The Robot Assistant we always wanted is almost here!

April 10, 2019 by
The Intelligent DW Assistant front cover

Our latest briefing paper, The Intelligent Digital Workplace Assistant: An introduction for digital workplace teams, is now available to download.

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a Rosie the Maid, R2D2 or KITT, the robot car, to help us manage our day? The latest research paper from Digital Workplace Group (DWG) explores a handful of innovative companies that are introducing Intelligent Digital Assistants for their employees today.

The stories of our youth were filled with robots – intelligent digital beings that could interact with people and their surroundings. If you grew up in the ‘60s, Rosie the Maid, Rodney the Robot and The Robot from Lost in Space introduced the notion of friendly, helpful servants. The 1970s brought us C3PO and R2D2, and, if you were a child of the ‘80s, you probably longed to have KITT, the robot car, in your garage. More recently, The Iron Giant, Mr Data, Bender and Wall-E have fascinated us and made us wonder: How cool would it be to have a robot as a partner in tackling all those tasks we do each day?

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and other smart speakers are becoming commonplace in our homes, while several digital workplace leaders are taking the next step by integrating voice commands, not only with their workplace intranets but also with elements of the physical workplace, including conference rooms, workplace operations and security, plus travel arrangements and expense reporting.

In the latest DWG briefing paper, The Intelligent Digital Workplace Assistant: An introduction for digital workplace teams, we explore the rapidly approaching next evolution in the digital workplace, the Intelligent Digital Workplace Assistant (IDA). At companies like Wipro and Liberty Mutual, as well as government agencies such as the General Services Administration of the US Government, IDAs are helping with onboarding, provisioning for meetings and travel, and to complete various administrative and lower level tasks, in so doing creating more time and “head space” for humans to spend on higher level work. On parallel paths, companies such as Adenin Technologies and Cisco are working to expand the capabilities of IDAs, allowing them to learn and get better over time as they familiarize themselves with the preferences of their human partners.

What is an Intelligent Digital Workplace Assistant (IDA)?

An IDA is a software-based agent, connected to broad amounts of data, which performs services and tasks for a member of an organization’s workforce. It can be paired with a hardware-enabling voice interface, or it can use a chatbot interface to make the human/assistant connection. A typical IDA can be recognized by the presence of four key elements:

  • It speaks your language. Like Siri or Google Assistant, you can speak to it naturally, as you would talk to another person.
  • It is connected to key systems. The scope of the tasks an IDA can complete for you is limited by the systems it’s connected to. If your IDA schedules your travel, for instance, it needs to be connected (at least) to your calendar, company travel system, expense reporting system, HR system and campus security systems (to secure guest passes if you are travelling to another office location of your firm, for example).
  • It delivers information in context. The answer to a simple question such as “How many vacation days do I have left?” can vary depending upon who is asking, how much vacation they started with, how much they’ve already taken, and whether they’re allowed to carry over vacation days. The IDA can deliver not only data but data in the context of all variables.
  • It anticipates your needs. This is where things get interesting. The IDA not only responds to your requests, but anticipates what you may need next, based on its experience with others like you.

Imagine if, as a new employee, you had an IDA that could anticipate the things you needed to do during your first three months, uniquely to you and your position. Now imagine that your IDA would contact you proactively to tell you what was needed, just before you needed to do it, allowing enough time for you to complete the task – and even adjusting if you were a little ahead of the average new employee.

It would be almost as cool as having your own Rosie the Robot Maid… just like George and Jane Jetson. Now, about those flying cars…

This briefing paper will bring you up to speed on this rapidly developing trend, covering the elements of an IDA and key terms of which you should be aware, as well as looking at the business drivers and some next steps to consider as you help your organization weigh up the benefits of introducing IDAs to your workforce.

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Categorised in: Digital workplace, Research reports

Kevin Olp

Kevin is a DWG research associate, freelance consultant and business owner in the financial services industry. He has specialty in digital adoption, sustainability and change leadership. He worked previously as a digital workplace executive at Northwestern Mutual, where he sponsored the development and implementation of the company’s current intranet. He is passionate about the integration of diverse digital tools into a single, seamless experience for users, without constraints of time or location. Kevin lives with his wife Cheri in Milwaukee, WI, US, where they are awaiting grandchildren from any one of their five adult kids.

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