How vendors can help SMBs navigate the complexities of AI

25 January 2024 | Strategy

Stela Bokun


SMBs cannot afford guesswork in developing their AI strategies, but success in minimising risk and maximising RoI will be critical. The challenge is that SMBs lack the scale and resources to explore options thoroughly, but an ad-hoc approach is likely to be disastrous. Finding a successful strategic and cost-effective AI strategy is most likely to be achieved through a collaborative approach that brings together SMBs, vendors and other industry experts.


Hi, I'm Stela Bokun. I'm one of the Partners in Analysys Mason.

Together with my colleagues, I deliver strategy advisory projects to clients.

My clients are not only operators and telecoms vendors and regulators, I often support technology companies such as hyperscalers, ISVs (independent software vendors), SIs, which are system integrators, etc.

What opportunity does AI present for TMT industry players?

There's a lot of opportunity coming from increased usage and adoption of AI for many different entities.

For instance, hyperscalers competing in telecoms space, expect that by implementing advanced AI capabilities into their telco cloud platforms, they will be able to compete more effectively with telecoms veterans such as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei.

ISVs, particularly those that focus on business applications, expect that with AI they will be able to improve their existing business apps and sell premium versions and charge more for them.

What opportunity does AI present for end users, particularly for businesses?

Large enterprises have been looking at AI and implementing AI use cases for a long time. Particularly focusing on those that would help them acquire productivity gains.

Now they are looking at generative AI and they are hoping that GenAI will help them derive useful insights from a wide variety of often messy data sources, data models and data types.

Small and medium businesses are at the very beginning of their AI journey. They are looking into potentially adopting business applications with some AI features that will help them cut costs, save time and grow their businesses.

How can technology vendors support enterprises and SMBs on their AI journeys?

Small and medium businesses will depend a lot on help from technology partners such as managed service providers, telecoms operators and sometimes value-added resellers. They will need strategic help for somebody to explain AI ecosystem to them, to help them understand which opportunities exist specifically for their business and of course, help them with some tactical support to select the right solution that can help them address their own challenges or benefit from the opportunities that their own business has.

Do you have any examples of AI-enabled use cases that can be attractive to SMBs?

Small and medium businesses, many of them, currently use a wide variety of business applications. Like those for financial management, accounting, ERP, payroll, collaboration, etc.

All these business apps could be enhanced with particularly generative AI features so that the business apps would automatically create reports, for instance, for CSR or ESG reporting purposes. Maybe simulate fraud, help with tax compliance, etc.

The only question that remains is whether these small and medium businesses will be able and willing to pay extra for these enhanced business applications.

What is your one key message to the TMT industry right now? 

Large enterprises and SMBs need a coherent data and AI strategy. Implementing AI features on an ad hoc basis in a tactical way, without understanding how all of these fit together and how they benefit their business, will be to their detriment.

So have a good, elaborate data strategy.


Stela Bokun

Partner, expert in strategy