Every day, we interact with our computer applications in new and evolving ways. This evolution started with punch cards, moved to a keyboard and a mouse, to access programs or apps that are written to automate tasks. This may now seem other-worldly with today’s touch and swipe capabilities, but in the early days of computing, a user would access their software through a command line interface (CLI).
As the user experience became more refined, we accessed our apps through clicks, drag and drop, the keyboard (keyboard shortcuts), or through touch. Social, mobile, collaborative, and conversational activities drive the world today. This is the way people connect in the consumer world, and this is the way people, especially salespeople, work in the enterprise. But this is not the way we build B2B business apps today.
As a salesperson on the road, you are required to open your CRM instance, log in, and complete information about a meeting you have already had while heading to your next appointment.
Rewrite the rules with virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants, software programs that perform tasks for an individual, are rewriting the rules for how we access our apps through conversations. CPQ, ERP, or CRM enterprise apps are just packaging for a series of tasks to be done.
The construct of an app is no longer constrained; we can type, speak, or even think what we want to get done, and the virtual assistant makes it happen across apps, instead of moving through today’s construct of a hierarchical graphical user interface (GUI).
Gartner recently published a trends report on conversational systems and asserted that conversational systems “will upend the interaction model from technology-literate people to people-literate technology.” These systems, which allow users to interact with applications in a spoken or written natural language, will drive the next big paradigm shift in IT.
Rather than a human adapting to or learning how to use the technology, the technology will adapt to the human. Gartner goes on to say in the trends report that conversational interfaces will become a design imperative for both new systems and to retrofit existing systems over the next 10 years.
Where will virtual assistants show up in the enterprise?
I created the following priority matrix to show high and low priority applications for enterprise virtual assistants (EVAs). One dimension, process complexity, means the level of involvement with a particular business process.
For example, when you think of the CRM process, this can be simple (like updating an opportunity field that may involve five steps) or complex (like when a customer service agent follows a call script to interview a customer to arrive at the resolution to a problem).
Frequency of application use means how often, from low-to-high, an end user interacts with a particular business software solution. Is this every hour, every day, once a week, once a month, or even once a quarter? You can see how these two dimensions create high and low value segments in the chart below based on a set of examples for each quadrant in the matrix.
Quadrant 1: High value, high priority:
Business processes in this quadrant are ideal for EVA as an enhanced user interface. Take your Configure Price Quote (CPQ) process as an example. Quoting and pricing a simple piece of hardware can involve over a dozen steps. The frequency of quoting and pricing to many prospects (and existing customers) can be a daily or weekly task.
Quadrant 2: High value, low priority:
The business processes in this quadrant are complex, creating a high reward situation, but the end user’s frequency of use tends to be more in the once-a-month range. Think about how often your employees interact with your Human Resource Management (HRM) software.
How often do employees need to change their family status, look up benefits, or search for a job candidate? These tasks tend to be relatively infrequent. I’m not saying virtual assistants shouldn’t be used for these processes, but what I am saying is that I would not prioritize these processes as virtual-assistant-enabled candidates.
Quadrant 3: Low value, low priority:
This is the “no-fly zone”. Writing my annual review, for example, may involve only a few steps (fill out four or five fields), and it’s best written on a desktop. As its name states, this is done once a year, so there’s no real benefit to enabling a virtual assistant.
Quadrant 4: High value, medium priority:
The opposite of quadrant 2, quadrant 4 processes may not be as involved or complicated, but end users access the application on a daily or weekly basis, making these processes attractive for the virtual assistant interface. I placed CRM or sales force automation in this quadrant because every time a B2B seller has some activity with a prospect or customer, they are supposed to update the opportunity or create a note associated with that opportunity.
This happens on a daily basis, and having a simple, frictionless conversational user interface, without hunting, tabbing, or pecking around a GUI, makes more sense.
- If the process is too complex (i.e., too many steps) or best done with a GUI, a virtual assistant would not be the best interface.
- With processes that take more than a dozen steps, integrating machine learning insights can cut down on the number of steps by recommending or guiding a user.
Make it a reality.
So how do we actually bring the conversational enterprise to life in our own businesses? After we’ve made investments in AI, chatbots, and machine learning, we need a way to surface those valuable insights and experiences within our applications, in ways that are meaningful to users. We need to go the last mile.
With Skuid, you can take advantage of voice, AI, and machine learning faster and more cost-effectively, and in our upcoming release, this will be a major focus. Soon, you can use Skuid to:
- Elevate your user experience by adding voice to your apps
- Create custom voice commands without writing code
- Search, sort, and filter with voice commands
Ready to go the last mile with Skuid? Get your free trial today.