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Generative AI: a time-saving, cost-saving solution for SMEs?

For business leaders chasing productivity, the introduction of ChatGPT in November 2022 could not have
been more perfectly timed.

But having quickly become familiar with the technology, they now face the challenge of shifting from using
generative AI as a useful administrative tool to discovering its true transformational power.

OpenAI’s global phenomenon landed in Australia at a time of historic low unemployment, when firms could
not hire quickly enough or struggled to recruit new people at all because of the competition for jobs.
Any spare capacity in the labour market had been soaked up and while opportunities for enterprise growth
remained plentiful, there was little business leaders could do to take advantage. Even as the economic
outlook has softened, labour shortages in key sectors remain acute.

With the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools like Google Bard, stretched employers
suddenly have an accessible tool that can help ease the pressure, taking over writing and administrative
tasks, and increasing efficiency for some process-driven responsibilities.

Scratching the surface with GenAI

Business leaders see plentiful opportunities for freeing up time and streamlining operations, and in the six or
so months since ChatGPT stormed onto the stage, the primary question has shifted from ‘are you using
generative AI?’ to ‘why wouldn’t you?’


Pitcher Partners’ latest Business Radar survey illustrates the stampede towards the new technology, with
over a third of mid-market business respondents saying they already use generative AI in their business,
while another 4 in 10 are preparing to utilise it.

Respondents liked what they saw with generative AI, overwhelmingly agreeing with statements such as ‘It will
lead to new products and services,’ (84%), ‘It will streamline operations and processes,’ (82%) and ‘It will free
up more time to focus on business strategy,’ (79%).

However, the survey also reveals the limited focus for business leaders as they explore new technology –
many have confined their use cases to back-office or support tasks for AI such as administration, email
writing, or simple content creation.

What’s holding business back?

Business advice and guidance, training, knowledge management, innovation, bookkeeping and accounting
are among the lowest uses named by respondents. These more complex functions will take some time to
develop, even as businesses get used to generative AI as a thought-prompter, task completer and better
search engine.

Operationalising generative AI into the business environment requires significant investment and – tapping
back into the hiring issue – the recruitment of people with the skills to both develop and maintain AI

Pitcher Partners Business Radar respondents who have plans to adopt AI technologies, but have yet to do
so, point to data security and accuracy as the biggest obstacles. Two in five are yet to fully trust ChatGPT on
security or accuracy, while one in three names data privacy concerns as their biggest challenge.

Taking advantage of opportunities offered by AI is a two-part process – being proactive in asking questions
about what it can do and developing safeguards that reduce risks associated with bringing the answers to life.
The first step is to ask deeper questions that align with business goals, identify use cases that could help
those goals, and understand the processes and training necessary to extract transformative insights.

ChatGPT isn’t the only generative AI platform on offer – business leaders should familiarise themselves with
the available tools and prepare to be agile, as new tools hit the market.
A plan should only be put into action if the second condition is satisfied – that business and client data is
safeguarded, and the plan that delivers this is clearly communicated to the team.

Keeping your data safe

One of the more worrying insights from the Business Radar survey is that over half (54%) of those already
using generative AI say they haven’t instituted any safeguards.

Damaging data breaches can be avoided with sound risk frameworks and controls, while training teams in
best practice methods of handling and storing sensitive information.

ChatGPT’s owners OpenAI advises users not to share sensitive information in conversations as prompts
cannot be deleted, and it is a sound principle for any AI platform.

Generative AI has already had an impact on the business community by helping to ease some of the
administrative burden that had been piling up on overstretched businesses.

For it to be truly disruptive and produce a competitive advantage, however, the next phase for AI is integrating
it into the business, which requires a commitment over and above the public-facing technology now widely

With the right frameworks and risk management in place, AI tools can deliver transformational insights in a
fraction of the time, and create much-needed capacity that can be directed to capitalising on the next
business opportunity.

By: Peter Lawrence, Partner, Pitcher Partners


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