Administrative support isn’t what it used to be.
Three, two, or even one decade ago, enterprises would invest in support staff to handle basic tasks such as scheduling meetings, writing up contracts, or researching a potential customer. Today, those tasks are typically handled by the same employees who lead the meetings, sell to customers, and are responsible for filling out the contracts.
The result: The average enterprise employee is doing 15 hours of entry-level work every month that could have been offloaded to someone else.
Enter Toronto-based startup Zoom.ai, whose two-and-a-half-year-old platform essentially provides employees with an artificial intelligence (AI)-based assistant capable of fulfilling 12 basic tasks including scheduling meetings, calls, conducting research, and generating standard documents – saving its average customer 15 hours per employee, per month, CEO and founder Roy Pereira says.
“Bad productivity costs enterprises a lot of money,” he says. “We have lots of market analysis reports discussing how much time certain tasks cost, like setting up meetings – one meeting takes about 40 minutes, including getting it coordinated, which is almost impossible because everyone has overlaps, and rescheduled, which typically happens; information discovery – 20 per cent of an employee’s day is wasted looking for information, which is ironic, because the problem’s mostly caused by too much technology; and application fatigue.”
“On average there are about 20 different applications that employees have to use on a daily basis, and they’re not really part of their job, they’re just part of their work environment,” he says.
Zoom.ai’s commitment to helping enterprise employees recover as much wasted time as possible by allowing them to delegate basic tasks to its automated assistant has earned it a nomination for ITBusiness.ca parent ITWC’s 2018 Digital Transformation Awards.
For workers whose employers subscribe to Zoom.ai, the platform couldn’t be simpler: Employees simply delegates assignments to the company’s automated assistant through whatever instant messaging program their company happens to use – Zoom.ai supports 16 of them, including Slack, Skype, and Microsoft Teams – and the assistant automatically gets it done.
“We’ve actually built all of our AI in-house, and customized it for this specific problem,” Pereira says. “It basically acts like a regular employee, someone you could delegate work to through chat.”
Productivity increase worth the investment
It may not surprise you to learn that Pereira believes the rise of enterprise apps can be directly attributed to a scourge of low productivity in today’s workplaces, but he places the blame on budget restraints, not employees.
“One of the major reasons why we have so many apps is because we don’t have support staff anymore,” he says. “CEOs cut down on humans in the HR department and IT departments, so you don’t actually get to speak to anyone or ask questions. And you end up having to do the work that, in the past, a supporting staff member would have done for you, and which today gets downloaded to employees. On average, about a third to half of their day is wasted on those administrative tasks.”
Despite its relative youth, Zoom.ai already has enterprise experience to back up its productivity-enhancing claims: on its application, the company mentioned that one of its largest clients was one of the four global consulting firms (PriceWaterhouseCoopers [PwC], Ernst & Young [E&Y], Deloitte, and KPMG), which has been using its services for a year and a half but has not allowed Zoom.ai to use its name for marketing or promotions.
As for its own workplace, Pereira says Zoom.ai is careful to practice what it preaches, helping employees avoid repetitive tasks so they can concentrate on more specialized work.
“We generally have a five out of five Glassdoor rating, and pride ourselves on our diversity, both cultural and gender, so we’re very active in both,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we believe our product is resonating, because our people are super.”