Unit4’s AI-powered ‘translator’ boosts people productivity in multinational teams

Utrecht, Netherlands, 

Unit4 announces today the release of a beta version of a new Wanda assistant designed to boost people productivity by preventing the cultural misunderstandings that occur in multinational teams. Wanda is Unit4’s enterprise digital assistant released early last year.

Multinational and cross-cultural teams provide a diverse knowledge base and new, insightful approaches to business problems. However, along with the benefits of insight and expertise, Unit4 wants to tackle the stumbling blocks faced when employees from different countries speak to one another.

Affectionately named – ‘EasySpeak’ - the project has undergone a testing phase at Unit4, expanding the AI capabilities delivered through its Wanda Chatbot service to a group of employees around the world. It is the first company to create a bot-driven service that sits within existing messaging apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger, and sends notifications and suggestions to the receiver in real-time during online meetings and other interactions.

"Effective communication is essential to the success of any business venture, but it is particularly critical when there is a real risk of your message getting lost in translation," said Stephan Sieber, CEO of Unit4. "What is common and accepted for a professional from one country, is very different for a colleague from overseas. We’ve developed a solution that recognizes these language hurdles and cultural differences and ensures what people say is interpreted accurately, so we can avoid misunderstandings and arrive at conclusions more quickly. The intelligence we can derive from today’s technology is incredible, and what we’re announcing today marks a new era in enterprise productivity."

Wanda uses AI and Microsoft Azure’s language recognition technology. The EasySpeak assistant has been programmed with thousands of assumptions about different cultures which it uses as intelligence when analyzing the sentiment of a conversation, alerting the recipient to potential misunderstandings. It also runs an empathy engine which helps it learn how to react sympathetically to a situation to save the communicator’s feelings.  

“What’s really cool is that through the Machine Learning technology built-in, Wanda can self-learn and has therewith become a real empathy engine,” said Sieber. “While it is early days for the project, we are already seeing massive spikes in productivity. The Unit4 pilot phase has gone well and feedback can be interpreted very positively.”

Wanda EasySpeak is programmed based on common interpretations of what people in one country say and what they really mean, for example, in the UK when people say, ‘That is interesting’, it is often meant as a dismissal. So the comment, ‘That is an interesting proposal’ could well mean, ‘I think you are crazy.’

Unit4 has built a number of different operating modes and additional functionality into the solution:

EasySpeak Reader – for re-interpreting the meaning of emails. 

EasySpeak Listener – provides text prompts to the listener in real time during a conversation. 

EasySpeak Moderator - provides voice intervention in real time to a conference call group to avoid misunderstandings (and apologizes for barking dogs and other background noise).

Discrete Mode - on screen notifications and alerts based on what is said and heard.

Intervention Mode – as above but with an audible alert encouraging the speaker to restate his previous sentence, this time more clearly, or less rudely. 

Productivity Mode – EasySpeak assesses how long it will be before a presenter/speaker will get to the point based on cultural norms and the individual speaker’s previous data.

Following a successful pilot project among its global employees, Unit4 wants to extend the benefits of Wanda EasySpeak to other organizations. Companies interested can subscribe for the Unit4 EasySpeak beta starting 1 April. 

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Emma Keates

Global Head of Communications

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