AI assistants and chatbots are gaining traction in the enterprise

According to a report by Spiceworks, organizations are increasingly adopting chatbots and AI assistants in the workplace for use cases such as voice-to-text dictation and employee-calender management.
12 April 2018

Many businesses are discovering the potential of chatbots and AI assistants |Source: Shutterstock

Though still nascent technologies, AI-powered chatbots and voice assistants are growing in popularity in the workplace, according to a recent report from Spiceworks.

More and more, governments around the world are pouring investments into developing the technology; China is inching closer to the US in the AI race, and in more recent news, the UK and 23 other European nations signed a declaration agreeing to develop a “European approach” to AI, in a bid to compete with American and Asian tech giants.

In the business environment, similar progress in the area can be observed.

Spiceworks surveyed 529 IT professionals from North America and Europe in order to get a better idea of how exactly these technologies are being used in the business environment.

The study revealed that 29 percent of respondents have implemented one or more chatbots or intelligent assistants for work-related tasks or plan to in the next 12 months.

Adoption was found to be higher in larger organizations, likely because these businesses have much more resources to evaluate these emerging technologies. Forty percent of large businesses are expected to implement at least one AI-powered chatbot or voice assistant within the workplace in the next 12 months, compared to 25 percent of mid-sized companies and 27 percent of smaller businesses.

Many businesses are beginning to see just how useful these emerging technologies can be in the workplace, and as they become more widely available and understood, we are seeing adoption increase.

The use cases of AI assistants in the workplace

How exactly are these businesses using these technologies, and how are they improving their business strategies?

According to the study, the most common uses are:

  • Voice-to-text dictation (reported by 46 percent of survey respondents)
  • To support team collaboration tasks (26 percent of respondents)
  • Employee calendar management (24 percent of respondents)

Other use cases include:

  • Email management (14 percent)
  • Customer service (14 percent)
  • IT help desk management (13 percent)
  • Data analysis (10 percent)
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Businesses are discovering how AI assistants can streamline certain tasks. Source: Shutterstock

As well as the most common applications of the technologies in the business world, the report also indicates where exactly AI assistants and chatbots are being deployed. IT departments account for the majority of use cases (53 percent). This isn’t surprising considering IT professionals tend to be early adopters of new tech and are probably testing the tools prior to wider adoption across the business.

Following the IT department in deployment is administrative and business management (23 percent), customer service and support (20 percent), and marketing and sales (16 percent).

Lower adopters of the technologies are the accounting and finance departments (9 percent), research and development (7 percent), and human resources (7 percent).

What is stopping other businesses from deploying the tech?

While the adoption of AI assistants and chatbots is becoming increasingly welcomed by businesses, there are certain barriers that hold back wider use.

According to the report, the primary reason for not implementing AI systems is their “limited use cases”, cited by 50 percent of respondents who reported no plans on adopting the technology.

The technology is still evolving and is by no means perfect. Organizations who are using AI chatbots and intelligent assistants reported seeing a lot of room for improvement.

For example, 59 percent explained that the technologies have misunderstood the nuances of human dialogue. Additionally, 23 percent of businesses have found that intelligent assistants cannot distinguish the owner’s voice from others, which could prove to be a problem in a busy work environment.

On top of questions of the use-cases, 29 percent of respondents reported concerns about security and privacy being a barrier to their adoption of the technologies. This was especially potent in regulated industries such as healthcare in which sensitive information is dealt with.

Other reasons that organizations gave for choosing not to harness AI assistants and chatbots include cost (cited by 25 percent of respondents), concerns of employee distraction and as such, a loss of productivity (19 percent), accuracy concerns (15 percent), a lack of management support (14 percent) and training requirements (13 percent).