as a human. This means when there is a need for you to do something yourself, you can get stuck. This can become of concern if the AI tool or system in question falls short of meeting the demands of a scenario. Sometimes, it could be that the AI tool or system is down or malfunctioning. This can be a significant issue in Zimbabwe because of intermittent internet connectivity. After all, most AI tools or systems require optimal internet connectivity. These are some of the possible issues that can be at play. The bottom line is that because AI makes things easier, you risk getting too dependent on it. That can be problematic sometimes and may even lead to business losses.

Initial And Maintenance Costs May Be Steep

This is something that varies again but may apply in some cases. For instance, there may be a need for certain specialized hardware and software for the deployment or access of AI tools. This may necessitate purchasing and or subscribing to specific platforms and components. Then, once in motion, there may be periodic maintenance that may have to be conducted. All these aspects combined can entail significant amounts of money. The cost element may also emanate from outsourcing or hiring certain expertise. Thus, initial and maintenance costs may be too high for some.

Downsides Stemming From The GIGO Aspect

AI tools or systems mostly function by working on what is fed into them. This begins with how they are developed, i.e., how they are trained. Typically, AIs are trained by being fed with applicable datasets. This means their results will be premised on how they were trained. This means that whatever biases were present in those initial datasets will influence the operation of those AIs. Then, we come to the issue of prompts or input data.

Again, those elements will be carrying some form of bias. This is because biases are inherent in anything involving human beings. Thus, the GIGO aspect becomes an issue of concern. GIGO refers to the garbage in, garbage out principle. This essentially means that the quality of results is tied to the input. Thus, if the input is shambolic, so will the results. This massive downside of AI can create complications for SMEs using it.

If you are an SME and you are eager to use AI, then that is great. You stand to benefit a lot from doing that. However, you need to be wary of the potential downsides. You must strike a healthy balance to maximize the benefits and minimize or eliminate the downsides. That is why you always need to constantly monitor and evaluate the performance of your AI applications in your SME.