4 Key Factors To Consider Before Implementing An AI Virtual Assistant In Your Business

4 Key Factors To Consider Before Implementing An AI Virtual Assistant In Your Business
Irene Jimenez/SweetRush.com
Summary: Virtual assistants can be a powerful tool for your company, but there’s plenty to consider before you get one. Here’s what you should think about before implementing an AI virtual assistant.

What You Need To Consider Before Implementing An AI Virtual Assistant

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become, for many of us, a part of our daily lives. Yet, misconceptions still abound. If you’re thinking about implementing an AI virtual assistant in your business, these are questions you may face. Navigating change management can be a challenge, but you can prepare for it. Take a look at this list of key factors you should consider before implementing an AI virtual assistant in your business.

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1. Are You In It for the Right (Business) Reasons?

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, there are plenty of benefits for businesses that integrate AI into their workflow. Depending on how it's programmed, an AI virtual assistant can provide insights based on previously collected data; it can analyze user behavior and make suggestions; and it can even interact with employees in a way that is useful, not generic.

“One of the things lacking in L&D is smarter learning paths. With AI, we can learn from the user; we can understand what they're good at, what they struggle with. This allows us to show them only information that is relevant to them, personalized,” says Justin Mitchell, creative engineer at SweetRush.

SPARK, SweetRush's division devoted to emerging technologies, has been working on several AI concepts and projects for various client-partners that aim to quickly direct users to information they need.

“You’re in the kitchen at a hotel, and you need to set up breakfast in the morning. You call for the AI virtual assistant and ask out loud, ‘How do I cook oatmeal?’ A video pops up on how to do it, step by step,” explains Mitchell.

Users don't need to do a time-intensive search for answers; they simply ask and the technology responds.

Another practical use for AI in workflow is eliminating repetitive tasks.

“In a typical eight-hour workday, the average worker is productive for fewer than three hours. We spend almost two hours each day attending to emails alone. AI can assist your employees in automating the routine tasks that cause them to be inefficient,” writes Falon Fatemi, from Forbes magazine [1]. “Think about the most pressing bottlenecks hampering your employees’ efficiency. How much time could be saved if your next management report was essentially drafted for you by AI?”

Mitchell elaborates this point with an example related to onboarding: Newcomers can work directly with an AI virtual assistant that can guide them through the process of adjusting to their new position.

“The AI could ask, ‘Have you checked with someone at front desk?’ and they go, ‘Yes, Alexa. I checked with someone at front desk.’ ‘OK, now you need to get your paperwork from the HR director.’ ‘Alexa, I did that.’ And it just goes on, checking things off a list,” he explains.

2. Integrate The AI: Smooth Operation

When you consider deploying an AI assistant in your business, you should always have in mind the business needs the technology would solve and the specific uses you would have for it. Just providing the technology is not enough—effective technology smoothly integrates with the way people work.

“It’s easy to make the assumption that simply by introducing [an AI assistant], you’ll enhance your organization’s levels of performance and productivity while saving costs,” says author Paul Healy [2]. “Introducing [an AI assistant] isn’t particularly technically difficult, as they’re flexible enough to sit and operate within existing systems. Integrating them with your practices and procedures, however, is a different matter.”

“There’s one particular change management model that’s very widely know: ADKAR,” says Jennifer Hooten, Change Management Specialist.

ADKAR is an acronym that can be read as follows:

  • Awareness: Employees need to understand what is changing and why.
  • Desire: Effective communications can encourage a desire to support change.
  • Knowledge: Training can ease change among employees.
  • Ability: Employees need to garner the ability to handle the new changes.
  • Reinforcement: Change needs to be reinforced with best practices.

“Technologies such as AI can be used in every one of those areas, and it’s an effective way to smooth the transition to newer tech-integrated work dynamics,” says Hooten.

3. It's A Match!

What’s an AI virtual assistant if not an employee asked to perform specific tasks? Just like you wouldn’t hire the first person who walks through your door to handle your marketing campaigns or your accountability, you ought to find the right virtual assistant for you.

“Not all assistants or bots are alike. The simpler ones operate on rules while more complex bots incorporate machine learning. The difference between the two is expressed in degrees of predictability, responsiveness, and adaptability. The basic ones respond to set commands. But try and express a query in a way for which they’re not programmed to respond, and they won’t be able to adapt,” says Healy [1].

Again, this goes back to previous points and it depends on your needs. Do you need your virtual assistant to perform a very specific and straightforward task? Or do you need it to learn from each interaction or conversation with a user, and make recommendations based on previous requests?

In the case of Learning and Development programs, the latter is definitely more interesting and beneficial.

AI has a lot to offer, but your initiatives should always be consequential to business value. A difficult-to-program, expensive-to-deploy virtual assistant is not a good idea for your three-employee record store, but it could work wonders for a bigger company with greater resources.

“There’s a stark difference between what you want to accomplish and what you have the organizational ability to actually achieve within a given time frame,” write authors Rob Marvein and Brian T. Horowitz [3].

Adrian Soto, Director of Future Technologies at SPARK, adds:

“The use of virtual assistants depends greatly on the context of the company. Since its development is expensive and takes a lot of work, not every business should use it. While the technology can be great for big enterprises, it would be bad business for small companies”.

4. Make AI An Ally, Not A Threat

Let’s go back to the very beginning of this article. Remember those misconceptions about AI that I mentioned? Misguided ideas naturally lead to fear. In the case of AI, it leads to people seeing the technology as a threat to their jobs. Part of the mainstream media has spread the notion that many tasks will be automated, and humans will be left unemployed.

Overcoming resistance will definitely be a big issue if you choose to integrate a virtual assistant in your business. Don’t let your employees fall into panic; instead, let them know that with AI, workers have a tool to make their daily routine far less repetitive and more productive.

“New technologies offer some value that didn’t exist before,” Hooten explains. "In change management efforts, you need to consider the message you’re delivering, who are you delivering it to, what they need to know, and what’s the best way to reach them. Using the technology to deliver a message of change and transformation that is beneficial for employees can go a long way in creating trust in the new technology.’

Final Word

Virtual assistants offer unique opportunities for all kinds of businesses. It is important, though, to take into account these key considerations to decide if AI is right for you right now and so, if it is right, the integration process can be seamless and successful. Download the eBook Top Emerging Technology Trends And Their Impact On L&D to see how the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality can open up new ways of working for L&D professionals. Learn why they are new powerful tools in teaching and affecting behavioral change and how they can help you achieve your business objectives.

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[1] Five Questions You Need To Ask Yourself Before Implementing AI

[2] 9 Challenges In Implementing An AI Virtual Assistant Into Your Organization

[3] 10 Steps to Adopting Artificial Intelligence in Your Business

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