AI & Small Business: The Concerns, The Benefits, and The Tools

We frequently find ourselves being asked about the risks of AI & small business, and it's certainly not only our clients who are worried; a recent Xero report found that 80% of small businesses globally are concerned about the impact the rise of AI will have.

What Small Businesses Are Worried About:

The key concerns are whether AI development and adoption will outpace regulation, commoditise services, and ultimately take more and more jobs away from hardworking humans. But, as we tell our clients, it’s important to understand that AI is not some new and terrifying digital development; it’s been around for a long time. Machine learning dates back to the 1970s, and the algorithms have been around for many years; we’re just seeing AI more prominently now because computing power has increased.

5 Benefits of AI for Small Business

  1. The automation of routine tasks allows businesses to optimise their processes and reallocate human resources to a more impactful area.
  2. AI enhances task efficiency with rapid uptake and minimal training needs, enabling businesses to integrate advanced tech more easily.
  3. Workers are more empowered and job satisfaction is increased with AI’s removal of manual and remedial tasks.
  4. Automation is cost-effective; with technology's efficiencies, operational expenses can be vastly reduced and budgets can be freed up for more strategic investments.
  5. Businesses can acquire additional and diverse skills cost-effectively through AI technologies and their augmentation of human capabilities, ultimately building themselves a competitive edge.

5 of our Favourite AI Tools:


Positioned for the next generation of business leaders, this platform aims to humanise the interaction between people and data. It uses conversational AI to help empower decision making.


This AI-driven finance assistant is clear that it wants to “not let AI replace accountants and bookkeepers”; instead it’s designed to help small businesses complete “the admin you don't want to do”.

Zia (by Zoho):

Zia bills itself as the AI-powered assistant for business. Developed by Zoho, it’s embedded in their suite of applications and strives to enhance productivity by automating tasks, offering insights and facilitating smarter business operations.


This enterprise player, which counts juggernauts like Canon and EY as customers, is a leading robotic process automation (RPA) platform that leverages AI to complete repetitive tasks and streamline workflows.


Promising users “get four hours back every week”, this is an AI-powered platform that aims to revolutionise the way we communicate through email. The high-performing teams it counts as clients include Netflix, Harvard University, Spotify and many others.

The Good Work: 7 Ways Technology Helps Not-For-Profits

Charities frequently exist on limited resources and budgets, so it can be a real challenge to keep up with digital advancements. We invest heavily in the Not For Profit space because we believe that the missions of these vital organisations should never be compromised by outdated systems.

7 Ways Technology Helps Not-For-Profits:

1. Governance

NFPs have a strong need for compliance, recording, reporting and transparency; processes made exponentially easier through modern platforms.

2. Cost Saving

Technology can help any organisation do more with less - charities can then reallocate budgets from operations to activating their actual missions.

3. Connection

Contemporary digital systems enhance the CX experience, building trust and credibility while minimising friction for donors, recipients, staff and volunteers.

4. Visibility

The NFP landscape can be competitive; charities need to keep up with their peers to remain in front of their donors.

5. Compatibility

NFPs need to be compatible with the cashless society we’re moving towards for many reasons: attracting the next generation of donors, lessening the administrative burden of physical currency, transparency, and convenience, to name a few.

6. Resource

Technology can help fill gaps in resources, which in the context of NFPs means more money and less reliance on staff and volunteers.

7. Automation

Automation can enhance productivity, reduce the risk of human error, save costs and set the charity up for scalable growth.

Where do we come in?

We’re proud to have helped a number of NFPs on their digital transformation journeys. With Fred Hollows, we implemented inventory, accounting and reporting systems to support international operations; at KidsCan, we conducted a finance review, ultimately bringing the function back in-house with new finance and admin systems; and, we focused on efficiencies and introduced state-of-the-art finance and payroll systems at the Burnett Foundation.

The work we do with NFPs is some of our most rewarding because we know that charities that leverage technology are better positioned to stay relevant, reach a wider audience and respond effectively to evolving challenges. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Mastering Workflow: A Guide to Choosing the Right Software

When it comes to selecting employee management solutions, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the multitude of options available. Here we break down how to choose and some platforms to know about. 

How to Choose:

With market factors like increasing compliance requirements and labour shortages, it’s never been more important to choose the right workflow software. We recommend that businesses always start by mapping out the employee lifecycle from end to end. We then suggest reviewing what tools and resources are needed at each step. Two key things to consider are automation and ease-of-use; employees will be able to best utilise a system that’s engaging and straightforward.

Four Platforms to Know About:

As platform-agnostic providers, we can subjectively recommend which services can best suit your business. Below, we've rounded up some of our favorites:

  • Deputy
    • Offers powerful rostering and timesheet management for larger workforces
    • Boasts strong awards management, e.g. overtime, additional entitlements
    • User-friendly and engaging for staff
    • Adapts to a multitude of industries, including healthcare, hospitality, construction, manufacturing and agriculture
  • Bamboo HR
    • Comprehensive HR management system
    • Ideal for internal HR functions
    • Rich in HR-specific features covering areas like recruitment, onboarding and certifications
    • Built to seamlessly integrate with payroll, LMS (learning management), and time & attendance
  • iPayroll
    • Provides an outsourced legal service alongside the HR software
    • Ideal for businesses looking to outsource the HR function
    • Developed here in New Zealand
  • PayHero & Droppah
    • Ensures payroll compliance with the Holidays Act
    • Integrates rosters and timesheets
    • Ideal for SMBs with employees on variable hours

What’s Next?


If you’re interested in increasing your workplace efficiencies through software, drop us a line to connect. We’d love to discuss your options. 

Choosing the Right CRM: A Crucial Tool for Business Growth

Customer Relationship Management software is a suite of cloud applications that collects and stores customer data, providing a central platform for sales teams to manage customer interactions and enhance customer experience. It essentially unifies sales, marketing, customer relationships and customer services, and as a result, the right CRM will, without a doubt, improve overall business performance. Think: better customer relationships, efficient lead management, sales automation, data centralisation, segmented targeted marketing, detailed forecasting and reporting, customer retention, scalability…the list goes on. It’s easy to see why it’s crucial to choose the right CRM.


Two of the major players in the space are Zoho and Salesforce, and it’s common for Kiwi businesses to feel confused about which is the best fit. They’re both trusted brands that offer feature-rich solutions though in our experiences, Zoho is often a better fit for our mid-market clients. Salesforce started with a focus on enterprise before including more SME-focused solutions, whereas Zoho has its roots in small and medium sized business, and therefore feels much more intuitive.


The CRM decision often boils down to finding the software that aligns with your company's needs while staying within your budget. Salesforce has an extensive array of features and integrations, numbering in the thousands, however, it's worth noting that even Salesforce's second most affordable option tends to be pricier than Zoho’s top-tier plan. Zoho also offers a free edition and flexible month-to-month billing, avoiding annual commitments.


While Salesforce offers a more extensive range of features, Zoho’s offering is still likely more than enough for the average small to mid-tier business. It integrates seamlessly with commonly used software platforms and has a built-in social media feature for tracking conversations on platforms like Google and Facebook. In terms of user-friendliness, Zoho is ideal for beginners and smaller businesses who want to get started quickly. Salesforce, due to its extensive capabilities, is more likely to need a professional IT team to oversee it.


Salesforce still may be the right choice for larger or more complex businesses. It offers many industry-specific solutions, like Salesforce Health Cloud for healthcare and Salesforce Financial Services Cloud for financial services, and extensive customisation options. It’s also known for its scalability and can accommodate the needs of large enterprises with complicated sales processes and data management.


If you are thinking about switching to a new CRM system, let’s chat. ALTSHIFT is the only provider that specialises in multiple products and we’re tech-agnostic, so we’re able to objectively tell you what your business really needs. We’re powered by BDO, so we use our deep knowledge in accounts to find the best solutions. Best of all? We’re there for you every step of the way, supporting your business and optimising it for better business decisions and scalable growth.

The Time is Now: The Power of Digital Transformation

In a world where business applications and automations have advanced further than ever before, a holistic approach to digital transformation is often essential for businesses operating on outdated legacy systems.  There are a myriad of reasons why businesses are so positively impacted by making the switch; we look at three of the key ones below:


1. Cloud integration

This is the number one advantage of a digital transformation. The clue is in the name: cloud integration takes multiple platforms - from sales and customer service, to operations and logistics, to finance and accounts - and integrates them. In simple terms, the systems talk to one another.


2. Staff wellbeing

An integrated digital solution gives insight, transparency, and visibility across all departments, which positively impacts staff productivity and well-being. Clients we’ve led through these transformations report reduced staff stress levels, decreased burnout, and lessened pressure on staff. You can imagine how errors are reduced as many time consuming processes become automated, which naturally instills confidence and a more positive work environment.


3. Scalable growth

A digital transformation is proven to enhance data security, maximise supply chain efficiencies, revise energy consumption, support compliance, minimise risk and generate customer insights. Ultimately, it brings the business into the ‘now,’ driving its accessibility and compatibility, and optimising it for success in today’s digital-first landscape.

The most effective digital transformations are led by trusted partners with expertise spanning various disciplines like ERP, CRM and ECOM. Unlike some of the other players in the space, we firmly believe that partners should remain technology-neutral, giving them the ability to analyse the unique needs of each business before offering a tailored solution. At ALTSHIFT, we take this one step further with a team of in-house developers who are able to fine-tune customisation to the point where we can (and do!) create bespoke apps.



We appreciate that many operators feel overwhelmed by the idea of transforming all of the software across their business; with never ending to-do lists, it can be hard to imagine finding the time and energy to get started. That’s where we come in; BDO has powered ALTSHIFT to give businesses the ability to outsource the digital transformation process.

We work with businesses of all sizes and industries, successfully guiding digital transformation journeys for companies like RUBY, Medi Foods and Black Magic Tackle. We lead every step of the process, from initial analysis and solution recommendations, to migration and integration, to staff training and technical support. If you’re interested, email me on and let’s catch up for a coffee to discuss.

Client Spotlight: Our Time with Epiphany

Epiphany Cafe is a steadily growing franchise of cafes headquartered in Te Rapa, Hamilton. With 8 locations (and more on the way) they are steadily acquiring a cult following with their Donuts, Muffins and Scones. They are moving into a brand new factory to keep up with demand, and as a part of this process they also made the conscious decision to implement back-office systems to serve as a platform for their future growth. Upon meeting with Epiphany for a consultation, it was decided that Unleashed would be a fantastic candidate for them to manage their production supply-chain. Unleashed is a powerful inventory and production management system that tightly integrates with Xero, it is our system of choice for food & beverage manufacturers (our other F&B clients such as Sal’s Pizza and North End Brewery also use Unleashed).

Implementing Unleashed for Epiphany was no small feat, with many moving parts in the wider solution. One problem Epiphany faced was that their pre-existing process for franchisee ordering was riddled with time consuming manual data entry, something that was not scalable. As a solution to this problem, we implemented the Unleashed B2B Portal to streamline this process. Franchisees can now log in and place their daily orders seamlessly, and thanks to the B2B Portal we eliminated the manual data entry aspect of the ordering process. Since all of the food items Epiphany produces are made to order, each order gets consolidated at the finished good level ready to go into the Unleashed production module. Since we loaded Unleashed up with the recipes for each item Epiphany makes, head office is then able to quickly determine whether they have enough raw ingredients to complete the day’s production run (and easily send out a purchase order to replenish inventory if needed). Another complex requirement of Epiphany’s was the need to track every batch of Donuts they send out, from the finished good right down to the milligrams of food colouring they used. If there was ever a problem with a batch of Donuts, they needed a full audit trail of each ingredient that went into the batch and whom the supplier of each ingredient was. Unleashed makes simple work of batch tracking for compliance, and offers Epiphany the peace of mind that they have full control over their batches.

Once we had taken care of the extensive data and configuration work to get the organisation ready for Unleashed, we began with running on-site training sessions to get the business ready for go-live. The purpose of the training is to ensure that every staff member knows how to leverage the system. We did training sessions split across two days, the first day for back-office processes and the second for the production module. Once training was complete, we were present for the scheduled go-live day in the new system. ALTSHIFT believes in mitigating go-live day risk by having consultants on-site in case of any hiccups.

Going live in a new system is extremely risky business, but with the execution of a specific sequence of events disaster can be averted. Careful project management is the key to a successful software implementation as well as ongoing support post go-live. ALTSHIFT is a specialist in managed systems implementation, we have delivered countless cloud-based solutions to business across many industries. If you are in the process of comparing different software solutions, get in touch with ALTSHIFT for a vendor neutral assessment of your specific business requirements.