Guest Posts

Can You Hear Me Now? Voice Technology and Project Management

Written by: Beth Kotz


Language is the bridge to understanding; spanning the distance from one person’s thought to another’s action. The right words, spoken at the right time, are often imperative to getting the job done.

But what if technology could facilitate this communication for us? Could software capable of recognizing, analyzing – even repeating – the human voice make project management more efficient? As improvements in voice recognition accuracy continue, we’re beginning to find out.

Rickety, Now Robust

Although speech recognition debuted at the 1962 World’s Fair (recognizing 16 spoken words), it was not until the 1990’s that Dragon released the first consumer voice recognition software. And it was not until Google created a system that could match the user’s words to the massive database of word sounds it had created that speech recognition became a practical way to interface with computerized systems.

Today, innovation continues to accelerate. With more data, stronger computation, and more sophisticated modeling approaches (or deep learning) the speech accuracy gap is finally closing in. This ability is at the heart of the Amazon Echo, a system so robust that even a 6 year-old can operate it. The technology has also become almost ubiquitous in customer service telephone systems and has made significant inroads in the field of health care. Voice recognition technology is now poised to make its most significant impact, and project managers stand to reap the benefits it brings to the table.

Dictation, Much More

Everyday, project managers need to make sense of information and use it to drive intelligent action. They also generate information that needs to be communicated to stakeholders. Dictating emails and memos instead of sitting at a keyboard is incredibly efficient. In a recent survey, 59 percent of project managers believe that automation, including voice recognition software, will relieve them of the burden of routine daily tasks.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Successful project managers have learned from experience and have war stories that equip them to deal with unexpected situations. This human knowledge has been difficult to transfer to other project managers until now. Dictated records of personal experience of other project managers coupled with the ability to explain a situation to a search engine and get back those accounts can revolutionize project management.

Much, Not All

Coupling voice recognition and a robust database still does not tap the full potential of this concept. A refined Artificial Intelligence (AI) program can assist in decision making. It can also offer the project manager refined business acumen. Because of the complexity of the situations a project manager faces on a daily basis, voice recognition software is necessary to refine both database and AI searches.

Still, project management is so much more than just running numbers or making judgment calls. Effective project management requires a robust set of inter-personal and interactive skills. Empathy and understanding play as great a role as financial analysis in bringing a project to a successful conclusion. These skills will never be added to a database, and exist in AI only in science fiction.

Dreams, or Reality?

A database of project manager experiences that can be searched through a voice interface is not a current reality either. However, the ability to dictate notes on a project and share those notes in text format with others does exist. The only element missing from the equation is the willingness of project managers to participate.

That participation will come with time as voice recognition technology inevitably invades the work environment. As inefficient typing is dislodged by efficient voice dictation, project managers will become more comfortable using it on a day-to-day basis. If other technology fulfills its promise and relieves managers of mundane duties, project managers may find they have been given the opportunity to create the raw material for this database.

The present level of functionality is just the beginning of what’s to come in the future. Whether you’re just beginning to consider the voice tech trend or have already embraced it, keep your ear to the ground for updates in this fast-changing space.


Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.


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