Cisco Inc, the San Jose, California – based worldwide leader in IT and networking, has saved thousands of dollars after piloting new technology developed with Company-X, the Hamilton-based software specialist.
Company-X heard Cisco staff and contractors were struggling with time consuming text searches through terabytes of data. So, Company-X software developers James Brunskill and Caleb Dearlove set about building a solution to make searching simple for Cisco.
Every time one of Cisco’s 55,000 staff or 120,000 contractors across the world went looking for an answer about a product or service it cost the multi-national US$25 in lost productivity, said Cisco senior manager Ashela Webb. But that cost has been significantly reduced by the introduction of Cisco Answers Machine, which Company-X has developed with Cisco to instantly answer questions from staff with business-critical answers.
Over the year Brunskill and Dearlove developed the software that finds information in Cisco’s database and delivers an instant answer with a reference to the source.
Thousands of questions have been answered since.
An early version of Cisco Answers Machine was piloted three months ago with users rating the relevancy of the answers they received. In the majority of cases the answers were deemed helpful.
Webb said, “It’s one of our leading examples of innovation. We are getting a lot of value back out of Company-X.
“Cisco Answers Machine has reduced the number of hours engineers spend getting their questions answered.”
Brunskill described the software as a question answering system, based on a database of common questions and answers.
“You can interact with it using Cisco Spark, Cisco’s innovative business messaging platform, and via text message,” Brunskill said.
“We’ve been doing work applying Artificial Intelligence techniques to pull data from a variety of data sources across Cisco. As well as providing new ways to interact with the knowledge via voice, Cisco Spark, websites, and so on.”
Cisco Answers Machine is a great solution for answering frequently asked questions, Webb said.
“There’s certain pieces of information that are asked for over-and-over again. Like a publicly available price list. Do staff and contractors really want to go and search it on the website? Or, internally, how do I set my time off banner so other members of the team know that I am off the premises? Or can you hack one of our switches? We have got a 120-page PDF you can go through.
“It’s been amazing working with Company-X. They are really good at finding the use case that will be most useful given the constraints of any particular project.”
“We hope to grow Cisco Answers Machine to the point that devices that we sell will have their own Cisco Answers Machine that you can text a question to and get an instant answer.”
Cisco and Company-X are working on making the solution voice activated, and have already done some demonstrations.
“The one big challenge with voice is how you authenticate it,” Webb added. “We are just trying to understand how it deals with accent, acronyms, and Cisco’s business language. All of those things are really interesting.”