How AI, Data Integration Challenges, and Overburdened IT Teams Impact Small Businesses

The promise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to boost productivity is immense, yet challenges in data integration and the pressures on IT teams pose significant hurdles. This is the key takeaway from the latest Salesforce research, which has crucial implications for small business owners.

According to the research, a striking 85% of IT leaders anticipate AI to significantly enhance developer productivity within their organizations over the next three years. This optimism comes at a critical time, as IT requests have surged by an estimated 39% in the last year. However, the road to harnessing AI’s full potential is fraught with obstacles. A notable 62% of leaders acknowledge that their organizations are not adequately equipped to align data systems to fully leverage AI technology. This misalignment impedes the transition and adds to the strain on IT teams.

The challenges do not end there. A staggering 98% of IT organizations face hurdles in their digital transformation efforts, with 80% pointing to data silos as a major concern. These silos, where data is isolated and inaccessible across different departments, significantly hinder digital transformation initiatives crucial for small businesses seeking agility and competitiveness.

MuleSoft’s annual Connectivity Benchmark Report, surveying over 1,000 CIOs and IT decision-makers worldwide, underscores the importance of integration, automation, and APIs in crafting successful AI strategies. These strategies are not just about adopting new technologies; they are about integrating and unifying data to improve operational efficiency, productivity, and the overall experience for employees and customers.

For small businesses, the implications are profound. Breaking down data silos can unlock AI’s full potential and offer a more seamless user experience. However, the task is daunting. 72% of IT leaders find their current infrastructure overly interdependent, and 62% report their organization is not equipped to harmonize their data systems to leverage AI technologies effectively.

Furthermore, the challenge extends to the customer experience. Only 26% of organizations believe they provide a fully connected user experience across all channels, highlighting a significant gap in digital customer engagement — a critical component for small businesses in building customer loyalty and trust.

Automation emerges as a critical tool in this landscape. It can help alleviate the burden on IT teams, with a notable rise in the adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — from 13% in 2021 to 31% in 2023. However, the skills gap within IT teams remains a significant hurdle. Strategic collaboration and upskilling are essential for small businesses to make the most of automation for both innovation and efficiency.

In the realm of APIs, there’s a silver lining. APIs streamline data access and utilization, fueling growth by connecting different applications and systems. For small businesses, this means a potential increase in revenue and operational efficiency. In fact, an estimated 33% of all revenue now comes from API and API-related offerings.

Param Kahlon, EVP and GM of Automation and Integration at Salesforce emphasizes the importance of this integration: “AI is only as powerful as the data organizations can connect to it and the outcomes they can drive from it. Fundamentally, these are integration and automation challenges organizations are facing.”

For small business owners, the Salesforce report serves as a wake-up call. The journey to AI and digital transformation is not just about adopting new technologies but integrating them effectively into existing systems. Overcoming data silos, empowering IT teams, and harnessing the power of APIs are crucial steps on this path. By addressing these challenges, small businesses can unlock AI’s full potential, driving growth and staying competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Image: Envato Elements

This article, “How AI, Data Integration Challenges, and Overburdened IT Teams Impact Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends