Have you tried scheduling a meeting with someone where they say, “Sure, have my assistant find time in my schedule.” Suddenly you sit up a little straighter in your chair. An assistant? You think, They must be really important. You nod enthusiastically while subconsciously smoothing a crease in your shirt. This hypothetical exchange happened over email, by the way.
Having a personal assistant is often a signal that you’re a member of the professional elite. The connotation is that only C-level executives and VPs are “worthy” of their own personal assistant handling their schedule.
But ask yourself this: How many meetings do you have a week? Subsequently, how much time do you spend each day handling the back and forth scheduling of said meetings? The average meeting requires 3.5 emails to schedule. So if you are scheduling approximately 8 meetings a week, spending 3-5 minutes crafting each email, that equates to about an hour a week. If you work 5 days a week, that averages out to an entire day each month of simply scheduling meetings.
In short, personal assistants are not just for CEOs. Turns out, everyone could use the help.
Rise Of The Knowledge Worker
The term “knowledge worker” has come to be used to describe the subset of laborers that typically deal in information, as opposed to physical labor. The skillset has loosely been outlined as the ability to “analyze information and apply expertise in a variety of areas to solve problems, generate ideas, or create new products and services.”
Essentially, anyone with a desk job is considered a knowledge worker. Some estimates show that there are more than 87 million knowledge workers in the U.S. alone. With a workforce that is increasingly reliant on information technology, knowledge workers are only becoming more prevalent.
Only a tiny subset of knowledge workers are senior enough to warrant the expense of a human personal assistant, yet the need for the assistant skillset transcends title seniority. In short, all knowledge workers are performing scheduling tasks, emailing back and forth, and other tasks performed by personal assistants.
Robots To The Rescue
There is a growing movement of tech pioneers developing new solutions for the personal assistant dilemma. These digital “helpers” are artificial intelligence that can take the form of a calendar, a scheduler, or even a personal butler.
These new tech solutions for personal assistants are re-allocating all of those hours of wasted productivity doing email back-and-forth back to deep work. “Scheduling meetings, booking travel, managing your receipts, and repetitive sales tasks are among the plethora of chores we must do everyday,” explains Dennis Mortensen, CEO and Founder of automated scheduler x.ai. He goes on, “These are most certainly not core to our jobs and often distract us from the high value tasks, like cultivating a lead or sharpening our analysis of our customers.”
These automated personal assistants are also improving efficiency. As Oscar Triscon, creator of Butler for Trello, puts it, “Automation can bring consistency in processes, which reduces errors and distractions caused by anomalies. For routine things, the less clicks you need to do and the less things you need to remember, the more time you have to do more creative, productive stuff.”
Even human personal assistants have adopted bots to their workflow. Connie Nagele is a virtual assistant (and real human) that manages 5-7 clients remotely with tasks such as bookkeeping, data entry, and calendar management. She also relies on automation to do her job better.
Connie explains, “Clients using my service rely on me to be reliable, accurate, organized, creative, proactive and efficient. By automating simple things like creating recurring tasks, to more complex commands that track completed tasks and writing a weekly "Report" for my clients, I am able to do more work which translates into more billable hours.”
So who are these shiny new robots taking on these menial tasks? Let’s meet them:
Virtual Assistant Bot Spotlight
X.ai:Meet Amy and Andrew, human-like artificial intelligence bots that handle your meeting schedule. All you have to do is copy them on an email correspondence, and they take over the schedule back-and-forth with the person you are meeting.
Amy and Andrew speak in fluid, personable language and are able to understand nuanced wording, so their correspondence feels human.
Butler For Trello:Butler is a fascinating automation tool built specifically for Trello. Simply add @butlerbot to your board, then give commands in plain English that will then be carried out automatically:
You can ask Butler to add or remove labels, schedule due dates (even recurring ones), add, remove, or rename checklists, create new boards and cards, among a wealth of other useful Trello actions.
Slackbot:Slackbot is arguably one of the most powerful “reminder” assistants, and a huge boon to users of Slack. Simply type a “/” forward slash and your command and Slackbot will take over. Some command examples could be to answer messages you viewed but didn’t have time to respond to at that moment, or a recurring reminder to add/change/check something every Monday.
The success of these reminder chatbots has clearly inspired other platforms to adopt this for its users. Chatbots are now cropping up on Facebook messenger, among others.
Cleo:Cleo is a money manager bot programmed to keep track of spending, balances, and recurring bills. You can communicate with Cleo via text message, and there is also an online dashboard for a bigger picture on your finances.
Cleo is using AI, so chatting with this bot feels like a conversation with a real live money manager. The app also operates in real time, so you’re always kept up to speed!
Mezi:Mezi is a personal shopping assistant that also leverages AI to demonstrate a natural language, conversational way to interact with e-commerce platforms. One popular way to use Mezi is as a travel agent to help you book, reserve, and cancel reservations for all your excursions.
Oh, and don’t forget gift giving! Or, even if you did forget a gift for someone, Mezi is sure to have you covered. Phew.
A conversation about the future of work inevitably includes automation. Tweet this
These tech pioneers are taking on the virtual helper space as a means to improving the overall satisfaction of knowledge workers, and ultimately improving the quality of their output.