Businessman interacting with a chatbot, rendering on a wall
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By now, you’ve probably asked Alexa to play your favorite song. Or set a timer while you’re cooking. Maybe you’ve even asked Alexa to order your favorite Starbucks frappuccino.

But have you asked Alexa how much money is left in your department’s monthly budget?

Systems like Amazon’s Alexa assistant or Google Assistant, live inside smart speakers, in-car entertainment/navigation systems, and other products, have clearly been a hit with consumers. But Amazon’s open Alexa for Business platform enables third-party developers to integrate their own smart assistants for the workplace with Alexa—giving Alexa business smarts she wouldn’t otherwise possess.

The best smart assistants for the workplace can respond to queries and commands not just through voice-enabled systems like Alexa, but also through mobile and desktop information-rich cards, browser extensions, and chatbot interactions.

Here are 7 things you didn’t know a digital assistant for work can enable you to do. 

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

1. Pose Questions and Commands While Driving

You’re driving to work, and you realize you need to greenlight a new project before the end of the month. But how much money is left in your budget? You pose the question to Alexa, which is part of your in-car system. Within a few seconds, you get the answer — thanks to your company’s digital assistant for work, which leverages Alexa for input and output. You might also ask if everyone you’ve invited to a meeting scheduled later that morning has accepted your calendar invite. If someone hasn’t accepted the invite, your smart assistant for work will tell you who the laggard is and let you send that person a reminder via Slack — without ever taking your hands off the wheel.

(Listen to a sample vacation query here.)

2. Get Stuff Done Without Digging Into Your Intranet

Let’s say you’re planning a business trip. Maybe you’d like to fly business class, but you’re not sure if the company will spring for it. Rather than waste half an hour navigating hierarchical intranet menus and pages to find out, you could simply ask your company’s digital assistant for work, “Will I be reimbursed for business class travel to Europe?”

The assistant, because it connects to various data sources, can quickly and intelligently answer the question based on your seniority level, where you’re planning to travel, and other contributing factors.

Similarly, you could ask questions such as which hotel category or brands you can book and which purchases you can put on the company credit card.

You might also request a replacement credit card or a password reset, or you might even file a complaint. Any of these questions or commands — and more — could be instantaneously completed using a smart assistant for work, vs. having to dig through intranet menus and pages.

Related Article: Bringing the Intranet into the Modern Era

Bottom line: Your smart assistant for work can help you get stuff done faster and view all the data necessary to complete a task in one place (such as a card). Through a variety of vertical software and platform integrations, the assistant could, say, show you the scheduling availability for all your colleagues in one place as you try to plan a meeting. It’s a huge time- and effort-saver.

3. Get Pinged Proactively

Based on if this/then that conditional rules set up in advance, and/or machine learning, a smart assistant for work can proactively notify you when you need to take action. For example, by leveraging machine learning, a digital assistant for the workplace can observe the normal range for server response times. The assistant could then automatically ping you when server response times creep outside that range.

You might also receive an alert if a customer service contract is expiring in two weeks; if you’ve not heard back from a sales lead who opened your marketing email three weeks ago; if a customer invoice hasn’t been paid and their credit line has been exceeded; or if your inventory of umbrellas is running low as you head into hurricane season.

By keeping tabs on apps and services, your digital assistant for work can also notify you proactively when it’s found something new. For example, when someone has added a new spreadsheet file containing budgets to your Google Team Drive, your digital assistant for the workplace could ping you.

Proactive alerts will increasingly be event-driven, too. In fact, research firm Gartner predicted that event-driven IT will be one of the top 10 tech trends for 2018.

Event-driven alerts from digital assistants for work are prompted by notable updated states. For example, only when call volume in the call center spikes within a short time span would be considered a notable updated state.

This AI power helps the digital assistant to reduce noise as it filters only significant events from the stream of data. The key here is that such notable events should then always be actionable so the user may elect to address the change instantly, e.g. by pinging the shift manager to intervene.

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

4. Streamline Your Time

Knowledge workers spend an inordinate amount of time shifting between desktop applications, from customer relationship management (CRM) to email to spreadsheets to instant messaging to word processing and beyond.

In a recent report from IDC entitled, The Hidden Value of Information Using Search & Content Analytics, data showed that 61% of knowledge workers routinely access four or more systems to fulfill their daily responsibilities, and 13% access 11 or more systems. In nearly half of those scenarios, respondents didn't find what they were looking for. How much time is wasted as a result? According to the report: $5.7 million annually.

Maybe you just need to check the progress of a project or send a quick message. A digital assistant for the workplace connects to all your enterprise data sources so it can take care of basic tasks for you. Want to find out how much vacation time you have left? Just ask your workplace’s digital assistant. (Listen to a sample vacation query.)

The net effect is less time jumping into and out of various software applications each day to handle everyday tasks.

5. Get Assistance Anywhere

Do you have a smartphone, tablet, computer, or a smart speaker (like Amazon’s Echo or Google Assistant) nearby? Fantastic. Your digital assistant for work is nearby, too. The best smart assistants for the workplace are omnipresent and device-agnostic, standing by and ready to help regardless of the device you’re using. And they’re able to engage with you via voice, chatbot, browser extensions or cards. (Keep in mind that some platforms, such as certain IM tools, don’t support voice input/output).

Related Article: 4 Ways Digital Assistants Have Reinvented Work (And 3 Places They Fall Flat)

6. Get Help Proactively

Over time, your AI-powered workplace assistant learns about you, in order to better assist you. From there, the assistant can translate its knowledge of you into proactive ways to give you what you want, when and how you want it. This kind of assistance isn’t based on rules you set up; it’s based on machine learning.

For instance, because it understands which cards you interact with most frequently, your assistant may send you a daily summary of the information contained within those cards. Based on your usage patterns, the assistant might suggest cards for you to pin to your desktop, so you can always stay updated on the things that interest you most. You can adjust the frequency and and other settings for the assistance you receive though, so you’re not at the mercy of machine learning.

7. Get Liberated

The best digital assistants for the workplace act as an intermediary between your intranet, CRM, email, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and line-of-business applications. The assistant leverages the original data and permission structures of those applications through application programming interfaces (APIs). It doesn’t store or copy data into its own database. The data it leverages remains securely sequestered in the systems, databases and file repositories linked to the applications used to create the data.

So what does this mean, exactly? It means you, as the smart assistant for work end-user, are liberated because you have access to a wealth of data anywhere, anytime, on any device, and in variety of engagement styles (voice, chatbot, browser extension, cards, and so on).

It also means your IT will no longer be locked into specific vendors’ ecosystems, as you simply integrate – not migrate – data into the Assistant’s backend, thus allowing you to freely change service providers in the future.

The biggest benefit however might be that the data is always real-time, as there are no delays caused by scheduled syncs once or twice a day.

APIs are the secret sauce that give a smart assistant for the workplace its abilities. APIs provide a secure, standardized way for applications to share data with each other. APIs make it possible for digital workplace assistants to provide users with real-time data across a variety of information resources. APIs make data tangible for users by making it easily accessible — and therefore much more valuable.

Explore the Possibilities

Ready to see how a digital assistant for work might help your organization? Now Assistant, from adenin TECHNOLOGIES, provides all the capabilities of a smart assistant for the workplace described above. You can test a real-life sample of a digital assistant live on their website.