Panel Shows How to Run Speech Solutions in Lean Times

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NEW YORK — If you want to get your management team to commit to a speech solution in the midst of a recession, then you’re going to have to have a clear “automation road map,” said Harkishin Nachnani, manager of voice user interface design and speech science at Convergys.

During his breakout session August 24, Nachnani pointed to recent findings from Datamonitor that show enterprise investments in information technology are stagnant or receding. When companies are cash-strapped, big capital investment is a hard sell, he said, despite the fact that “we know speech saves money.”

For Nachnani, making that difficult sale relies in part on making a strong business case with demonstrated value. He laid out that value in what he called “the automation road map,” a graph divided into phases of implementation and spread along two axes that show savings over time and automation percentage rates. In his road map, the savings from one phase pay for the next, allowing the enterprise to continue expanding automation over time without accelerating investment.

In the first phase of the map, Nachnani focused on “no-brainer” applications—those that are low-complexity and have high and quick return on investment. In normal economic conditions, “most companies start out with transactional applications,” he said, but added that “during tough times you don’t have to start with transactional. You can start with prebuilt, off-the-shelf applications that allow for early gains.” Successive gains are more modest and focus on high-complexity/high-savings applications, followed by low-complexity/low-savings applications, he said.

Nachnani also recommended that enterprises look into hosted models for initial savings and try to negotiate with vendors that are flexible with their pricing plans and willing to enter into risk-reward contracts.

Dan Reed, corporate vice president at Voxify, who also spoke at the session, was equally sober in his presentation. He began by laying out the economic climate in a PowerPoint presentation lush with explosions and siren sound effects. Painting a bleak picture at first, he focused attention on getting the most value from a solution as the recession takes it toll.

Reed identified “the top 10 speech crimes” perpetrated in the midst of the economic downturn. Among them are “ransom note-like user interfaces” that are cluttered with a patchwork of different typefaces, fonts, colors, etc.; post-deployment review (Reed says that enterprises should be able to review solutions during early testing); glacial reactive responses rather than proactive responses; and the inability to deliver a cross-channel experience.

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