Over half of SMEs owners have a “good understanding” of AI – but major barriers to adoption still exist


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Over half of SMEs owners have a “good understanding” of AI – but major barriers to adoption still exist

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  • Over half of small business owners claim to understand AI (55%), with three in ten (27%) now using AI across their businesses.
  • Owners of SMEs are three times more likely to think AI is a positive development for their business than think it will be negative.
  • Some 20% of SME owners predict that AI could save their business up to 10 hours per week.
  • However over half of small business leaders feel nervous about using AI in their company, with three in ten even believing artificial intelligence could ruin their business model.

New data from small business lender iwoca reveals that while more than half of SME owners (55%) feel they have a good understanding of AI, the majority are nervous about how it will impact their business. 

The new research of SME owners across the UK from one of Europe’s largest business lenders also finds that three in ten (27%) SMEs are now using products like ChatGPT across their businesses, and three times as many leaders of small companies believe AI is a positive development for their company than think it will be negative. 

When asked to put a figure on the number of hours small business bosses think their company can save by using artificial intelligence, one in every five (21%) think their company can save at least ten hours a week. 

Nervousness around AI persists

While iwoca’s research with SMEs shows the potential of using machine learning, the UK's 5.5m small and medium-sized companies are also wary about how AI will be used. 

Over half of small business leaders (51%) feel nervous about using AI in their company, twice the rate of those who don’t feel apprehensive (23%). Meanwhile, three in ten (28%) believe artificial intelligence could ruin their business model. 

The data reveals many reasons why company leaders are apprehensive about adopting AI. Two in five say it is not relevant to their business (41%), two in ten think they lack the technical expertise to implement it (18%), that the cost of implementation is too high (17%), and are concerned about algorithmic bias (17%). 

Mark Di-Toro, Director at iwoca, said: “The research suggests that although SME owners have been keeping up with AI developments, many are naturally apprehensive and remain unsure of how to leverage it. Defining AI’s applications for your business and identifying specific areas for its use are key to demystifying it. The overarching concept of AI can seem daunting, but - if used properly - we’ve seen that the technology can drive practical benefits, saving time and money.”

Beyond ChatGPT: Five AI tools SMEs can harness

  • ClickUp: cloud-based project management, to help teams with task planning and organisation, collaboration, and communication
  • Jasper: marketing, copywriting, social media advertising, and content strategy
  • Canva’s ‘Magic Design’: (for non-creatives) Visualising design ideas, creating templates, as well as presentations and videos
  • Booke.ai: automating bookkeeping by fixing uncategorised transactions and coding errors 
  • Otter.ai: Transcribing meeting notes, actions and summaries

Edward is iwoca's PR and Communications Manager. He's the storyteller behind many of our SME successes, sharing case studies, research, and insights on all things small businesses and finance

Article updated on:
November 1, 2023

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