How Are SMEs Approaching AI? 

How SME IT Professionals Are Responding to AI and Where They See It Heading 

Written by Kate Lake on May 29, 2024

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Have you heard about AI yet? 

Just kidding. We know you have. 

Recently, AI’s popularity has skyrocketed among businesses and consumers alike. This surge was driven by a combination of technological advancements (e.g., machine learning, natural language processing, and data analytics) with an increase in tool accessibility and user-friendliness. Now, AI has become accessible and powerful enough for businesses to use it to automate routine tasks, enhance customer service, generate deeper insights with predictive analytics, and much more. 

Some examples of this may come as little surprise, like Amazon and Netflix using AI to adjust their suggestions to your preferences. But many more companies are using AI to improve their processes in creative ways. Anheuser-Busch InBev, for example, is using AI to make their barley farming operations more sustainable. Fast food restaurants like Wendy’s are using AI and chatbots to streamline their drive-thrus. An Australian fresh produce company has even found a way to use tiny AI-powered robots to pollinate plants like bees.

But what about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Working at an SME is very different from working at a large enterprise, and adopting new technologies can pose bigger risks and hurdles to the average SME than a large company. So, how are SMEs approaching AI? And, more specifically, how do their IT employees feel about it? 

We took on these questions as part of our extensive State of SME IT 2024 report, where we surveyed over 1,200 IT decision-makers who work at SMEs. Read on to learn about their positions on AI and where they think it’s headed. 

Do SMEs Want to Adopt AI?

Adopting new technology isn’t always easy as an SME: it takes a significant amount of budget, expertise, and adaptability to do so successfully. Despite these challenges, SMEs generally seem eager to adopt AI. Only 13% of the IT professionals we surveyed said their organizations didn’t have any plans to implement AI. Meanwhile, well over half (61%) said they expected their organizations to implement AI initiatives within the next year. And 63% have already developed an AI policy.

But it isn’t just the organizations that are on board. The vast majority (75%) of IT professionals working at these organizations agreed that their organizations should be investing in AI. 

SMEs pie chart
SMEs seem eager to adopt AI, and many have already begun implementing it and developing policies around it.

But are organizations adopting AI at the right pace? A slim majority (54.7%) of IT professionals think so. Those who disagreed were evenly divided around thinking their organization was moving too quickly or too slowly. 

SME pie chart
A slim majority of SME IT professionals think their organization is adopting AI at the right pace.

Does Size Affect Sentiment?

“SME” is a broad and diverse category: a business with 10 employees looks a lot different from a business with 500. Our survey revealed that the smallest SMEs (those with 10 or fewer employees) were noticeably more hesitant to embrace AI than their larger counterparts (those with over 500). Just over half (58%) of IT professionals at these smaller organizations believed their companies should be investing in AI. By contrast, 82% of IT professionals at large SMEs said they thought their companies should be investing in AI.

These larger organizations were also more likely to have existing policies around AI. Seventy-one percent of large SMEs have developed company-specific AI policies, while only 37% of small SMEs have done so.

SME graph
Larger SMEs expressed more interest in adopting AI than their smaller counterparts.

What About Age?

The IT professional’s age tended to affect their position on AI. Eighty-two percent of IT professionals under 34 said they think that AI will be a net positive for their organization, versus 64% of IT professionals over 45. However, younger IT professionals also expressed deeper concern about AI-related security. Sixty-four percent of those under 44 agreed or strongly agreed that AI is outpacing their organization’s ability to protect against threats, versus only 32% of those 45 and older.

Divided Around Job Impacts

SME pie chart
IT professionals are evenly divided around how they think AI will impact their jobs.

When asked whether IT professionals were concerned about AI’s impact on job growth, responses were rather evenly divided. About 45% agreed or strongly agreed, and about 35% disagreed or strongly disagreed. About 21% felt neutral.

Respondents were also divided on the matter by age. Younger IT professionals expressed more concern about AI’s impact on their job. Nearly half (46%) of IT professionals under 34 said they worried about AI’s impact on their jobs versus only 32% of respondents over the age of 45. 

United Around Security Concerns

While SMEs may be divided around some aspects of AI, they remain united around one issue: security.

Because AI grew so quickly, keeping up with AI-related security has been a challenge. More than half of SME IT professionals believe that AI is outpacing their organization’s ability to protect against threats. 

SME pie chart
The majority of IT professionals agree that AI is outpacing their organization’s ability to defend against threats.

More on SME IT

AI is evolving quickly, and there is much more to learn about its impact on SMEs. JumpCloud will continue to collect data from SME IT professionals to learn about their experience and perspectives on AI — keep an eye out for our upcoming report in July. 

Unless otherwise cited, all data in this article was pulled from JumpCloud’s SME IT Trends 2024 report, which is a summary of original survey data from IT professionals working at SMEs. In addition to its insights into AI, the report covers SME IT professionals’ views and experiences with security, job prospects, layoffs, budgeting, tooling, and more. Download the free report to learn more about the state of SME IT in 2024. Read the free report now. 

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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