In almost every company I’ve worked in over the last few years, there has always been one constant: Slack was the go-to internal communications platform. This is also the case for all of us who work at Doodle too. So if we need to check on project status updates, ask for materials and assets, announce new company and HR initiatives, or simply chat with fellow team members and colleagues, it’s all done on Slack. No one sends emails.
Remote work life could be made ten times easier by giving integrations on Slack an AI-powered boost. Our product team always has their ears to the ground, observing what’s going on in workplaces and adding new functionalities to our platform that adapt to the changing circumstances. And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Our beloved Doodle Bot, who lives in Slack, now has a Book it! feature.
While I could wax on poetically about the beauty and sophistication of this new feature, I really wouldn’t do it justice. So I sat down with one of our product managers, Netali Jakubovitz. She offered some fresh and thought-provoking perspectives on AI, smart technology and how these technological advancements will shape the new future of work.
Here’s excerpts from our conversation.
Do you believe AI in scheduling has historically been downplayed or overlooked, compared to other industries? Why do you think this is the case?
Netali: Scheduling is such a personal thing and it involves a series of negotiations. One person (the organizer) has to negotiate with several people (sometimes in the dozens) to agree on the subject/topic of meetings, which people are most critical for attendance, what outcomes need to happen as a result and a single day and time that works for every participant (across time zones). And consensus usually depends on personal preferences, behaviors and priorities.
For example, our data indicates that people often choose meeting day/time slots that actually conflict with their schedule (they’re already committed to attend another meeting). If a group meeting needs to be scheduled, and most participants are all available on a certain time slot, then we often see that the one person whose schedule is double-booked will often reschedule that meeting – just so they can accommodate the other 9 participants.
So while this may often occur, it’s usually a personal choice the user has made after the meeting negotiation has already begun. But if that user received a predictive suggestion to book a meeting during a time that is already committed to another meeting, it would have the exact opposite of the desired effect – the user would perceive the suggestion to be counterintuitive and not intelligent at all. Because machine learning is based heavily on human intuition, it can be challenging to teach machines to anticipate such behavioral changes.
How do you think AI (and the smart capabilities of the Book it! feature) could help remote workers make virtual meetings more productive?
Netali: In the workplace, time management has always been a key factor in employee productivity and performance. But it will be more important than ever right now, as many employees have to adjust from occasional remote work to full-time remote work. That was the impetus behind adding the AI-powered Book it! functionality to the Doodle Bot in Slack.
Years ago, the team at Doodle conducted a scheduling behavior experiment. We looked at how extensive, lengthy and varied the entire scheduling process can be – with and and without Doodle’s help. The results were compelling back then. For business meetings with six to eight participants, it could take upwards of 30 minutes to schedule meetings without Doodle. That number drops significantly (5 to 10 minutes) when using Doodle. With our new Book It functionality in the Doodle Bot on Slack, remote workers can save even more of their time. For instance, we calculated that it takes, on average, 1 minute and 38 seconds to book a meeting when using the Book it! feature (within the Doodle Bot on Slack).
This is a perfect example of how technology will play a key role in boosting employee productivity for remote workers. Those 10 to 20 extra minutes can be refocused and reinvested into brainstorming sessions, planning ahead of the next virtual meeting, or writing a monthly performance report. Most importantly, this time saved takes the burden and routine of scheduling off people’s brains – and lets them focus on being as collaborative and productive in the meeting itself.
Predicting and suggesting next steps (in the meeting scheduling process) will take the entire meeting planning burden off users and will extend beyond the scheduling part into the collaboration that takes place during the meeting and post-meeting follow-up. By letting AI take care of the mundane and time-consuming scheduling tasks, remote workers can focus on having more personal interactions with the people they’re meeting. That’s a win-win.
What does the future of scheduling look like at Doodle? Where will AI sit in the context of the product roadmap?
Netali: One of our larger visions – both as a company and as a SaaS product – is to be able to impact the entire meeting lifecycle. That means going beyond the scheduling element and also shaping the efficiency and effectiveness of meetings themselves. To do that, we envision a future where the meetings created on Doodle will provide robust analytics and insights into people management, recruitment and onboarding, employee performance and talent development.
What could this mean for businesses? Detailed meeting analytics could highlight patterns and trends that could prove valuable to HR teams, managers and leadership. For example, meeting analytics could reveal that an employee participates in critical meetings and proactively initiates 1:1 meetings with team members, colleagues from other departments as well as customers and partners. Is this employee also experiencing an uptick in productivity? Is their work being viewed as more creative and innovative due in large part to their increased collaboration and feedback from others? These are all questions that could be answered through robust meeting insights.
Plus, HR teams could use these types of analytics and insights to better understand their employees’ challenges and priorities – and subsequently map out a plan for improvement. Detailed meeting analytics that can point to trends in productivity, engagement, collaboration and even performance will be tremendously valuable to organizations.
Digital has become a central component of our lives today. That’s more true now than ever. So artificial intelligence is a natural progression to that, as it’ll make our lives simpler and more efficient.
To learn more about how the Book it! functionality works in the Doodle Bot, watch this video.