Amazon is progressing on its Alexa for Business strategy, developing new applications and forging third-party integration partnerships to equip its virtual assistant to help companies "voice-enable their spaces, corporate applications, people and customers," Amazon CTO Werner Vogels wrote in a blog post.
Vogels called Alexa for Business a "management layer" for voice-driven applications in workplaces, and described how it could be used as a virtual administrator for meetings by integrating with employees’ calendars, reserving conference rooms, setting up dial-in details for remote attendees, configuring equipment like conference room lights and projector screens, and managing other functions.
He also stated that Alexa already can interact with widely-used corporate applications such as Salesforce, Concur, ServiceNow and others. Amazon also is allowing IT developers to use the Alexa Skills Kit to incorporate voice interfaces for their own custom corporate applications.
Amazon announced Alexa for Business late last year, along with details of how a beta customer — co-working space operator WeWork — was using the service in the conference rooms of its New York City office.
For the most part, Vogels’ blog post doesn’t offer a lot of specific details about Alexa for Business capabilities beyond what we already might have anticipated. The application examples he outlined are more or less what we already were told or assumed, and even the notion that private developers could use a kit to integrate Alexa with their own corporate apps was already pretty clear.
The newest information in the post appears to be the short list of existing corporate enterprise applications Alexa for Business has been integrated with. Those integrations — with Salesforce, Concur and others — are absolutely necessary integrations for Amazon to make Alexa as successful in the corporate enterprise market as in the consumer market.
The blog post also promoted Amazon’s appearance at the Enterprise Connect communication and IT conference in Orlando this week, including a keynote by Collin Davis, whose team works on Alexa and who Vogels said will "have more to share about the advances we're seeing in this space, and what we're doing to help our customers be successful in a voice-enabled era."
Vogels’ description of Alexa for Business as a "management layer" for the voice-enabled business enterprise makes it clear the kind of role the company is looking for Alexa to fill in the business market. It is not looking to replace applications that already serve this market well, but rather work with them. Vogels predicted, "The next generation of corporate systems and applications will be built using conversational interfaces."
Being a management layer is something Alexa does well in the consumer market, whether it's a management layer for a smart home, a connected car or apps on a smartphone. What that means is Amazon may not have to completely transform Alexa for it's business market foray.