Is Your Enterprise Ready for AI? A Look at Alexa for Business.

James Hoshor | August 29, 2018 | In the News

We all knew it would be just a matter of time before we went from saying “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?” at home to “Alexa, start the conference call” at work. That’s right, enterprise AI technologies, including Alexa, are already out there. Which only makes sense. We’re already using AI in our personal lives, why not leverage it in our professional lives, as well?

At this point, you may be wondering, “How long will it be before AI starts replacing workers?” Rest assured this is not the case—at least not for now. Rather, AI’s primary objective in the enterprise is to augment and enhance how employees perform their daily tasks. Among a long list of possible benefits, expect AI technologies to help workers be more productive, eliminate errors, and reduce the need for employees to perform mundane or repetitive tasks moving forward.

At its AWS re:Invent 2017 event in Las Vegas last year, Amazon announced Alexa for business, a voice assistant for the workplace to help employees work more efficiently. According to Amazon, some early Alexa for Business “skills” will include:

Shared devices:

  • Join meetings in conference rooms: Just say “Alexa, start the meeting,” and Alexa turns on video conferencing equipment, dials into your conference call, and gets the meeting going.
  • Help around the office: access custom skills to help with directions around the office, finding an open conference room, reporting an equipment problem, or (least surprisingly) ordering new supplies.

Personal devices:

  • Enable calling and messaging: Alexa helps make hands-free phone calls, and can also send messages on your behalf.
  • Automatically dial into conference calls: Alexa can join any meeting with a conference call number via voice from home, work, or on the go.
  • Intelligent assistant: Alexa can quickly check calendars, help schedule meetings, manage to-do lists, and set reminders.
  • Find information: Alexa can help find information in popular business applications like Salesforce, Concur or Splunk.

enterprise AI

A recent survey by CCS Insight spoke to 650 employees in the US and Western Europe about their attitudes to technology in the workplace. Topics included views on artificial intelligence (AI), brand affinity, perceptions of the IT department, and security and enterprise mobility needs, including usage of business-related apps. Here are some results:

  • 40% of employees expect AI to affect their working lives within 3 years, 70% feel it will do so within the next decade.
  • 26% of employees see the automation of mundane tasks as a leading AI benefit.

Of course, with any new technology and change comes concern. Some main concerns include:

  • Absence of confidence in the accuracy of AI systems
  • Lack of understanding about how AI technology works
  • Compromised privacy

In addition to concerns from employees, security is the top concern with IT executives. The growth of BYOD in the enterprise and the practice of employees using personal devices to perform their jobs shows no sign of slowing down. App usage and device penetration continue to grow year upon year. However, following a couple years of high-profile cyberattacks, employees are now expressing a stronger desire for device and app security, though many organizations are slow to offer cybersecurity training to address such requests.

So how will AI address IT security concerns? For now, Alexa for Business offers singular access management, giving IT administrators the ability to enroll users at their discretion. Other than that, Alexa will rely on its baked-in security layers.

According to a recent Teradata study, 80% of IT and business decision-makers have already implemented some form of AI in their business. Also, according to this survey, respondents believe the top three areas businesses expect AI to deliver value are:

  • Product innovation/research and development
  • Customer service
  • Supply chain and operations

These align with key areas IT and business leaders are looking to make investments in AI for 2018—customer experience, product innovation and operational excellence.

This all sounds great, but before organizations can start gaining the value that AI promises to deliver, they need to be sure they can overcome existing barriers with implementing AI. These include a lack of IT infrastructure, a lack of talent and understanding of AI, and—the biggest hurdle—accessing data.

So, the question remains: will virtual assistants (i.e. AI) truly streamline productivity and save time when it comes to conference calls, scheduling meetings, and managing to-do lists? It’s simply a matter of time before we’ll truly know the answer. And while no vital business cases exist just yet, the use of AI in the enterprise is inevitable—whether in the form of Alexa or some other service.

If you haven’t given much thought to the role AI might play in your enterprise, now is a great time to start. Countless industry-leading companies have successfully implemented and deployed AI and mobile solutions by first developing strategies around how to leverage these emerging technologies to ensure they aligned with business drivers. Propelics does just this. We can help your organization develop a strategy, aligned with your business drivers, that is proven for success. Just give us a call. Our Emerging Technologies Kickstart may be just the boost your business has been looking for.

James Hoshor

James is a Senior Mobile Strategist & Solutions Architect for Propelics. He has over 20 years experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, marketing and business development in information technology. For the past 10 years James has worked with many clients across multiple industries, including financial services, insurance, retail and manufacturing, approach mobile strategically to identify and deliver solutions that result in market differentiating solutions and great user experiences.

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