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2016 – The Year Voice-Enabled Assistants Help The Business Executive

By  Lance Mercereau  on  8 Jan 2016

Data Services

Apple has changed the corporate landscape perhaps more than it realizes.

Siri is used by thousands of consumers to get answers to basic questions such as when the next train departure is or, so you don’t burn the casserole, what is 400 Fahrenheit in Celsius?

So promising is voice-enabled assistants, that Google and Microsoft are investing a lot of money and resources to bring-to-market their versions, Now and Cortana, respectively. It’s still early days but what consumers will be able to do in the future is in the realm of science fiction.

I believe the real excitement, and the bigger market opportunity for software companies, is bringing voice-enabled assistants to millions of business executives.

Of course, much wiser technology visionaries heard this voice earlier than most. They see the potential; they also know the technical challenges of making Apple Siri, Google Now and Microsoft Cortana office-ready.  Data.

For a CFO to ask a voice-enabled assistant how much was spent last year on paper, the app, either on a phone or computer, needs to access purchasing data.  This is no easy feat taking into consideration most organizations struggle to centralize disparate spend data sources into one database.

For marketers seeking to quickly identify which of their customers is the most profitable, data from customer relationship management systems need to be married with information from sales such as revenue figures. 

In both scenarios, two important steps must happen first before an answer can be generated:

  • Data from multiple disparate sources needs to be aggregated into a single database.
  • Data must be then be cleansed to so as to remove duplicate and inconsistencies.

In my humble view, I think 2016 is a watershed moment for voice-enabled assistants.  It’s the year when the technology jumps from the consumer world into the office.  Why now?

A major driving force behind the rapid maturity is the growing pervasiveness of the cloud.  Cloud-based analytics eliminate data siloes common with on premise systems.  This means a Siri, Now or Cortana can quickly access a greater pool of enterprise data than ever before – the more data, the more questions that can be answered by and for employees.

It’s worth pointing out that when it comes voice-enabled assistants, consumers have been more concerned with how the voice sounds and operates rather than the content it is spoken. For business, user adoption will be driven by data.

The other factor is the sophistication of platforms that include a high performance database that reduces the amount of time it takes to reply to business users, and a suite of fully embedded data quality tools designed to automate the classification and correction of poor quality data.

At first, voice-enabled assistants will have defined application specific to types of data or use cases.  The reason, as I mentioned above, is due to the inherit complexity of accessing and preparing data for analysis – which remains a challenge for the best of organizations.

We’re a few years away from any one software company declaring a win in the voice-enabled assistant market. Before that statement comes out from Apple, Google or Microsoft, they will all need to invest in or partner with software companies that have developed specialized data extraction and integration technologies; technologies that also incorporate data cleansing and enrichment capabilities so the data used in voice-enabled assistants is accurate.  These tools and apps already exist.

This means the future is bright not only for the big players mentioned in this article, but vendors that are playing an active role in this growing market. 

I look forward to seeing how right or wrong I am in January 2017!