Digital Assistant (DA)

Also known as: Intelligent Digital Assistant (IDA), Smart Assistant, Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA)

What are Digital Assistants?

Digital Assistants are voice-capable applications that look up information, create notes and reminders, as well as, trigger workflows for their user, e.g. requesting a ride-share.

Most consumers will think of Siri or Alexa when they think about Digital Assistants. Siri was the earlier entrant having started as a native function of iOS smartphones and then expanding to Apple computers and smart speakers. Amazon's Alexa however came out on dedicated 'Echo' smart speaker hardware, but similarly has since found it's way onto smartphones and Windows computers.

Definition of Smart Assistants for work

An intelligent assistant for the workplace leans on much of the same functionality that Siri or Google Assistant offer, except it can answer business-related questions. Examples are:

  • Looking up someone's leave allowance
  • Finding a certain invoice
  • Start a business travel request
  • Finding a free meeting room

What makes Intelligent Digital Assistants for work different?

The above examples are only possible if the architecture is such that it integrates with other, already existing, business applications through the of APIs. And that's where 'consumer' digital assistants often don't offer much beyond emails and calendaring.

A smart assistant for work is therefore a form of middleware, paired with one or multiple front-ends. For instance, Digital Assistant offers its own app for desktop and mobile; but it also comes in the form of chatbots for existing communication channels (i.e. Slack or MS Teams), and even as an extension for web browsers.

This multi-channel offering is partly to counter an overwhelming sense of innovation fatigue where employees are quick to resists yet another application they have to use. To address that, a new piece of software must be more than just helpful, it also, critically, needs to be easier and quicker to use than the 'old' way of achieving the same result.

Where do Digital Assistants fit into the Digital Workplace?

The Digital Workplace is a concept or a broader initiative within an organization to make processes paper-less and faster, but also to generally create a more engaging workplace that tries to minimize 'mundane' or repetitive tasks as much as possible.

The Digital Assistant can be a great 'interface' that makes a plethora of sources searchable, adds NLP understanding to search and neatly embeds into any existing Intranets, Enterprise Chat tools and mobile devices.

What's the goal for the smart assistant?

A well-designed Digital Assistant is a great Swiss army knife for answering questions and getting things done, by drawing on endless amounts of data and permeating all kinds of existing applications and devices – with the goal to lessen the cognitive load it takes to finish an assignment and thus contributing to an engaged workforce.