Small Business And AI – To Embrace, Or Fear?

3 months ago | by Jayde Austin

AI

Read time: 4 minutes

There is an undoubtable fear among small business owners when Artificial Intelligence (AI) is mentioned; the thought of a computer someday replacing them or their colleagues is a huge concern.

But while AI is most certainly set to change our world, the fear that people currently have is based on unrealistic forecasts; like one Oxford study that estimated that a staggering 50% of all US jobs would be taken over by AI once the equipment became available. As time progresses, so does more advanced and thorough analysis of AI and business.

In a recent study conducted by McKensey & Company, a consulting organisation, the findings were quite insightful and dare we say, comforting. They combined a list of functions that intelligent machines can now accomplish and ran that against a detailed description of thousands of different kinds of jobs. They then looked at which parts of those jobs could be done by the machines and which parts could only be done by humans. They found that fewer than 5 per cent of all US jobs could be completely eliminated by intelligent machines. Their study concluded that the more likely reality of the future of AI, was a world where humans and machines work alongside each other to create a more efficient, accurate and advanced way of working (source).

For years, businesses have embraced technology and welcomed solutions that save time, improve efficiencies and all in all, make jobs easier without compromising on quality. AI is already available to small businesses to do exactly this and more; one of our favourite AI tools is Microsoft’s Cortana. Haven’t heard of it? Here’s an overview of how Cortana can help you in the workplace (and your personal life):


What is Cortana?

Cortana is Microsoft’s AI personal assistant. Similar to Siri and Google Assistant, Cortana can answer questions, provide information, follow commands, launch apps, and perform other functions, all in response to the sound of your voice.

What makes Cortana our preferred choice, is the fact that our organisation works and collaborates using Microsoft 0365, and Cortana’s integration is seamless. Those of you already running Windows 10 have probably seen the Cortana search box in the lower left corner of the taskbar, to the right of the Start button on your device. Triggering Cortana is as simple as clicking on the ‘start listening’ microphone icon to the right of the phrase “Ask me anything” and, well, asking anything! If you’re using Windows 10 and you’re not already getting assistance from Cortana, give it a go!

Here’s our top tips for using Cortana to save time:

1. Set Reminders & Create Alarms Without Lifting A Finger:

Firstly, ensure ‘Hey Cortana’ is enabled on your devices:

Talk to cortana

Once this is active, you can use your voice to treat Cortana like your personal assistant. With so much to keep track of in a small business, including following up, billing, travelling, meetings and more, setting reminders and alarms by using merely your voice while you perform other tasks is a huge plus.

Not only does it save you time, it also keeps you working on track. It really is the type of tool that seems minor but can end up being a total lifesaver. You can say, “Hey, Cortana, remind me to follow up with Charlie in a weeks time,” and when the specified date and time rolls around, Cortana will send a reminder to your device(s). You can also use Cortana to set alarms for you, so you’ll never be late again (theoretically)!

2. Dictate Notes To Cortana, And Have Them Saved Directly To OneNote:

If you’re anything like me, you constantly jot down ideas or notes on spare notepads or sticky notes, dishonestly promising yourself that you’ll get around to typing them up on your device so everything’s nicely organised. But trust me when I say, organisation does not know loose-leaf addiction. Move on from this habit by saying, “Hey Cortana, make a new note in OneNote”, and think out loud. Your thoughts will be safely stored in OneNote for access later, or for access by other staff – which is especially useful if you work in collaborative teams!

Cortana OneNote

3. Quickly Perform Calculations And Conversions:

Forgotten the conversation rate between AUD and USD? Need to calculate a quick percentage? Cortana is great for performing off-the-cuff requests like this. A huge plus with Cortana is you can use regular language to ask your questions – just say, “Hey Cortana, what percentage of 1200 is 40?” and she’ll tell you. There’s no need for special configurations or shortcuts to do these calculations, and you can even do volume and weight conversions, temperature and time zones too!

4. Schedule Meetings With AI

Although this is still only in preview/beta testing, it’s a pretty cool feature so we thought it was worth a mention. With Cortana, you can use Microsoft’s Calendar.help feature, and issue commands to schedule meetings with other individuals or groups by saying things like, “Hey Cortana, can you help us book a 30-minute call next week?”

Calendar.help works with Cortana to contact each attendee, find out what times they’re available, and pick the best option for the group! You would only need to email the details, including duration, agenda and location, before you cc Cortana and forward it to the people involved. At that point, Cortana will send invites and handle all email exchanges. If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?), make sure you sign up to register your intrigue.

5. Mobile Efficiency

Cortana is now available on Android and iPhone – so once you’ve installed the app, you have your personal assistant with you on the go. With everything flowing from your mobile to other devices, you have seamless integration to keep you on track, saving time and working efficiently. Here’s how it works:


Cortana is a great first step in easing AI into your current work and home life – we think all businesses operating on Windows 10 should be embracing these boosts in efficiency. If you want to know more about using Cortana in your business, feel free to reach out to us using the form below.

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