Knowledge worker looking at screen and working with digital assistant to sift through data

You’re longing to surf the waves in Waikiki. But before you book that Honolulu trip, you need to know how many vacation days you have.

Typically, to find out, you’d have to find and fill out the proper form and frequently check in on the progress of your request. The process is tedious and time-consuming. But with a smart assistant for the workplace, you’d simply type or speak a natural-language query, such as “How many vacation days do I have?” Within seconds, you’ve got your answer — via a card, chat bot response, or digital assistant audio.

adenin TECHNOLOGIES - Card UI answer vs Chatbot answer vs Voice Query Answer
PHOTO: adenin TECHNOLOGIES

Here’s how an Amazon Echo’s Alexa assistant handles the query:

That's just one of many ways in which Artificial Intelligence-powered smart assistants for the workplace can quickly answer questions — and help you handle a variety of tasks, such as booking a conference room or locating a specific file.

Here are 10 things to consider if you’re looking to integrate a digital assistant into your workplace.

1. Smart Assistants for Work Are Gaining Traction

Smart workplace assistants are poised to transform how we get information and perform tasks at the office. In fact, 62% of survey respondents believe smart assistants will have a place in their workplaces within the next two years, according to The Digital Workplace: Transforming Your Business, a recent study from Dimension Data (a division of telecommunications service provider The NTT Group).

Also, keep in mind that younger workers expect their employers to offer the latest tech to empower them. “More digital natives are entering the workforce and among their expectations are workplaces powered by tech,” according to The 2017 State of the Digital Workplace Report from Digital Workplace Group. For example, the report found that 70% of survey respondents believe that mobile enablement — which is a key part of digital assistants—is ‘very’ important.

2. There’s a Lot That Happens Under the Hood

There’s a lot of technology involved in enabling a smart workplace assistant to deliver a satisfactory answer or result. For starters, there are various ways to ask the same question. Your digital assistant must be intelligent enough to understand the variations and still serve up the appropriate answer.

Ideally, your smart assistant for work should support a card interface, so it can respond by displaying cards and not just with audio (because not all platforms support audio). The assistant’s cards should provide a small chunk of contextually relevant information and if needed, a link to click for further information or action. The cards should display equally well on desktop and mobile screens.

For a smart assistant to succeed in the workplace, context is key. For example, imagine that you’ve asked your company’s digital assistant if you can fly business class on your next business trip. The answer you receive, if it’s to be useful, should take into account such conditions as your geographic location, seniority or job title, the time of day you wish to travel, and so on.

In order to provide contextually relevant responses, your smart assistant for work should be able to integrate via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) with a variety of internal information sources and tools. Examples include your human resources, customer relationship management, and email systems — and especially your intranet. (For more on intranets, see "Bringing the Intranet into the Modern Era.")

3. A Smart Assistant for the Workplace Should Be Platform Agnostic

For the greatest flexibility, look for a smart workplace assistant platform that supports open standards and doesn’t lock you into a specific vendor ecosystem. After all, it’s your data. So you’ll want to make sure you can get it into and out of the platform as needed.

4. A Digital Assistant Should Be Proactive

The best smart assistants for work are predictive and proactive, automatically serving up contextually relevant information when and where you need it. As you arrive at the office, for instance, the assistant should serve up a card providing an at-a-glance overview of that day’s schedule — without you having to ask for it. In order to be proactive, the smart assistant for the workplace tries to predict what your next question or need might be. Of course, to accomplish this, the assistant needs to know a lot more about you than a typical consumer-focused assistant does, such as your location, manager, role, involvement in various projects, and so forth.

5. Your Digital Assistant Solution May Need to Support a Hybrid Cloud Environment

If your organization is looking to migrate to the cloud from an on-premise IT architecture, your digital assistant solution should support a hybrid cloud environment (which combines on-prem and cloud environments).

Hybrid cloud support is important because some businesses have a primarily on-prem environment, but they want to make their initial move into the cloud while still integrating their existing on-prem data. Or, they may want to keep certain aspects of their smart workplace assistant solution on-prem, for security reasons.

Bottom line: Avoid a cloud-only smart workplace assistant solution if you have any relevant data still left on-premise.

6. Your Organization Must Be OK With Sharing Internal Data on Mobile Devices

Given how smart workplace assistants make it easy to access company data on mobile devices, there may be security, privacy or other considerations to work through.

7. There May Be ‘Innovation Fatigue’ to Overcome

It seems like every month, there’s a new must-have business app or an oh-so improved social intranet or platform. Consequently, many enterprise users have experienced some level of ‘innovation fatigue.’ You’ll need to overcome that fatigue and build genuine excitement for your smart workplace assistant, if you want to ensure it will be adopted by your workers.

8. Many AI Engines Aren’t Multi-lingual

Most AI-based intent recognition platforms, which provide users with contextually relevant information, work with only one language, English. For organizations with employees in multiple countries, make sure your smart assistant solution for the workplace isn’t tied to any one AI engine and can speak the languages necessary to drive your business.

9. Let Users Access the Smart Workplace Assistant How They Want

The best smart workplace assistant solutions aren’t tied to one interface — such as voice. Instead, users can ask questions or make commands via voice, chat bots, browser extensions, and more. Making your assistant available in various ways means users can access it how they want — which helps ensure wider adoption and consistent use.

10. Your Platform Should Support a Unified API

APIs are the DNA of any successful smart assistant for the workplace. APIs integrate your enterprise applications and data resources, as well as those from external sources you want to leverage. To future-proof your investment and make it developer-friendly, look for a smart workplace assistant platform that can securely consolidate a variety of data ‘silos’ by uniting them into one central API.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve thought through these 10 things, the next step is to start shopping for a smart business assistant platform that fits your organization’s needs. There are several options to consider, such as IBM’s exciting new Watson Assistant and the adenin Now Assistant, which delivers real-time notifications and enables users to ask questions and give commands anywhere on any device.

And after choosing your organization’s smart business assistant solution, your next move should be to book that trip to Honolulu.