Meet My vPA – Exploring the Impact of Virtual Personal Assistants in Business
Will everyone have a virtual Personal Assistant in the future?
What is a vPA?
Virtual Personal Assistant. A term most of us won’t be particularly familiar with. Sure, virtual assistants exist today. Working as a remote function looking after your calendaring, editing notes and general admin, virtual assistants exist like an outsourced contact centre.
What we’re talking about here is one step further. Actually, several steps further. Imagine an automated instance of a Personal Assistant that didn’t need to be paid or go on holiday. One that never calls in sick and doesn’t take lunch breaks. That’s right. These are truly virtual Personal Assistants.
When would you need one?
Need is a strong word. Today, you’d argue that few people need a virtual Personal Assistant. Most people get through their working day without the need for a Personal Assistant, let alone a computerised version.
But, with the obvious productivity benefits associated with the use cases, it’s hard to overlook them. Thinking about the following scenarios, there is so much time to be saved in the average knowledge worker’s day:
- Scheduling meetings
- Searching for information
- Sending messages
- Replenishing stock
- Typing emails
Let’s say these tasks take up half of your day. If you could simply ask your vPA to book several meetings with the people you needed there, you’d save all that time routing around in Outlook, checking availability and trying to find a mutual meeting time. With the time taken achieving this, the meeting room you wanted to book is now fully booked anyway.
When you need to get your head down and research a new technology, product or brand for a project, it can be time consuming. How much of your day would you get back if you could task your vPA with finding out all the relevant information you need to put together that presentation on your nearest competitor.
Siri works great for sending one off messages on your iPhone but what about mass mailing and more conversation items? Your vPA could have canned responses, combined with access to as much of your data and calendar as it needs to respond on your behalf.
Printers are a classic example of self-replenishment. With the right printing setup, you never need order paper or an ink cartridge again. What’s stopping us from transitioning this practice to the entire office?
How would virtual Personal Assistants collaborate?
We’ve seen Microsoft reveal plans to integrate Cortana with Office 365. Microsoft Dictate allows you to speak rather than type, saving countless hours. With the addition of Cortana into Word, creating documents to meet deadlines will become easier than ever.
Cisco Spark Meeting Notes already provides us with automation of meeting notes. No longer do we need to worry about keeping track of who attended and what the key takeaways were.
Pushing the boundaries further, imagine when your virtual Personal Assistant will be able to interact with another virtual Personal Assistant. Will we get twice as much work done? Could we work less hours? Could we take chunks of time out of our day by delegating work to our virtual assistant?
Just how confident would we be in leaving our virtual Personal Assistants to get on with it.
The ideal would be delegation with full confidence that a robot can function better than a human. Maybe we wouldn’t even have to sanity check the document, check a meeting room was indeed available or that our hotel was booked on a recurring basis.
Reality is that this is all surely some way off. It was only a short while ago that we saw the influence of Twitter users turn Microsoft’s AI bot “racist”. However, there are better examples than that to showcase. Last Christmas, Marks and Spencer launched their own chatbot to field their online queries during their busiest period of the year. As far as anyone is aware, no racism was reported there.
Work – Life Balance
Will your vPA extend itself to home life? If it exists across all your devices and locations, then what will be the impact on us? It’s taken some time, but Alexa has embedded herself into many people’s homes. At first, there were non-believers. Now, with time and considerable improvements, Alexa has been joined by reliable rivals like Google Home and Apple HomePod.
Ultimately with IoT, your vPA could be with you wherever you are. IoT devices with cameras and microphones potentially give your vPA eyes, ears and a mouth. We could be overrun with a world full of Alexa and her buddies. But, would that be such a bad thing?
This is still a way off but there are questions to be asked. The companies that thrive off bleeding edge technology need to know these answers now.
Will every business have a virtual assistant in the future? Could we see BYOVPA (Bring Your Own Virtual Personal Assistant) as the new BYOD? Could your company vPA be one combined instance?
The UC Today vPA has a nice ring to it. What would you call yours?