Knowledge is power—and knowledge with the right context at the right moment is the most powerful of all. Emerging technologies will leverage the power of context to help people become more efficient, and one of the first to do so is a new generation of business-oriented digital assistants.
Let’s start by distinguishing a business digital assistant from consumer products such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, and Google’s Home. Those cloud-based technologies have proved themselves at tasks like information retrieval (“How long is my commute today?”) and personal organization (“Add diapers to my shopping list”). Those services have some limited context about you, like your address book, calendar, music library, and shopping cart. What they don’t have is deep knowledge about your job, your employer, and your customers.
In contrast, a business digital assistant needs much richer context to handle the kind of complex tasks we do at work, says Amit Zavery, executive vice president of product development at Oracle. Which sorts of business tasks? How about asking a digital assistant to summarize the recent orders from a company’s three biggest customers in Dallas; set up a conference call with everyone involved with a particular client account; create a report of all employees who haven’t completed information security training; figure out the impact of a canceled meeting on a travel plan; or pull reports on accounts receivable deviations from expected norms?
Those are usually tasks for human associates—often a tech-savvy person in supply chain, sales, finance, or human resources. That’s because so many business tasks require context about the employee making the request and about the organization itself, Zavery says. A digital assistant’s goal should be to reduce the amount of mental energy and physical steps needed to perform such tasks.
Learn more in my article for Forbes, “The One Thing Digital Assistants Need To Become Useful At Work: Context.”