Recent years have seen many of us warmly welcome into our homes the likes of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. While these virtual personal assistants might feel like part of our family, the uptake of such technology and other Artificial Intelligence-infused smart apps has been somewhat slower in the workplace. But things are about to change. 

Rapidly expanding beyond the smartphone and home environment, this technology looks set to disrupt our working environment too. As a result of the strength of opportunity presented by the reach of this technology, Gartner has projected that by 2021, 40% of all new enterprise applications implemented by service providers will include AI technology. But to what end? Gartner envisages AI enterprise applications playing a transformative role in business efficiency, boosting employee productivity, while optimising business processes, and resulting in subsequent cost savings.

Empowering Employees With Intelligent Apps

Considering the ubiquitous nature of virtual personal assistants, it is hardly surprising that apps which harness historical and real-time data to enrich and personalise the user experience, have long been considered a consumer offering. However, the tides are now turning, as we see the benefits and indeed criticality of applying a similar investment in the workplace in our efforts to deliver an unrivalled customer experience.

Intelligent apps have indeed come to the fore as we look to empower employees with the technology that can boost their performance. Through optimised communication, collaboration, and engagement, organisations are adding meaningful business value and dramatically improving the standard of service that they can provide.

Early efforts towards a smarter enterprise may have included the likes of workplace task automation in the early 90s, but things have come a long way since then. Nowadays, as organisations become more equipped with machine learning, they are open to a wealth of opportunities which draw deeper insights from data. Such quantum leaps in technology provide us with a new breed of technologies perfectly placed to perform more complex and time-consuming tasks – the kind of which can have a detrimental effect on worker productivity and satisfaction.

Email management has long been considered an energy-sapping task, wading through a full inbox trying to decipher what is actually of interest or importance. A recent study by McKinsey & Co found that C-Level executives spend an average of 38% of their time on this task. The benefits of a virtual personal assistant in this case are clear to see, as they free up the executive to focus on more creative and critical endeavours.

While the initial attempts of a human PA at email management won’t be without error, improvements will soon come. The same goes for virtual personal assistants, they too are also on a learning curve. At their core is the ability to learn and continuously improve, so as their understanding of the executive’s behaviour and requirements deepens, fine tuning will follow and their intervention becomes ever more relevant.

Looking beyond the virtual personal assistant, it is easy to see applications that can bring about major benefits to meetings and conferences, for example. Automatic scheduling might seem an obvious use, but it would be prudent to consider using voice-based commands to record the meeting’s procedures, enabling the minutes to be compiled and sent out to the attendees faster and with greater accuracy.

The rapid increase in virtual reality and immersive experiences might now signal an end to the days when PowerPoint presentations were the only visual distraction to meetings – a welcome development for many I’m sure.

The list of applications goes on. Consider the use of virtual reality screens to enable development teams to explore and discuss manufacturing or marketing strategies using digital prototypes. Such an application is just one way that processes around research and development could be significantly speeded up and collaboration boosted.

Becoming Smarter Through Actionable Insight

With advancements in AI rocketing in recent years, we also see the exponential rise in unstructured data that businesses can still struggle to transform into actionable sight.

This certainly presents a challenge that demands astute management, both in terms of creating a data-driven culture and the deployment of advanced analytics. However, by applying text-mining algorithms to discover relationships among data sources, much of the heaving lifting is taken care of. This mitigates the heightened complexity of big data, while user-friendly interfaces and easy to interpret data visualisations will bring this intelligence to life.

A word of warning. It is essential that we do not view intelligent apps as part of a wider intelligent app ecosystem, rather than distinct entities. They must be supported by agile and integrated architectural foundations that drive autonomous and adaptable business processes. As such, microservices and the ability to plug and play different machine learning models and services to deliver specific functionality become a much more relevant proposition.

As employees are furnished with advanced technology that enables them to work more collaboratively, they become more specialised in their role. Traditional processes must therefore move away from standardisation and look to be more ad hoc and contextual. When the two are combined, organisations take one step closer to a truly smarter enterprise.