An Eastside Business Owners’ Guide to Navigating the Area’s AI Boom

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Ray Rasmussen

Ray Rasmussen 




The rise of artificial intelligence has positioned the Puget Sound region at the forefront of technology that promises to reshape industries, create new opportunities, and challenge traditional business models. Amid this burgeoning growth, many local business leaders find themselves at a crossroads, grappling with the implications of AI on their operations and thinking about their investment in this technology.

Concerns range from the practical — such as the cost of investment and the integration of AI into existing workflows — to the existential, including the impact on employment and the ethical considerations of deploying AI technologies.

The apprehension is understandable. AI’s rapid evolution means that businesses must be agile, willing to learn, and ready to fully adapt to harness its potential or risk getting left behind. However, the fear of being left behind or making missteps in adopting AI can be paralyzing, leading some to adopt a wait-and-see approach, which could be detrimental in the long run.

For businesses, the question is not whether to invest in AI but how to do so strategically. The key is to view AI not as a replacement for human capabilities but as a tool that can supplement and enhance the value that businesses provide to their customers. Here are some steps business leaders can take to navigate the AI evolution:

Educate and Train

Invest in AI literacy for yourself and your team. Understanding the basics of AI and its applications in your industry can clarify the technology and spark ideas for its practical use. For example, to learn how to implement AI systems like Google Cloud AI for data analysis or Microsoft’s Azure AI for automating business processes. Choose companies like Google and Microsoft, which have long histories of innovation, to ensure the tools you are using will be around next year.

Experiment and Learn

Begin with small, targeted projects to explore how AI can benefit your business. Use AI to tackle specific tasks such as automating routine processes, enhancing customer interactions with chatbots, or leveraging data analytics for more informed decision-making. For most businesses, you will want to start internally.

For instance, a local retail store could implement AI-driven inventory management software to predict stock needs and reduce overstock and shortages. Another example is using AI to enhance customer interactions through chatbots that can answer common queries, book appointments, and provide personalized recommendations based on past purchases. These targeted applications can provide immediate, tangible benefits while allowing your team to gain hands-on experience with AI technologies

Optimize and Implement

Develop a clear AI strategy by identifying key areas where AI can add the most value to your business. Implement AI solutions that align with your strategic goals, ensuring they integrate seamlessly with existing processes. A manufacturing company might use predictive maintenance AI tools to foresee equipment failures, reducing downtime, and saving costs. Monitor the performance of these AI applications and refine them as needed to optimize efficiency and effectiveness.

Evolve and Change

Integrate the insights gained from your AI experiments to reassess your entire business model. Consider how AI can improve customer service, streamline operations, and ultimately evolve your business practices to meet customer needs better and stay competitive.  

For example, a local restaurant chain could use AI-powered data analytics to track customer preferences and adjust menus accordingly, offering personalized dining experiences that enhance customer loyalty and drive repeat business.

In this era of rapid AI evolution, nimbleness, continuous learning, and strategic awareness are essential. Embracing AI involves keeping pace with technological advancements and positioning your business for sustainable success.

Seattle’s AI boom is here to stay — will your business be ready to take advantage of it?

Ray Rasmussen is the co-founder and managing principal at rGen Consulting.

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