Cortana took another bold step into the enterprise today. I learned about the move from Frederic Lardinois’ TechCrunch article covering Microsoft’s announcement of Cortana’s integration with Power BI.
I’d written previously about the Cortana Analytics Suite, which enables organizations to apply machine-learning algorithms to their data to produce valuable insights. In comparison, the Power BI and Cortana integration seems to be lighter weight and more readily accessible. Microsoft offers a scaled-down version of Power BI for free and it can easily be linked to datasets from Excel spreadsheets to enterprise systems.
Power BI takes data from your sources and presents it in meaningful dashboards, reports, and datasets. When Cortana is integrated with Power BI, it expands the tool’s capabilities to provide something akin to a personal data assistant. Power BI already had a natural language search feature called Q&A. Now Cortana leverages Q&A to answer questions intelligently. That means you can ask Cortana data-related questions instead of painstakingly creating and executing ad-hoc queries.
For example, you can ask Cortana to show you the average spending of customers in Florida by city. Without Cortana, you may have had to build your own query to mine this information from various datasets. With Cortana, your voice-enabled assistant creates the query for you on the fly and presents you with the results. That’s a significant time saver. It can also help you avoid fat finger errors.
You can ask Cortana questions with either voice or by typing. Cortana’s new abilities as a data analyst are impressive. Thankfully, we humans are still in charge of coming up with the questions that need to be answered.
The way corporate workers collaborate is changing. Teams are increasingly shifting from email and document-based sharing sites to chat platforms. Popular chat-based solutions such as Slack provide office-workers with a comprehensive set of tools for coordinating tasks and discussions, all from within a familiar messaging platform.
This shift to chat-based collaboration is giving rise to a whole new species of intelligent assistant: the chatbot. We’re not talking about your “daddy’s” chatbot, like the ones that compete each year for the Loebner Prize. Not that there’s anything wrong with those chatbots! We’re talking instead about a marginally conversational bot that lurks within chat-based collaboration spaces and chimes in if someone asks it something or requests it to take action.
Today Opus Research published my guest post on Hubot, the chatbot assistant that lives and works in Github’s collaboration space. The post is based on a great article by Cade Metz in Wired. Read the full post to find out more about the interesting life and times of Hubot and to speculate about what this recent breed of chatbot means for the future of intelligent assistance.
Personal assistants are coming to the enterprise; it’s just a matter of when and how. I published a guest blog post on Opus Research’s site today about Microsoft’s acquisition of the small organizational analytics company Volometrix.
Volometrix provides software that helps employee’s track and improve several key areas of productivity. Check out the blog post to learn more about how Volometrix’s software works and what Microsoft’s acquisition might foretell about the future of intelligent assistants (or even intelligent personal advisors) within the enterprise.