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Australian SMBs’ interested in AI but greater education, support needed - Zoho research

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Australia are showing a growing interest in adopting new categories of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI, to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and make data-driven decisions. However, more education and awareness about its potential impact on the workforce is needed, according to new research by global technology platform Zoho.


The survey found that over half (53%) of Australian SMBs feel they are adapting well to the changes in technology, yet just one in three (30%) are utilising technology more this year compared to last year. Generative AI, which has the ability to produce credible content in near real time, has caught the interest of two in five (43%) SMBs, particularly for tasks such as brainstorming ideas, language translation, summarising documents, research, and creating personalised communications.


“Adopting modern AI technologies like Generative AI can be a game changer for SMBs. One of its key benefits is its ability to tailor marketing and communications efforts to individual customers with greater ease and accuracy than ever before. This helps improve customer experience, build brand loyalty, and ultimately drive sales,” commented Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer at Zoho.


Workers in Australian SMBs, however, fear the impact of the AI revolution on their jobs, with three quarters (75%) expecting their jobs to be impacted due to more intelligent AI and machine learning. Just one in three (36%) of workers believe the AI revolution will benefit the workplace, and over half (52%) maintain that job requirements will change in the future.


When it comes to AI taking over their roles, 46% of workers believe AI will begin performing part of their roles within the next five years, and 72% believe this will happen in the next decade. Meanwhile, 34% believe this will happen in the next decade, and 60% believe this will happen in the next 20 years. Workers in customer service, IT services, and tourism services are particularly concerned about job loss due to AI.


“Businesses face resistance to modern AI adoption as workers are worried about its impact on jobs and their livelihoods. However, as the technological landscape continues to evolve, AI will create new opportunities and require higher levels of creativity and critical thinking,” Sundaram continued.  “SMBs must improve their AI skills and understanding, and be willing to adopt it to stay competitive in the market. For this to happen, governments and industry leaders have the responsibility to equip them with the right resources.”


The Australian Government’s investment in four new AI and digital capability centres presents a positive opportunity for Australian SMBs to improve their AI skills and connect with AI equipment and tools.


“Over the last few years we’ve seen a notable increase in SMBs integrating AI, and most recently generative AI, into their operations,” said Sam Daynes, CEO of Ardento, a Zoho channel partner. “It’s not just a technology for big business; SMBs in so many industries across Australia understand the potential benefits it can drive for their business. AI isn’t purely hype or buzzword. For small businesses, these tools are genuinely helping them save time, reduce costs and provide enhanced customer and employee experience. In the coming years, we only expect to see the adoption of AI - and the breadth of use cases - to grow further. What was merely a nice-to-have just a short-time ago, is now a necessity for SMBs to stay competitive in evolving and challenging markets.”


As technology continues to evolve, SMBs must recognise the potential of generative AI, adopt it, and educate their workforce on its benefits to stay competitive in the market.


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