Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
 

Alexa for Business: What IT Pros Need to Know

Alexa for Business: What IT Pros Need to Know
By

Amazon is aiming to integrate voice commands anywhere at work.

Credit: Zapp2Photo/ShutterstockCredit: Zapp2Photo/ShutterstockAmazon has officially unveiled Alexa for Business, ushering voice commands into the office in a way that hasn't been seen before. Amazon's goal is to streamline repeated, mindless corporate tasks like setting reminders, joining video calls, ordering new office supplies, reporting broken equipment and giving office directions. According to Amazon, this means workers will save time and be able to direct their efforts to more important, demanding tasks.

Of course, Alexa may have already made its way into the office. There are a bunch of different business-oriented skills Alexa had before the official Alexa for Business roll out. For example, workers could set up skills, integrate their email or calendar with Alexa through IFTTT, or mange to-do lists. But now Amazon has added an entire Alexa for Business Console so IT workers can effectively manage Alexa devices in the office.

How it works

There are two device categories for Alexa for Business: shared and personal devices. Shared devices are placed in common areas around the office and can be used for a variety of general tasks such as giving directions to an employee's desk, changing the temperature within the building or ordering new office supplies. Personal devices are devices used by individual workers, or enrolled users. These devices can host customized features such as setting reminders, managing to-do lists or accessing individual calendars.

In addition to paying for new devices, Amazon is charging $3 per enrolled user per month and $7 per shared device per month. Anyone can use shared devices, so you don't have to pay for your whole office to be enrolled users. Enrolled users only need to be enrolled for personalized devices at work. For example, a company with 7 shared devices and 25 enrolled users – all using a personalized Alexa device – would cost $49 for the shared devices and $75 for the enrolled users. That's a total of $124 per month, in addition to however much money your company decides to spend on the physical Alexa devices as well.

Alexa can be found in the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Show, Echo Look, Tap, Fire TV, Fire Tablets and a host of non-Amazon hardware. The Amazon-specific hardware ranges from $40 to $230.

Alexa for Business console

This dashboard is the command center for your company's entire Alexa for Business experience. You can manage users or devices, add or remove skills on devices, manage video conferencing options, invite new users, manage corporate calendars and view shared devices. Amazon also provides detailed steps on its website to view and use these features.

Another way to manage Alexa for Business using the dashboard is to view the room profiles. You can assign a room to each shared device, marking its location and place in your office's ecosystem. Skill groups can then be added or removed from devices based on what room they are in. You can also enable custom skills for each user on each device, giving you control over who has access to which skills.

Amazon provides different skills and integrations with third-party apps to make your business run more efficiently, but you can also build your own skills and use Alexa for Business APIs. Once integrated with Alexa, these skills can be kept private for internal business use.

Overall, this dashboard will help you set up and implement this system for your business. The center is organized in an intuitive way so that it's easy to manage and adjust settings as your business's use of Alexa changes.

Video conferencing

A marquee feature launched by Amazon is Alexa's ability to set up video conferences. By integrating Alexa with a corporate calendar, you can start video conferences or conference calls simply by saying "Alexa, start the meeting." This means that you don't even need a meeting ID number or phone number to start a conference. Alexa can also turn video conferencing equipment on and off. Between the streamlined start and hands-off equipment approach, this feature will cut down on lost time setting up meetings.

Bottom line

Alexa for Business is a good tool that can be integrated easily into your business. From an administrative standpoint, the dashboard provides an easy, intuitive way to set up your office's Alexa devices. While it is easy to set up and can add some efficiency to your business, it likely won't revolutionize your company's workflow. It's good technology, but it's not clear yet whether adding full-scale Alexa systems into a day-to-day corporate environment will add convenience.