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CIO upfront: Alexa should be table stakes for businesses that want to improve employee engagement

CIO upfront: Alexa should be table stakes for businesses that want to improve employee engagement

Humans are made for something more than repetitive, mundane tasks, writes David Pointon of Sharp.

Does anyone really think humans are made to fill in forms all day?

On my worst days at work, I pretend that my computer is running updates so I have a totally valid and 100 per cent solid reason to not do any work at all.

I huff and make sure I look at it exasperatedly every few minutes to really hammer the point home—I wish I could be working very hard, but my company just hasn’t provided me the tools to do so. There’s nothing left to do but play Angry Birds.

But really, I’m just trying to get away from the mundane tasks that are part of the job because, well, someone has to do them, but does it really have to be me?

Administration and all the other things that absorb the time we have to achieve the things that our company has employed us to do sums up to about 80 per cent of our workday.

This is the reality that most companies factor in to their budgets and forecasting. They allow for procrastination and breakdowns, laziness, tiredness, missed meetings and more.

But as smarter technology like automation and machine learning come into consideration, we can start to allow employees to think like humans and leave the drudgery to machines.

Amazon’s virtual office assistant Alexa acts as an intelligent helper, allowing people to simply make a request with their voices… and she’s much more personable, useful and multilingual than Siri.

This technology will help people stay organised and focused on the things that their companies hired them to do, putting a higher value on the creativity and rationality of the human mind.

David Pointon, Sharp NZ

This technology will help people stay organised and focused on the things that their companies hired them to do, putting a higher value on the creativity and rationality of the human mind.

But the most attractive quality in Alexa is her ability to simplify our work life. Users can control all the technology in the room by just asking for her help. She’ll notify IT if there is a broken printer, she’ll turn on all the networked technology for you, she’ll even automate office supply orders.

And she’s smart. Very smart. The beauty of machine learning allows Alexa to get smarter the more you interact with her, like a human would.

The alarmists of the world will say that Alexa is just another step in the direction of robots replacing humans, but I think that’s rather short-sighted and irresponsible.

I see work evolving—it’s evolving from people following processes supported by technology, to technology driving processes, supported by people.

Robots won’t replace humans, it will augment them, enriching their lives both at work and at home. As we see the convergence of our work and home life coming together to form a smart life, this technology serves as a bridge to help facilitate that merging.

I want my team to be able to work at their highest capability, and not have any reason or desire to step away from their tasks because the work left for them is the work they are passionate about.

The last thing any person in a leadership role wants to see is a team that’s falling asleep and unenthusiastic about the workday ahead of them.

I know if they’re bored, I’ll see a lot of online shopping over their shoulders and hear more reasons why their KPIs aren’t being met. Some leaders think that’s a sign of a poor employee, but does anyone really think humans are made to fill in forms all day?

Alexa and other virtual office assistants like her should become table-stakes for businesses—an office standard that will see the back of disengaged employees and inefficiencies—an exciting development for humans that are made for something more than repetitive, mundane tasks. Alexa will help reinvent our lives at work—no more boredom and no more Angry Birds—isn’t that what innovation is meant to help us do?  

David Pointon is the general manager of business solutions at Sharp New Zealand.

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Tags amazonsharpdisruptionAlexavirtual assistantDavid Pointon

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