Help at work: Future of work and the role of digital assistants

Uma Ganesh | March 15, 2021 |
Some digital assistants such as Amelia are being designed to support employees with the new skills required as per the needs of various industries

Over the years, we have started getting used to digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortona silently creeping into our lives, settling down in the background surreptitiously and learning about us little by little. Over a period of time they are now getting smart at proactively extending support to us in our tasks.

The primary concern most people have in the context of future of work is whether digital assistants would take away their jobs. As of now digital assistants are helping them to do their work more efficiently and thus increase their productivity. In course of time, digital assistants have the potential to take over the mundane and repetitive work thus leaving the more complex tasks and jobs to humans that demand creativity and analytical skills. Therefore we should be prepared to co-exist with digital assistants.

In fact, the limitations of time constraints and mental processing power are likely to be overcome with the combination of humans and digital assistants. It is interesting to find that some digital assistants such as Amelia are being designed to support employees with the new skills required as per the requirements of different industries such as healthcare, retail and IT operations and are also assisting organisations to hire new employees.

It has been predicted by the end of 2021 globally almost 1.8 billion people would be using digital assistants which would automate several cognitive tasks with real-time speech recognition capabilities. As per Gartner, 25% of the digital workers will use virtual employee assistants daily by end of this year. The current variants of digital assistants are mostly built around natural language processing and data retrieval with basic computation. In the coming years, NLP process would be more advanced and therefore digital assistants will be equipped with new data that would possess higher levels of comprehension capabilities designed to address complex requirements. What would be exciting is the collaboration possibilities between digital assistants and IoT devices like wearables, smart devices that would enhance the quality of support that could be provided to humans.

In the current scenario, the focus of digital assistants is take over the repetitive tasks but in due course of time digital assistants would also develop problem solving skills on the strength of availability of huge data sets and the continuous learning capability.

Many organisations who have done away with secretaries or personal assistants are now being offered the possibility of having personalised digital assistants for every employee with the aim to enhance their productivity as digital assistants would play a key role in creating a fully integrated digital workspace. Despite all the advancements in AI technologies, one problem that digital assistants have is the lack of accuracy in response.

This is because of the dependence on NLP and unlike the human capability, the inability of the technology to interpret complex requirements, contextualise the problem and read between the lines. To ensure increased adoption of digital assistants, they have to be integrated with enterprise applications and equipped with the capabilities to navigate the workflows. That would be the next frontier for digital assistants to conquer to be counted as an important stakeholder in the business.

Originally appeared in Financial Express