OREANDA-NEWS. September 30, 2016. People have been dreaming of ways to hand off their more mundane work to machines for centuries. Advertisers in the 1930s spoke of labor-saving devices such as the toaster and electric kettle, and economists began to envision utopias in which machines would free us from labor so we could follow our own creative pursuits.

Thats not as sci-fi as it sounds. Artificial intelligence has already proven effective at automating repetitive tasks that salespeople, HR specialists, and small business owners used to spend hours each week on.

Artificial intelligence allows people to spend those hours on the more thoughtful and creative aspects of their jobs. A salesperson can use a smart CRM to enter data on her behalf so she has more time to build relationships with customers, and an HR specialist can use smart recruiting software to filter job applicants far more efficiently than he ever could.

For small businesses, these AI apps can supercharge operational processes and workflows, which lets owners spend less time in triage and more time growing their businesses.

What can AI apps do today?

Most artificial intelligence apps are designed with a narrow focus so they can perform some fairly complex tasks. AI-powered apps can schedule your business meetings, answer common customer requests and notify you that your connecting flight is delayed by 20 minutes when you thought you had five minutes to sprint to the gate, venture capitalist Michael Yamnitsky offers as examples in a piece at TechCrunch.

The applications of AI for business go far beyond convenience, too. There are apps that can dynamically adjust marketing campaigns to signals from your audience, and apps that can analyze customer buying behavior.

The goal of that software isnt to make running a business easier so much as it is to make the business itself better, says Bruce Aylward, CEO of project management software company Psoda. By using AI in business intelligence or analysis, organizations can reveal opportunities to think differently generating new solutions for business growth, he writes at Dynamic Business.

In fact, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving argues AI will reshape the worlds economy by introducing so much efficiency. In doing so, it will tip the scales in favor of small businesses, which can be more agile and respond quickly to insights and opportunities.

5 exciting AI apps small business owners should know

Amy by x.ai

Yamnitski who is an x.ai investor spotlights the Amy smart assistant app in particular as totally addictive. When you get a meeting request, Amy handles the back-and-forth to pin down a time and place, responding and scheduling to all emails as a natural speaker.

Quill by Narrative Science

Quill is mindblowing. It takes a specific set of data and weaves it into a written document. This makes generating earnings reports, for example, a nearly automatic process. And the app is so smart humans cannot distinguish its writing from that of a person. Forbes is already using Quill to research companies and publish earnings previews.

DataRPM

DataRPM crunches enterprise-level data to make predictions about a variety of things. As an example, one of the companys customers, a Fortune 100 firm, uses DataRPM to predict potential asset failures and identify reasons to perform timely maintenance that reduces operation costs and risks. Another customer, a SaaS provider, uses DataRPM to predict conversions and churn.

Textio

Textio uses AI to help companies write better job listings. It analyzes every single word to determine how attractive a job listing would read to a potential candidate. It also offers suggestions so you can strengthen the way your phrase something, or even eliminate a subconscious gender bias in a job description.

SalesforceIQ

We built SalesforceIQ because we understood AI had a unique ability to introduce efficiencies to a companys sales processes. Our small business CRM uses Relationship Intelligence technology to eliminate the need to manually input customer data, to elevate important insights, and to even remind you to touch base with a customer. Our CRM customers have saved, on average, 4.26 hours a week from manual data entry.

Additionally, our Salesforce Inbox uses the same technology to surface Salesforce data in every email and calendar appointment you have. Inbox users have reported a 25% increase in sales productivity and a 21% reduction in their sales cycles.

Companies that adopt AI now gain the competitive advantage

The businesses that are able to leverage AI early will achieve operational efficiencies well before others even have the chance to play catchup, and there are two reasons for this.

First, AI is not a technology that can be bolted on; it should woven in throughout all your business processes. Fortunately, small businesses have much less weaving to do when accommodating new tech.

And those that can accommodate it will position themselves to be much more customer-centric, Boxever CEO Dave O'Flanagan tells TechRepublic. Organizations are going to have to think a lot differently about how they want to deploy technology like this to be able to take advantage of it, he says.

Second, some companies will simply push back against the idea of bringing in new, possibly complex tech tools. In the vast majority of those companies, the existing technology infrastructure does the trick, VC Matt Turck writes. It may not have all the bells and whistles, and many within the organization understand that it will need to be modernized sooner rather than later, but theyre not going to rip and replace their mission critical systems overnight.

What small business owners can do today to get ahead

Adopting AI is fundamentally no different than deploying actionable data or even making the switch from paper processes to email and digital processes a generation before that. The keys are to have the right mindset and to take each change step-by-step.

Its important to normalize the idea of using AI. It's not a job destroying, sentient being that teams should be afraid of; they're using apps that learn how to gain efficiencies over time.

And they will be using these kinds of apps more and more in the coming years. A lot of what AI is being used for today only scratches the surface of what can be done, Babak Hodjat, co-founder and chief scientist at Sentient Technologies, tells Investors Business Daily. It will become so ubiquitous that we wont even call it AI anymore.