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"AI First": How small and medium-sized enterprises are changing their business

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A very powerful method for integrating AI into the core business of small and medium-sized enterprises is "AI First". This approach has the potential to revolutionize the entire value chain of an SME.

And the great thing is that it's easy to get started.

AI-First brings about big changes in small steps

The trick is that change begins in the mind and with many small steps that require little effort but have a big impact overall.

The core of AI First lies in a mindset shift: before you take a new step, pause for a moment and ask yourself: "Can we solve this with AI?".

This simple question makes a decisive difference. It initiates a process in which every step of your value chain - whether in production, sales, marketing, human resources or management decision-making - can be optimized through AI.

The interesting thing from my point of view is that this method leads to a kind of domino effect for companies.

Each component improved by AI has an impact on the next until the entire organization works faster and more efficiently. What begins as a series of small steps that individually require little effort develops into a comprehensive, AI-driven transformation.

In this article I will show you, how you can advance your organization through AI with many small, targeted steps and thus revolutionize your processes and business decisions. With curiosity and exploration, "AI First" can take your company to a new dimension of performance.

AI-First starts with a question

The key to a successful AI-first strategy is to include AI in absolutely every company discussion. This means asking the question at every decision, at every step in the business process:

"Can we solve this with AI?"

For example, if you want to open up a new customer group in sales, you should ask yourself: "How can AI help us to gain insights about new customers more quickly? Can AI automatically assess how valuable a new customer contact is?".

Or, for example, if you are thinking about a new product function, you should ask yourself: "What new data will this function provide us with? How can AI speed up the production of the new function?".

And the next time you plan an internal employee satisfaction survey in HR, ask beforehand: "How can we gain even deeper insights from the survey through the use of AI? And can AI derive recommendations for action that we overlook ourselves?".

This is how AI First an integral part of your mindset. AI First can be the starting point for a profound transformation in your company.

AI-First unties the knot in your head

Many entrepreneurs are pondering how AI can change the entire business model as a big hit and are not making any progress because the problem is so huge.

What I like about the simple question "Can we solve this with AI?" What I like so much about this question is that it directs the focus to the specific problem that is currently in front of us. This focus helps us to get specific and loosen up. It loosens the knot in our heads and makes the use of AI very tangible and manageable.

Instead of starting with large investments and a comprehensive AI strategy, start with AI First with the solution of everyday and simple problems in the company.

This approach, also known as Lean AI focuses on narrowing down challenges to specific use cases in your company. This offers AI First This offers small and medium-sized companies with limited resources in particular a low-risk, cost-effective and practical way to enter the world of AI.

This gradual introduction of AI not only helps companies to achieve concrete results quickly, but also allows them to experiment with generative AI and learn from their experiences. What works well is retained and expanded. What does not work is adapted or stopped.

It is an iterative process that allows us to gain more confidence and understanding of AI with every problem we solve.

AI-First integrates your employees

The involvement of employees is central to AI First.

Imagine if each of your employees regularly asked themselves the question: Can we solve this with AI?. And this question then leads to many successful AI integrations. The transformation will then quickly affect every area of the company - from product development to human resources and business processes.

Creating such an AI-centric language and mindset within the company is crucial. It enables everyone in the company to focus on the goal of fundamentally improving intelligence systems and the resulting competitive advantage.

Success factors

So that your employee can adopt the mindset of AI First internalize, I recommend a combination of several measures:

  • Basic staff training: Your employees need to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of generative AI.
  • Jump start: A AI workshop is a wonderful tool to playfully identify individual AI use cases with management and employees
  • Idea generator system: Create incentives in the form of rewards for AI ideas
  • AI-first strategy: Anchor AI First in your corporate strategy. Communicate this goal regularly throughout the company.
  • Low-threshold implementation: Ensure that your employees' AI ideas can be implemented quickly and easily. This can be done by internal IT, external service providers or a combination of both.

AI-First accelerates exponentially

If you have successfully created a AI First mindset in your company, the best-case scenario is a kind of domino effect. This dynamic starts with small steps in which each component optimized by AI has a noticeable impact on the next area.

With the initial small optimizations, your employees and the organization learn at which steps generative can be successfully integrated. These initial small optimizations continue and lead to a comprehensive, AI-driven transformation of the entire company.

Be prepared for a certain amount of extra effort and energy to be required in the initial phase in order to establish AI-first thinking in the organization and gain the right momentum for the implementation of AI-based ideas.

But as soon as this process is set in motion, it gains speed. Your employees start to enjoy AI and recognize how processes can be carried out more and more efficiently. New ideas for optimization continue to emerge and the pace of change begins to accelerate exponentially. The effects of this acceleration can be felt throughout the company. They range from increased efficiency and reduced workload for staff to a stronger focus on customer interests.

With each additional AI implementation, your organization will not only become faster and more efficient, but also more adaptive and responsive to market changes and customer needs.

Sönke Petersen - Founder OpenEyz

I help your company to work more efficiently with AI.

With a thorough assessment, AI workshops and cost-effective pilot projects, we develop a measurable increase in productivity for your company.

Learn more

Better avoid these mistakes

When implementing an AI-first strategy, you will have to overcome one or two challenges. Mistakes are part of the learning process, we all have to gain experience with the new technology. I would like to share with you some typical mistakes that you should avoid when introducing AI:

Rash technology decisions:

Don't blindly invest in AI technologies without assessing their suitability for your specific business goals. Careful selection is crucial for success. Try out different possible solutions in small proof of concepts before implementing them on a large scale.

Lack of internal know-how:

Don't underestimate the need for internal AI knowledge. Invest in training and development to prepare your employees for the challenges and opportunities of AI.

Inadequate data quality and management:

High-quality data is the lifeblood of successful AI projects. Documents must be maintained, databases and tools must be available via interfaces. Break down data silos. Pay attention to efficient data management and ensure data quality.

Underestimation of cultural changes:

A shift towards an AI-centric culture takes time and acceptance. Promote a culture that is open to change and new technologies. Encourage your workforce to try out solutions and give feedback.

Lack of strategic orientation:

AI initiatives should not be viewed in isolation, but in line with the overarching corporate strategy. This ensures the relevance and effectiveness of AI projects.

Unrealistic expectations:

Set realistic goals for your AI projects. Artificial intelligence is a powerful tool, but it is not a miracle solution. Perseverance and "sticking with it" will pay off in the end.

7 final tips

Finally, a few best practices that facilitate the introduction of AI in many companies:

  1. Start small: Start with small, manageable AI projects. This allows you to gain experience and minimize risk.
  2. Inclusion of all levels: AI initiatives should not just be a matter for the IT department. Involve different areas of your company to ensure a holistic approach.
  3. Ongoing training and development: Invest continuously in training your team. AI is a rapidly evolving field and continuous learning is essential.
  4. Encourage openness to change: Promote a corporate culture that is open to change and new technologies. This facilitates the acceptance of AI throughout the company.
  5. Flexible technology partnerships: Build relationships with flexible technology partners who can support your AI journey. The right network of partners will allow you to access expertise and resources that may not be available internally.
  6. Set measurable goals: Define clear, measurable goals for your AI projects. This will help you to monitor progress and evaluate the success of your initiatives.
  7. Regular evaluation and adjustment: Evaluate your AI projects regularly and adapt them if necessary. The AI landscape is constantly evolving, and it's important that your strategies and projects do too.


The introduction of "AI First" in small and medium-sized companies is a clever and simple method for achieving innovation and efficiency through AI. The path starts with the simple but effective question: "Can we solve this with AI?".

With AI First Take advantage of the opportunities offered by generative AI and enable your company to integrate the benefits of AI into the organization's processes step by step through small, manageable steps. Lean AI as a method offers a practicable and cost-effective way to begin this path.

By involving your employees in this process and giving them the tools they need, you will gradually unleash the full potential of AI in your company.

Ultimately, it is about AI First It's not just about keeping up with technology, but rather about establishing it as an integral part of your business strategy and corporate culture.