Harnessing the power of AI – the good, the bad and the chatty


Harnessing the power of AI – the good, the bad and the chatty

This page was last updated on May 22, 2024
Our May Business Club session focused on how businesses can make the most of Artificial Intelligence (AI) safely and effectively.

It seems that AI is rarely out of the headlines, attracting both positive and negative views. Like anything perceived as new and unfamiliar, it’s hard to know how to harness the exciting opportunities and balance the ‘risky’ unknowns.

Pros and cons

AI isn’t exclusive to those businesses with large budgets or a science and technology specialism. A report by the Federation of Small Businesses in March found that 20 % of the UK’s 5.5 million small businesses are already using AI. Technologies used include Generative AI, Machine learning, Predictive AI, and Robotics, to name a few.

Benefits they gained from AI included:

However, along with the benefits, there are increasing concerns. This isn’t helped by the rapid adoption of AI and the slowness of regulatory frameworks, legislation, security measures and skills development to catch up.

In the FSB report, 73 % of small businesses expressed many concerns about how AI could impact their operations. These are probably echoed by larger businesses, too, and include:

So, when balancing the benefits against the concerns, how can businesses make the most of AI safely and effectively?

Utilising AI safely and effectively in business operations

In the discussion, Club members stressed the importance of understanding the validity of what AI produces to determine its outputs are accurate. Prioritising transparency and explainability in their AI models is essential. Other points raised included:

Data Privacy and Security: Businesses must ensure any AI-related work complies with data protection regulations (like GDPR). Implementing security measures to protect sensitive data from breaches or misuse is essential. This includes encryption, access controls, and regular security audits.

Bias and Fairness: AI systems can inherit biases from data, leading to unfair outcomes. Therefore, it is essential to be vigilant in identifying and mitigating biases by regularly evaluating AI algorithms.

Integration with Existing Processes: Introducing AI into existing workflows requires careful planning and integration. Businesses should evaluate how different AI solutions will align with their current processes and technologies.

Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: Businesses should establish processes for monitoring AI performance, detecting issues, and making necessary improvements. Regularly updating AI models with new data, and retraining them to adapt to changing business needs, is essential for maintaining their relevance and accuracy.

Staff training and skills development for effective and safe use of AI

There have been numerous reports in recent years about the UK workforce’s digital skills gap. Some place the responsibility of plugging the gap on employers, some place it on educators, and some on the Government.

In their report last year FutureDotNow (an industry coalition), argued that a 3-faceted roadmap was needed:

  1. A national strategy – to upskill working-age adults with essential digital skills for work. It was recommended this should be led by the Government, with input from businesses.
  2. A delivery drive – A call to action for businesses to train people, so they have the essential digital skills needed for work. FutureDotNow’s report proposed that this should be led by businesses and convened by the Government.
  3. A culture change – This should encourage people to develop essential digital skills. It was recommended that this be delivered through business and government action to influence individuals.

Club members agreed that individuals and businesses need opportunities to practise and work with AI in ‘safe’ and controlled environments to develop their skills and expertise. Many also felt there should be greater knowledge sharing between universities and businesses to swap insights and best practices.

Most emphasised that it is paramount that businesses establish staff policies that guide employees on acceptable AI usage.

Incentives to help businesses utilise AI safely and more effectively

Club members also considered what incentives the Government could introduce to help businesses better utilise AI. 

Areas suggested included introducing specialist apprenticeship schemes, issuing financial help (tax relief, grants, funding), support for upskilling, knowledge-sharing, and help to determine how businesses can best apply AI.

The FSB’s report contained around 30 recommendations targeted at different Government departments. These covered aspects such as supporting different UK regulators and reviewing legislation around Copyright, Designs, Patents, Privacy, and Equality (to name but a few).


AI presents both exciting opportunities and daunting challenges for businesses. A key challenge is how best to master the learning curve in utilising AI, as it continues to evolve. Being cautious as well as curious, testing AI applications in a safe environment, and drawing on specialists, will help businesses apply AI’s benefits safely.

Thank you to all the Club members who supported our May event and shared their ideas. If you would like to attend our future Business Club events, please get in touch with the Shipleys’ Godalming team for more information.

Specific advice should be obtained before taking action, or refraining from taking action, in relation to this summary.

Copyright © Shipleys LLP 2024

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