Today, people all around the world have good reason to be stressed. Stay-at-home executive orders mean “home” is now where people work and support their family life, homes have become the new workplace and, while many might not have seen this coming, it probably will stay this way for a foreseeable future. At least some part of it!
Now more than ever, companies have realized the importance of a strong Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Only those that have seamlessly transitioned online and have been quick to adapt have been able to keep their business running despite this trying time.
The technologies we use at home and in our personal lives is slowly converging with the enterprise environment. What is particularly exciting to see in these testing times is theinnovation taking place within the Virtual Assistant (VA) market – and its potential to create an entirely new workplace reality.
Organizations globally have moved on to remote working models and therefore use of modern and reliable technology to sustain businesses has become the core objective for any organization. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered, voice-controlled assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri are already commonplace in many homes.
This popularity is building pressure to integrate VA functionality into enterprise technology, as well, which couldsignificantly reconfigure and enhance the employee experience. Large analyst firms for example predict that about25% of digital workers will use virtual employees’ assistants by 2021.
With growth in AI and machine learning, in the near future, the VA will be far more than just a voice or chatbot interface. In fact, the VA is likely to become a pervasive form of intelligence across the workplace that can surface through all digital platforms and resources helping remote workers toaccomplish their daily tasks more efficiently.
As we see the current remote working model progress, we envisage the creation of a level playing field between workers and their VA, built upon a relationship of mutual trust and collaboration, where the VA undertakes more routine tasks for the individual, allowing them to focus on delivering their best work.
Here is how we see the VA market evolving:
The natural-language processing of voice recognition technology is growing steadily in sophistication, and eventually, conversations between an individual and their VA will be peer to peer, indistinguishable from human-to-humanconversations.
Beyond this, having the ability to understand human gesturesis the next logical step is for VA technology. In order to enable VAs to interpret priorities and passion points, we’re already exploring the potential of gesture-recognition technology in all its forms.
Deep learning will also be critical, and the VA will be designed to observe people and their decision-making processso that they can assimilate it and apply this learning and intelligence to wide-ranging business scenarios.
Problem-solving and prioritizing
Employee engagement is the one thing that will define the workplace of the future. Before long, the VA will begin to independently solve problems and make proactive suggestions for workers. It will have the ability to calculate an individual’s workload, perhaps suggesting when to take a break, as well as to highlight the tasks that should be prioritized or delegated.
Ultimately, the VA will help an individual to organize theirwork or tasks to keep them be productive, and may also begin to take on some monotonous and repetitive tasks while alsounderstanding their personal capabilities.
A personal assistant, and collaborator, for everyone
What if every office worker had an executive assistant who could help them to quickly find the resources or document they need, be where they need to be, and take care of repetitive and mundane tasks for them? Companies can easily underestimate the importance of trust, as they pursue digital transformation in these disruptive times. This VA technology is a part of this digital transformation, and if humans can begin to view the VA as something that augments their existing job role for the better, there’s huge potential for arelationship of trust and cooperation to eventually grow between the human and VA, where there is true collaboration in decision-making.
How organizations adapt
Currently, there is much discourse around ‘thinking machines.’ In this context, VAs could replace human tasks and jobs and change the skills that organizations are looking for in people. But it is important that organizations adapt for the future now and consider the impact VA and other machine-learning technologies will have on the workforce, in all its complexities.
Ultimately, it will always be the people who will be in control of how VA technology is designed and used. Humans will never be replaceable, and technology will always be defined by humans. Let us focus on adjusting to a new reality, where human potential is amplified through collaboration with “intelligent” machines, and their time is freed up for higher cognitive work.
- Vijay Jayaraman, Director – System Engineering, India & SAARC, Citrix