Earlier this week I attended Oracle Media Day, an event the company puts on for press and independent analysts to give them a glimpse at what the company is focused on currently. And as part of the day, live demos with hot technologies like augmented reality, drones and blockchain showcased new customer experiences that are right around the corner. But the one that caught my attention the most was a demo showing how an employee can use an Amazon Echo device integrated with Oracle’s HR application to ask Alexa how many vacation hours they have available, to request time off on a certain day, or even find out why there was extra money in their paycheck this period.
Integrating Alexa with Business Apps
I spoke with Sarika Ameerichetty, a solutions engineer with Oracle who led the demo, to learn more about how this was done, and how close we are to seeing more business apps integrating with voice platforms like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri hitting the mainstream. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. And for a first, part of the conversation is with Alexa herself. But it may be more interesting to check out the video to see the demo.
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Small Business Trends: Talk about the demo that you did around using Alexa to help somebody who’s looking for information about their available leave hours and how much they’re getting paid. About how voice and particularly Alexa is starting to help employees be able to get quick answers to tough questions.
Sarika Ameerichetty: We’ve been approached by a very large telecommunications organization for creating a solution where they can actually modernize their HR system. Their system is tedious. They have to log into large platforms and update their details. It’s only dedicated to one platform instead of omnichannel. So what we’ve done is we’ve solution leveraged and integrated various platforms like Alexa and Siri and iOS and mobile chat apps as well.
Small Business Trends: You were able to kind of showcase how somebody would use Alexa to do something like find out how much time they had available to take leave of absence or even finding information about why they got paid a certain amount.
Sarika Ameerichetty: Integrating the chat bot with Alexa is really feasible, because I will not always have access to the laptop or my mobile device. But, if I’m at home, I can just instantiate Alexa and start chatting with it and find out the information. For instance, if I have any pending approvals to do for one of my employees, I can just instantiate Alexa and start speaking with it and find out the information, and also approve any pending requests at the same time.
Small Business Trends: It’s so much easier to use your voice to make requests than it is to jump through hoops and go through a bunch of systems. Do you see this potentially impacting the way that employees in general get tough questions answered?
Sarika Ameerichetty: Definitely. I would say this is the best solution for the customers, because they can save a lot of time and the administrative teams can save a lot of time by doing this. With the flexibility of being at home or being at office, they can instantaneously get the answers from integrated Alexa. So I think that’s amazing.
Small Business Trends: Just out of curiosity, how much effort did it take for you guys to put that together?
Sarika Ameerichetty: It took less than two weeks to completely built this whole demo, for instance the web application, the Alexa integration, the iOS mobile app.
Small Business Trends: And what components within the Oracle Cloud were you using to help put that together?
Sarika Ameerichetty: Sure, so we are using an Oracle Intelligent Bot Cloud Service. We are also using Oracle Intelligent Service Cloud for the agent handoff. We’re using Oracle Mobile Cloud Service for hosting all the REST connectors, APIs. And we are also hosting the web application on the Oracle Application Container Cloud Service.
Small Business Trends: Very cool. Are we able to even try asking Alexa a question right now?
Sarika: Sure. Alexa, ask Andy for any pending approvals.
Alexa: You have one new approval awaiting your response. Would you like me to read it to you?
Alexa: Vacation request from Guy Matran for this Friday. Would you like to approve?
Sarika: What’s his vacation balance?
Alexa: Guy has eight days remaining of his 15 days. Would you like to approve the new request?
Alexa: Guy’s vacation request for this Friday is now approved. You have no more approvals.
Sarika: Alexa, stop.
Small Business Trends: Now you could have been a manager in your car, ’cause now you’re seeing Alexa being integrated into cars. So they could be doing whatever, their hands are tied up. But that’ll still allow them to go through and approve … do things like you just did.
Sarika Ameerichetty: Yes. It does.
Small Business Trends: That’s cool. So I’m wondering, now that you’ve gone through this, are you starting to see, or do you anticipate more interest as these kinds of things start coming to light, that other companies are going to be like, “Gosh, voice is actually a pretty good way to go with this stuff.”
Sarika Ameerichetty: Yes, we are actually getting a lot of requests for the voice integrations, compared to earlier. And we’ve been doing more integrations with Alexa. And large companies are really interested with this new platform, the voice platform. They want to just integrate it with their systems.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.