Hey Siri, how do I responsibly invest in voice-activated technology at work?


Globant released a recent report on the rise of voice-activated technology in 2018. In this post, Globant CTO Diego Tartara shares data from the report and insight into what businesses can do to adapt to voice technology.

Voice-activated technology is here and more accessible than ever before. Thirty-nine million Americans already own smart speakers, and we’re witnessing voice drive evolution in areas outside of personal gadgets. GE, for instance, recently introduced a line of voice-connected home appliances.

But the widespread popularity of voice-activated technology for consumers has an unexpected side effect. Consumers are also employees, and their personal excitement about voice solutions now has organizations considering how to best implement the technology internally. In fact, one–third of companies believe voice will be their biggest differentiator in 2018.

However, stakeholders cannot let their personal feelings or fascination with voice – or that of their peers – stand in the way of intelligent investments that improve internal logistics and enhance experiences for end users (customers and employees).

The role of voice in personal and professional settings

Eagerness to implement voice technology is often rooted in a common goal – staying competitive. Seventy-five percent of decision makers view companies that offer voice interactions as more sophisticated than those that cannot, and there’s a clear link between emerging solutions like voice and feeling prepared for the future.

That’s a fair assumption. Modern technologies like voice, AI, and blockchain are positioned to help organizations engineer digital experiences that account for new expectations and desires. But decision makers only earn the sophistication they’re after when their organizations implement new solutions with a great deal of critical thinking and planning. Otherwise, adding experiences like voice can actually do more harm than good.

Sometimes, critical thinking and planning can get pushed down the list of priorities when employees are personally energized about voice-activated technology. Currently, 87% of decision makers use voice in their personal lives, compared to just 67% who use the technology at work. The frequency of use is also quite telling. Nearly the same number of people use voice solutions in their personal lives daily (45%) as do weekly in professional settings (53%).

Enthusiasm for voice integrations among employees at all levels of an organization isn’t necessarily a problem. But it can quickly become one when enthusiasm is not balanced with research about where voice experiences can make changes that end users desire and will actually use. A narrow focus on personal feelings about voice may lead decision makers to ignore the solution’s full spectrum of benefits and can create a false sense of readiness – a major reason why just half of organizations (55%) say they’re prepared to add voice-activated technology in ways that improve internal operations.

Turn personal excitement about voice into workplace improvements, not problems

Again, personal excitement around voice-activated technology is never something your organization should discourage. However, your company stakeholders must pursue strategies and practices that allow these positive feelings to be correctly cultivated.

To mitigate negative outcomes when considering voice applications, pay attention to:

  • Team members: It’s difficult to achieve success if your employees are not interested in working with voice-activated technology and do not feel empowered to take ownership over voice experiences and outcomes. Ensure all technology stakeholders are on board with your plans for voice-activated solutions to drive ROI from your investment. Don’t mistake personal fascination with voice as a sufficient catalyst to sustain voice programs long term. Those who will use the technology must understand how voice will positively impact their day-to-day lives, and make work effortless and fun. Employees should also have a say in shaping their relationships with voice solutions.
  • Customers: Similar to employees, there’s no sense in creating voice-powered experiences where your customers will not use them. For example, voice technology can certainly handle banking transactions, but customers may feel uncomfortable sharing personal financial information over the phone (say, via a chatbot). Personal enthusiasm about voice pushes focus away from the interaction points where target audiences actually desire the technology. Just because you love using voice to do x, y, or z at home does not guarantee customers want your business to replicate those experiences. Invite end users into the ideation and development process to figure out where voice integrations are logical, as well as which kinds of voice applications will yield the most positive results.
  • Business circumstances: In the midst of your excitement about voice, don’t overlook the associated costs and demands of adding new technology experiences. Voice isn’t just a one-off project. Rather, voice programs are most successful when supported by marketing promotions and other educational collateral. There are also back-end integration and maintenance costs that many organizations fail to consider. Your organization may feel ready for voice, but there’s a difference between feeling ready and being ready. Examine the full-picture impacts of voice – across all departments and job titles – before you get in over your head.

Personal familiarity with voice is a valuable springboard to build enthusiasm toward new solutions early on, but how you feel about voice-activated technology cannot be the sole factor informing your integration plans at work.

Organizations must be even more ready to address voice’s popularity in our home lives in the near future. Twenty percent of households that use virtual personal assistants (VPAs) in the year 2020 will have two devices, and 5% will have three or more, according to Gartner research. The enhanced role of voice in our personal lives ups the ante for companies to follow suit, rewarding organizations that proactively develop strategies to harness all the excitement.

And while Siri and Alexa may feel like they have all the answers, your employees and customers are the best sources to determine where and how voice solutions can inspire a more intelligent, efficient professional environment.

Diego Tartara is CTO Latin America, Globant

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