With a quick Google search, you’ll be able to find hundreds, if not thousands, of different AI tools designed for businesses. Each tool claims to be capable of improving your productivity, profitability, or efficiency. Nearly all of these tools require an ongoing subscription.
How can you tell for sure whether an AI tool is worth the money? Or if this particular tool is the best in its class?
The Perks of AI
What is AI? AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, a technology that attempts to mimic the structure of the human brain and/or human thought processes to improve performance at specific tasks or accomplish specific goals. For example, machine learning processes can allow an algorithm to gradually become more optimized at fetching relevant results for user searches.
We’re all using AI on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not – at least, incidentally. But businesses are using AI tools in much greater numbers and in much more sophisticated ways. When properly utilized, AI tools can help businesses automate repetitive tasks, analyze data in unprecedented quantities, hold conversations with customers, generate content, and even creatively brainstorm.
Ultimately, AI is mostly about improving business efficiency. Either directly handling or greatly improving the process is necessary to make your business function. Inherently, any functional AI tool is going to have some value. The question is whether the value is worth what you’re paying for the tool.
What Do You Need?
Software spending keeps increasing, with most businesses spending between $1,000 and $3,500 annually on software tools, per employee. That’s a pretty wide spread, and it’s even wider at its most extremes. If you use too many AI tools that aren’t worth the money, you could end up hemorrhaging money unnecessarily.
In contrast, if you’re too reluctant to pay money for genuinely valuable AI tools, you could be leaving renewed efficiency and capabilities on the table.
One solution to this problem is to focus on what you truly need. Where is your organization inefficient? What capabilities do you wish your organization had? Instead of shopping for AI tools and trying to make them fit within your organization, look for gaps and holes in your organization and find AI tools that close them.
What Can You Upgrade?
Another approach is to focus on what you can upgrade. In other words, look for AI tools that address something your business already does in a better way. For example, you might be able to find an AI platform that handles the work of an existing software platform, but much better, more efficiently, and for less money. In this scenario, the upgrade to a better AI tool is a virtual no-brainer.
Unfortunately, deciding whether an AI tool is worth the money is rarely this straightforward. There’s too much ambiguity and subjectivity in the equation. One way to circumvent this is to look at the ROI of an AI tool you want to acquire.
Return on investment (ROI) is a loose measure of the benefits of a tool, compared to its cost. Try to objectively quantify the benefits of the tool, factoring in things like:
How many hours of time are you saving by integrating this tool? As a simple example, if this tool can save you 100 man-hours every month, and the average hourly rate for workers in this position is $50, you can estimate $5,000 of monthly benefits in this category.
Some AI tools have the potential to save you money. For example, you might use a single AI tool to replace a host of other outdated software platforms. If you can spend $500 a month instead of $1,000 a month, you net $500 of monthly benefits.
It’s harder to calculate abstract factors like new ideas, but they should still enter your ROI equation in some capacity. If an AI tool leads you to better ideas, strategies, or decisions, it’s a measurable benefit.
Some AI tools can also give your business new capabilities. You might be able to develop new products, serve your customers in new ways, or close the gap in an existing market.
These can be difficult to estimate, but even a ballpark figure can help you determine whether the cost is justified.
Key Factors to Consider
You’ll also need to take a look at the following factors:
Functionality: What is this tool capable of? What can it do for your organization?
Design and usability: Design may seem like a superficial consideration, but it plays an important role in usability – and software usability is critical if you want your platform to succeed in your business landscape. The easier the tool is to use, the better.
Ratings and reviews: Ratings and reviews don’t tell you everything, but they can give you an indication of how valuable others have found this tool in the past.
Support and future: Do the developers of this tool take it seriously and support it? Do they plan to update it and improve it in the future? Are there more attractive capabilities coming?
Cost: And, of course, how much does this tool cost? Even a totally rudimentary AI tool may be worth the money if it’s cheap enough.
Determining whether an AI tool is worth the money can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. At the very least, you should take a close look at the benefits and costs associated with whatever AI tools you’re considering. If you want to take a deeper dive, you can and should do that. As long as you are doing your due diligence and practicing strategic decision-making, you’ll likely end up with exactly the tools you need.