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Digital Assistants inside the Organization


Mary, an HR executive, sits in her office, trying to plan her day. She asks her assistant, Harold, “Did I receive a response from Marty Burns on the new leave policies?”

“Yes,” he replies. “Would you like me to read it you?”

“Yes, please,” she answers.

Harold reads the message to her – it’s a thoughtful response that she wants to follow-up on. “Schedule a meeting with Marty for 3pm today, please,” she says.

“Ok,” Harold replies.

Mary then asks Harold a few more questions about her upcoming appointments, and he reminds her that she has a meeting with one of her colleagues in fifteen minutes. She stands to leave, but before she does she asks Harold to request an Uber to take her to the airport that evening.

As Mary exits her office, Harold turns off the light and sits quietly in the dark, dutifully waiting for her return.

Harold is a digital assistant. If this scene seems futuristic, it’s worth noting that many of the tasks Mary asked Harold to carry out for her are actions that are readily handled by consumer devices such as Amazon’s Echo or Apple’s digital assistant, Siri. Bringing consumer, voice-driven interfaces inside the enterprise is part of a broader transformation which will redefine how employees interact with systems and data, and change how they get work done.

People are becoming increasingly comfortable with interacting with devices in a conversational way. As we have seen, consumer trends of today often become the enterprise trends of tomorrow. Voice-activated devices like the Amazon Echo give consumers ready access to all sorts of timely information, such as weather reports, online purchase tracking, and daily news briefings. Many have discovered the efficacy of using their voices to search for information, with a recent study showing that 43% of users reported that they felt as if voice search was quicker than using an app or website. With the adoption of this technology rapidly on the rise, forward-looking executives are beginning to think about how this new way of accessing information has the potential to drive productivity inside the enterprise.

Alexa, do I have any expenses to approve?
As consumers have discovered, many frequent or daily tasks become far simpler when untethered from a keyboard. Inside the enterprise, we envision a not-too-distant future in which managers can ask questions such as “Is anyone on my team on vacation today?” or “Do I have any expenses to approve?” and get immediate access to important, actionable information. Executives will discover the benefits of having a digital assistant with an infallible memory, who can take a memo, schedule meetings, and provide helpful reminders, leaving the mundane tasks to the machines and letting their human assistants focus on high quality interactions that require a more personal touch.

Managers and executives aren’t the only ones who could derive benefits from voice interfaces, though. One can imagine that all employees would benefit from being able to simply ask, “How much vacation time do I have left?” or “When is my next meeting?” Yesterday’s dashboards become tomorrow’s daily briefings, with key data just a question away.

The voice-driven interface is just one of the ways the digital employee experience will evolve in the near term. Innovative business solutions will soon begin to transcend the limitations of the traditional desktop by embracing enabling technologies that will transform the way people work, and ultimately, transform the business itself.

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