Revitalizing Employee Experience with AI-Powered Enterprise Digital Assistants

RituJyoti-1 Revitalizing Employee Experience with AI-Powered Enterprise Digital Assistants
Ritu Jyoti, Program Vice President AI Strategies, IDC

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become ingrained in our day-our-day lives without us even noticing it. In fact, the usage of AI-powered consumer digital assistants has exploded in recent years and have proven their worth. A Walker Study predicts that by 2020, customer experience (CX) is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. As a result, businesses worldwide are investing heavily in the usage of AI technologies for transforming CX. However, as the labor market continues to tighten, employee experience (EX) is rapidly evolving to be at par with CX. Research indicates that there is distinct relationship between a positive digital experience for employees and revenue growth, employee sentiment, and competitive position in the market.

AI-powered enterprise digital assistants (EDA) have emerged as groundbreaking tools that can transform the way business professionals work. EDA are effectively applications that act as an interface with other systems to aid in human augmentation and automations of tasks and processes. With improvements in voice recognition, typing will become secondary. Employees can speak to their EDA using natural language and it will not only accurately understand what they are saying, but how they are saying it and the context. Today computers can transcribe speech better than human beings, and then accurately interpret the result, without cumbersome coding. Every large organization has many different applications and providing a coherent workflow across them has always required coding, which can be slow and expensive. But if the systems are all voice-enabled, employees can easily switch from one to another without requiring any explicit integration.

Employees can use EDA to manage their schedule, book meeting rooms, order new supplies, find the answer to a question or translate documents. It is not to replace employees, but to make their daily work more productive, along with increasing their engagement, creating connection with colleagues, greater inclusion, reducing manual effort, and speeding up time-consuming workflows.

In anticipation of this new trend, several technology companies have made moves to introduce EDA. Amazon announced Alexa for Business. Microsoft is targeting the enterprise with Cortana. Oracle’s Digital Assistant is an interface to its portfolio of enterprise software applications. It was initially targeted at text interactions, but now Oracle has added voice commands and has also integrated it with Microsoft TEAMS that provides customers with a smooth work environment to boost productivity and faster decision making. Longer term, more out-of-the-box skills are planned which can enable employee self-service for scenarios spanning sales, project management, absence management, compensation and benefits, and recruiting. IBM Watson Assistant lets businesses build, train, and deploy conversational interactions into any application, device, or channel and knows when to search for an answer from a knowledge base, when to ask for clarity and when to direct users to a human. Similarly, SAP CoPilot is a conversational interface that allows any user of SAP products to interact with their Intelligent Enterprise ecosystem through a unique channel. Google’s Contact Center AI empower human agents and can transform them into specialists. It can offer real-time guidance, surface relevant and useful documents and suggest chat responses for the agent using conversation context. It can provide guidance on the conversation flow and help automate call disposition classification. AI can do all these because it listens in on the calls. All this can help human agents focus on more specialized work and drive higher job satisfaction.

Businesses should be aware that implementing digital assistants in an office setting creates some unique challenges. Deploying a digital assistant at a workplace raises security issues as a device with a microphone into an office environment opens situations for nefarious activities. Before deciding on a solution, businesses must understand and insist on strict data security measures. There are additional open issues with voice interfaces — for example, it can be hard to use it in a busy office where there’s a lot of background noise. As ever, technology companies are working on solutions: be it advanced noise cancellation using AI or reading lips or detecting words directly through human jaw.

To make useful assistants in the enterprise, knowledge pre-built in a format that can be used by intelligent assistants is crucial but is typically missing; moreover, every organization requires a different set of knowledge.

Despite the anticipated popularity of EDA, very few companies seem to have concrete plans for bringing these solutions into their organizations. Companies should actively work to bring EDA into their offices to gain a competitive advantage. Overall, I expect there to be leaps in EDA adoption in the enterprise this year. Human augmentation and automation of mundane tasks really works and leads to more cooperative digital assistants. Starting small with tedious tasks is a great strategy to test the benefits of AI-powered enterprise digital assistants in revitalizing EX.