FinancialForce debuts voice-activated ERP assistant at Dreamforce

As voice-activated assistants like Alexa become more commonplace, expect to see more enterprise applications, the company says.

Amazon Echo devices are primarily thought of as consumer devices for the home, but the cloud enterprise resource planning company FinancialForce has developed a new way to make the voice-activated assistant Alexa useful for work.

FinancialForce, which runs entirely on Saleforce's platform, demonstrated its new ERP intelligent assistant at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, Calif., this week. FinancialForce customers can use Alexa to do things like check the status of deliverables, run reports, and respond to business information through simple voice commands. They can also build their own use cases without having to code anything, FinancialForce CTO Andy Fawcett explained.

"I got away with writing a very small amount of code," he explained at Dreamforce -- specifically, just over 130 lines of NodeJS code. From there, Kevin Roberts, director of platform technology at FinancialForce, used the Visual Workflow tool on the Salesforce Platform to create new Alexa skills.

The Visual Workflow tool "embodies what makes the platform so successful," Fawcett said. "Somebody that's got a great idea can often feel like they need a developer to make it happen," but with Salesforce's "clicks not code" tools, "you can make some great applications without any code."

The first use case FinancialForce developed involves aggregating information around a news feed. A user can tell Alexa, "Ask FinancialForce for the news" and get useful business information. So far, other use cases include asking Alexa about a specific customer to get a summary of that account and talking to Alexa in a conversational way to make a vacation request.

Fawcett expects that as voice-activated assistants become more commonplace, there will be greater expectations to use them for enterprise purposes. "Blurring the line between enterprise and consumer makes us a little more productive," he said. "I certainly see it moving into an enterprise direction."

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