Cisco offers survey data to prove virtual assistants can handle enterprise admin chores

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Cisco is using market research from a survey of knowledge workers across 10 countries to demonstrate potential interest in having virtual assistants take over some of the most mundane administrative tasks in the enterprise: running meetings and conference calls.

The networking giant this week released the data as a followup to the launch of Cisco Spark Assistant earlier this month. Conducted by Morar HPI last month, the survey drew responses from more than 2,270 “white collar, full-time office workers who use some type of communication or collaboration tool in enterprises with 1,000 or more employees,” according to the report. Countries surveyed outside of the U.S. included Canada, the UK, India and China.

Cisco found that 57 per cent of those surveyed believe virtual assistants will make them more productive, since six in 10 expect the artificially-intelligent tools to be able to schedule calls, meetings and taking notes from which to offer an analysis from the proceedings. Though not everyone trusts AI-powered virtual assistants, 39 per cent of the doubters said they would be willing to hand over such grunt work if they had the option.

Some of the research attempted to address fears about AI replacing jobs or creating a “creepy” experience at work. The more significant results for B2B decision-makers, however, looked at some of the most cringe-inducing aspects of remote work. Eight in 10 people, for instance, said they want bots to take an active role in conference calls by learning to tell the difference between a barking dog and the presenter and then removing noise.

Spokespeople for Cisco were not available for comment at press time, but Rowan Trollope, Cisco’s senior vice-president for its Internet of Things and applications group, published a blog post in a chatbots magazine on Medium that predicted virtual assistants will evolve along five major phases, ending with technology that functioned like an executive’s ideal admin person.

“This level of bot is aware of overlapping meeting topics, workers’ individual skillsets, and the projects that people are working on across the company, based on data gleaned not just from content of meetings, but also from social network analysis that includes chat and email data mining,” he wrote. “A Level 5 bot might be aware of over-arching company goals, and could suggest team members for projects, and make introductions between people based on goals, project needs, and personal compatibility.”

Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst with market research firm IDC, recently told Computerworld this kind of technology is a natural evolution from touch commands and voice-activated tools and  “Cisco Spark Assistant signals the inevitable, that intelligent voice should be adapted to the workplace.” 

In fact, one of Cisco’s other marketing tactics as part of the Spark launch was a YouTube clip that suggested using voice commands for things like virtual assistants harkens back to more traditional ways of doing business — before “technology got in our way.”

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Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.