An office worker using a digital assistant on his laptop to log vacation time
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Your company’s intranet is full of information employees need to access, sometimes multiple times a day. When is today’s all-company meeting? Why is the Wifi network so slow? And most importantly: How much budget do you have left this month to spend?

But too often, employees must dig through intranet menus and submenus to find the desired information. It’s as if your company’s intranet is a small city made up of twisty, winding roads—one that must be navigated without a GPS.

A digital assistant for the workplace can quickly serve up the information employees need from your intranet, when and where they need it—no GPS required. With a natural language, chatbot query or a spoken command, they’re spared the time and effort of navigating menus.

As consumers, we have grown familiar with digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. But many people aren’t quite sure yet how a smart assistant can help them at work. The following are 3 things a smart assistant for the workplace can not do—and 4 things it can do really well.

Related article: 10 Things You Should Know About Smart Assistants for the Workplace

3 Things Your Smart Assistant for Work Won’t Replace


1. A Content Management System (CMS), Intranet, or Any Other System

There’s a misconception that a smart assistant for work can replace your company’s CMS. Not so. With a CMS, you input and manage content for posting to a website, blog or other outlet. But an AI assistant for work doesn’t do any of those things, nor was it designed to do so. The digital assistant for work also can’t replace your intranet or any other system your company uses.

Related article: Bringing the Intranet into the Modern Era

Instead, a smart assistant for work helps employees quickly access pieces of information from a variety of data sources, apps and systems. But it doesn’t actually create and store any information itself. The assistant acts as an intermediary, integrating existing data securely via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This increases real-time responsiveness, keeps security settings intact, and future-proofs your smart assistant for work investment. For example, if you decide later to move to a different CMS or CRM system, no problem. Your smart assistant for the workplace will draw information from whichever data sources you’re currently using.

2. Collaboration Tools

A smart assistant for the workplace won’t have you kicking employees’ favorite collaboration tools to the curb.

The assistant can work with collaboration platforms, such as Slack. But collaboration isn’t in the AI workplace assistant’s job description. Its job is to deliver information highly personalized to each individual.

3. Social Networks

A digital assistant for work is truly meant to be assistive, proactively alerting them if stocks rise or fall by any preset amount, reminding them of upcoming training opportunities, telling them if there is something that is awaiting for their approval, and so on.

The photos a foodie colleague took of his dinner last night? Your digital assistant for work couldn’t care less. Nor will it distract workers with updates of how many steps their overactive co-worker took today. And it’s not about to ‘poke’ anyone or send animated GIFs.

Getting to the information needed to perform any given task can sometimes be daunting, but your digital assistant is designed to simplify all that by building a news feed with only items relevant to your work, allowing you to efficiently get to the data and resources necessary to be successful and productive.

Related article: 7 Things You Didn't Know a Digital Assistant for Work Can Let You Do

4 Things Your Smart Assistant for Work Can Do Really Well


1. Learn About Employees to Better Serve Them

A smart assistant for work learns from user behavior and interactions. It knows the types of information users request when they’re at their office desktop and what kind of information they seek when using a tablet at home. With that knowledge, the assistant can proactively share the info users ask for in the office when they’re actually at their office computers. In fact, the best digital assistants for work are multichannel — meaning they’re available to users on at least 5 or 6 devices. Each device is its own channel, and the assistant can decide — based on time of day and/or priority — to proactively feed information to users on only a few channels, or on all of them.

Learning about users is what makes a workplace assistant “smart.” And by learning about employees’ needs and patterns, a smart assistant for work can proactively serve them information when they’re most likely to need it, or when something needs their attention. Unlike a traditional intranet portal in which everything you see on screen is determined by an admin, the smart assistant learns what information to filter out, so users can more easily focus on what’s important (See examples below).

Adenin UI comparison - old vs new
PHOTO: Adenin/CMSWire

2. Be Ready to Serve Wherever, Whenever

An AI assistant for work is on constant standby, ready to spring into action when a user asks for help—or when it thinks the user needs assistance, based on rules that have been set or things the assistant has learned.

There’s even a name for this perpetual state of readiness: ambient intelligence, aka ambient computing. As devices around us “gain the capacity to listen to us, respond to us, understand us and act on our behalf, we enter into an entirely new era,” explained Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella back in 2014. “The era of ambient intelligence.”

A smart assistant for the workplace is an example of ambient intelligence in perhaps its purest form. It’s pervasive but not invasive. It’s with you wherever you go, and you can summon it with your voice when driving or with a quick chatbot query on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Natural language processing and AI are the foundations that make a smart assistant for the workplace possible, practical, even inevitable. The assistant can reside in your intranet, in a web app or browser extension, in a chatbot like those in Slack or Facebook Messenger, and in a smart home device like Amazon Echo or Google Home.

In short: A smart assistant for the workplace is a step into the future of ambient intelligence, connecting you to the information you need wherever you are, in a highly personalized way. And it’s exactly the kind of technology that makes a company attractive to millennials, who appreciate employers that use the latest innovations to help them work smarter, not harder.

3. Increase Job Satisfaction

It’s a good idea to make your millennials happy, given that they’re the largest generation in the U.S. workforce today, according to Pew Research Center. It’s also a good idea to make all your employees happy.

Here’s why: Happy employees work harder, according to research from the University of Warwick. Happy employees tend not to be bored—and that means they’re more likely to stick with their current jobs. And happy employees tend to make for happy customers, too.

Put another way: A positive employee experience boosts the bottom line, according to Forrester.

Can a smart digital assistant for work help make employees happy? To a degree, yes. That’s because the assistant makes it easier to handle mundane tasks. All you need to do is speak a command or request, or type something in a natural language query. The assistant will find the information requested and deliver it via voice, in text, or in an interactive card. And the assistant will proactively alert the user to things they might have forgotten—such as the upcoming end of a customer contract, for instance. Those little conveniences can add up in terms of time and effort savings—which is bound to help increase job satisfaction.

4. Let Innovation Happen

There was a study conducted with programmers known as the “Coding War Games,” which concluded that freedom from interruptions was more important to achieving quality in performance than factors such as time spent working on a project.

All of us face endless distractions at work. We spend a lot of time hunting for information and taking care of minutiae. In this environment, we have little time (or energy) left to ponder what’s next or imagine new ways to solve old problems. We don’t have time to innovate.

A smart assistant for the workplace can help minimize distractions so team members can focus on the tasks ahead of them now—and what might be coming up down the road. After all, you’ll never know how you might innovate if you never have the opportunity to think outside the box.