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5 Tips for Deploying Generative AI to Grow Your Business Embracing generative AI is about more than just keeping up with the times — it's about setting the pace. For SMBs, embracing new technology can be transformative.

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Small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) face many of the same challenges as large enterprises but with fewer resources, personnel, and time than larger organizations.

However, with the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI), SMBs now have a powerful tool at their disposal to overcome these obstacles and drive growth like never before. Generative AI has the power to streamline tasks, boost productivity, and spark creativity, whether it's creating content or helping with administrative work. Delegating work to AI can free up precious time for SMBs that can be spent on high-impact, strategic work that drives the business forward.

There are a lot of AI tools on the market today, and SMB leaders have a big job in determining what solution makes the most sense for their business. Microsoft's generative AI tool for work, Copilot for Microsoft 365, is unique in that it is embedded in the workplace tools that people are already familiar with and use every day—Teams, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and more. Not only that, but where other AI tools are built on web information and an underlying large language model, Copilot for Microsoft 365 is steeped in the business's specific context and data, so it can surface insights and information that are most relevant and useful.

It's an exciting time for businesses to maximize efficiency and find a competitive edge with AI. Here are five strategies SMBs can use to deploy generative AI and supercharge productivity, amplify creativity, and enhance growth and profitability.

1. Give AI tools to your entire team so they can start experimenting.

Rolling out Copilot for Microsoft 365 to entire teams at once—even if they are small teams—is critical to driving peer-to-peer learning. It encourages stronger adoption among team members and allows your business to identify patterns and see how AI is impacting work.

"In talking to the businesses that rolled out Copilot for Microsoft 365 early on, I've heard that leaning into your teams to crowdsource and create new ideas for leveraging generative AI is a tactic that really works," says Brenna Robinson, general manager, Microsoft SMB. "By tapping into the collective intelligence of their employees, companies can unlock a wealth of innovative ideas and solutions, driving growth and staying ahead of the competition."

2. Tap into your early adopters and power users to drive growth and innovation.

One way to tap into your early adopters or power AI users to help evangelize and educate is to leverage their collective intelligence. Encourage your early adopters to share their experiences and best practices with the rest of the organization. This can help unlock a wealth of innovative ideas and solutions, driving growth and staying ahead of the competition. Generative AI has been available for a little more than a year, so there are likely people in your organization already who have used it much more consistently and who can help shepherd your other team members.

"Generative AI is different than anything we've seen and is a transformational shift comparable with the weight of the shift from the typewriter to the personal computer or the brick phone to the smart phone. Some of your team members will be more adept than others. Consider these your AI power users and lean into them," shares Robinson.

3. Start with quick and easy wins.

As businesses go after function-level transformation, it's important to use AI to improve simple tasks as well. Starting with quick wins and experimenting with generative AI can help SMBs build familiarity with the technology and develop healthy and responsible AI habits. Gaining confidence and ability early on, for example, by asking Copilot to recap a meeting or help respond to a customer email, helps users maintain a healthy growth mindset when they hit the inevitable road bumps. As teams experiment, remember what's working and what's not, and share those best practices with the rest of the organization. By starting small and building familiarity, SMBs can develop a strong foundation for using generative AI to drive business growth and innovation.

4. Look at processes from your customers' point of view.

Another important step in successfully implementing AI in your business is analyzing how using it will impact things from your customer's point of view. Start by identifying the key touchpoints in your customer journey, then map out how AI can improve the experience at each stage. For example, AI can be used to personalize product recommendations, streamline the checkout process, and provide real-time customer support.

Those are great early use cases for running your business more efficiently, but you should also think beyond the internal benefits and consider how AI will change the customer experience. Part of AI's power is that it's extremely flexible and customizable. Use those capabilities wisely and you can improve how your customers interact with your business even as you're figuring out how it can help you run things more efficiently. Doing this can be a huge growth advantage.

5. Think outside the box.

SMBs must innovate to stay ahead of the competition, and AI-driven tools can inspire teams in multiple ways. Automating repetitive tasks provides employees with more time to plan, think more critically and be creative.

It can also be helpful for idea generation. Whether drafting a marketing campaign or designing a presentation, Copilot for Microsoft 365 can inspire new ideas and enhance the quality of work produced by providing intelligent suggestions, templates, and design insights within Microsoft applications. Seventy-five percent of the early adopters Microsoft surveyed credit Copilot for Microsoft 365 with sparking creative inspiration.

"It helps SMBs tackle those time-consuming, menial tasks faster, so they can focus on creative energy," Robinson says. This can lead to the exploration of new possibilities and the development of innovative solutions to complex problems.

"Our customers are the closest to their work processes and understand best where they need to lean into generative AI. SMBs wear a lot of hats and need to be a little more scrappy than larger organizations," according to Robinson. "For example, Morula Health, a medical writing company in the UK, shared with us that they are using Copilot for Microsoft 365 for very basic legal work, such as identifying and redacting data from documents much more efficiently so their legal vendors can focus on more strategic work."

Generative AI empowers SMBs to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time and resources. Routine administrative duties such as scheduling meetings, drafting emails, and organizing documents can be handled efficiently, allowing employees to focus on more strategic initiatives that drive business growth.

As Robinson highlights, "the businesses I've talked to who have been using generative AI are already seeing great impact, whether that's being able to take on more or new kinds of work or saving hours in their day that used to be spent doing administrative or mundane tasks." Microsoft's early customer data shows that 72% of SMBs save time with Copilot for Microsoft 365 to focus on more critical tasks.

Bonus tip: Learn from your business data.

The true power of Copilot for Microsoft 365 lies in its ability to tap into a company's own business data—that's what sets it apart from other generative AI tools. Integrating seamlessly with core apps like Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint, it highlights relevant information, fueling smarter decisions and driving growth.

"When organizations retrieve their business documents—whether it's contracts, templates, business plans, marketing materials, customer facing content or other historical data—Copilot for Microsoft 365 dives into that context to learn about your unique business, enabling smarter decisions and fueling growth," Robinson explains. "It's like having a personal assistant that knows everything about your company. It's a game-changer for staying organized and on top of things."

SMBs stand to benefit significantly from embracing generative AI. Tools like Copilot for Microsoft 365 represents a paradigm shift in how we work, and organizations of all sizes must guide their teams through this transition. "We firmly believe in human adaptability, and as people adjust to this new way of working, we're already witnessing positive outcomes," Robinson says.

Click here to learn more about Copilot for Microsoft 365 and how it can help your business increase productivity, amplify creativity, enhance growth, and so much more.