Gartner has also predicted that, by 2023, 25 per cent of employee interactions with applications will be via voice
The use of virtual assistants (VAs) in the workplace is growing and Gartner, Inc. has predicted that, by 2021, 25 per cent of digital workers will use a virtual employee assistant (VEA) on a daily basis, up from less than 2 per cent in 2019.
The contact centre was the pilot and testing ground for many adopters of VAs. But with the democratisation of artificial intelligence (AI) and the development of accurate and clever conversational UIs, different types of VA have arisen such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs), virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and VEAs.
“We expect VEAs to be used by an increasing number of organisations over the next three years,” said Annette Jump, senior director at Gartner.
Jump pointed out that industries such as insurance and financial services are showing strong interest in piloting VEAs internally, adding “we’ve also witnessed VAs being used in IT, customer service and information queries.”
The research firm cited Amazon’s Alexa for Business which is helping employees delegate tasks such as scheduling meetings and logistics operations, and Nokia’s MIKA which helps engineers find answers as they perform complex tasks or diagnose problems.
“Ultimately, VAs used in the workplace and VEAs will increase employee productivity and foster constructive engagement,” added Jump.
Vendor landscape to change drastically
The market for conversational platforms — VAs and chatbots — includes more than 1,000 vendors worldwide. However, over the next couple of years, a race to provide new capabilities will result in the vendor landscape changing drastically, Gartner noted.
“IT leaders looking to implement a conversation platform should determine the capabilities they need from such a platform in the short term, and select a vendor on that basis,” said Jump.
Deployment of voice-based solutions
Gartner has also predicted that, by 2023, 25 per cent of employee interactions with applications will be via voice, up from under 3 per cent in 2019. Although most chatbots and VAs are still text-based, AI-enabled speech-to-text and text-to-speech hosted services are improving rapidly. As a result, deployment of voice-based solutions will grow, it said.
“We believe that the popularity of connected speakers in the home, such as the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod and Google Home, will increase pressure on businesses to enable similar devices in the workplace,” said Van Baker, vice president at Gartner.
“While there are limitations on the actions that VPAs can perform, employees will readily expand the actions allowed as capabilities improve,” he added.
Consumer and business spending on VPA speakers
In addition, Gartner is expecting that consumer and business spending on VPA speakers will top $3.5 billion in 2021.
As a recent example of the integration of VPA speakers in the enterprise, it pointed out the partnership of Amazon with Marriott. The hotel operator uses Alexa-powered Echo VAs to assist with checkout procedures and management of rooms’ amenities.
Voice technology in healthcare sector
In the healthcare sector, Gartner said that remote diagnostics and elder-care applications will be enabled by VPA speakers. Some are already being piloted.
“Voice technology is also already being used by physicians to document patient data within electronic health records,” stated Baker.
He continued, “Voice recognition technology can also be used to place orders for tests and medications, which will save time. Undoubtedly, other companies will bring voice interactions with applications into the clinical setting, so that speech capabilities will rapidly become standard within most healthcare applications.”
Voice interfaces free digital workers from having to use a mouse and keyboard when interacting with business applications. This freedom can benefit frontline workers greatly. “Enabling voice interaction with applications will ultimately enhance the digital dexterity of workers who have access to them,” said Baker.
Gartner Digital Workplace Summit
Digital workplace trends will be discussed further at the Gartner Digital Workplace Summits 2019, to be held from 29-30 May in Orlando, Florida, US, and 12-13 September in London, UK.