Business Writing Gets A Boost From Big Data

Business Writing Gets A Boost From Big Data

The digital age is nothing if not an ongoing revolution in communication – which, of course, powers innovation in payments, commerce and business operations.

Virtual mountains of data are accumulated and analyzed via web-enabled and mobile devices, with the speed of that process getting faster and faster (and faster still with new 5G mobile network technology deployments). Results are communicated instantly, removing friction from all types of transactions and making the completion of vital tasks more efficient. Sure, people might not actually talk on the phone too much these days, but that doesn’t mean they are easing up on their overall communication.

Excuse the verbosity, but there is a point: Digital technology and big data are transforming one of the most ancient forms of communication, writing – and in a way that could impact pretty much every business within a decade or so. At least that’s the view expressed in a new PYMNTS interview with Jensen Harris, CTO and co-founder at Textio, a company that sells augmented writing services.

Most people are familiar with augmented reality (AR) and how that technology is changing retail, and also probably how 5G deployments could provide more fuel to AR and virtual reality efforts. Augmented writing doesn’t have such a direct link to payments and commerce, but it is meant to more generally help out with core business operations, including marketing and hiring. It stands as yet another example of how digital technology is changing longstanding business methods.

Simply put, Harris told PYMNTS, “augmented writing is applying data to words. The difference between successful business writing and failing is the words that you use.”

In general, here is what augmented writing entails: By analyzing millions upon millions of words from actual communications – emails, cover letters, marketing copy and so on – machine learning can predict what types of words and sentences work best in a specific context. The data analysis keeps track of which messages lead to positive and desired results, Harris said. When someone is writing a message with the augmented writing technology in the background, the software helps the person select the right copy, learning from every keystroke in what Harris called a “positive learning loop.”

Think of it, perhaps, as a power-boosted, much more sophisticated version of the spelling and grammar check on your smartphone, or those response suggestions offered by email programs. The prime benefit of such technology, Harris said, is giving writers a clear idea of “how well your words are going to work ahead of time,” which can help boost productivity and confidence, and offer an automated way to break through writer’s block. After all, even professional, full-time writers sometimes get stuck and mishandle their words.

The idea behind this technology is not to put those professional writers out of business, Harris told PYMNTS. (If anything, the increasing need for content marketing copy has upped the demand for people who can write, either with or without such programs, though more of that work promises to become more automated over time.) Nor, he said, is augmented writing technology designed to be “the Great American novel generator.” (Good news for all those monkeys banging away at typewriters in hopes of accidentally creating a Shakespeare-level sonnet one day.)

The idea is to bring a new level of craft and efficiency to business communications, including job postings and candidate applications. The predictive engine that powers the technology can help produce more precise copy for those tasks, which can making hiring less of a hassle, and even less expensive over time. The technology also recognizes context and makes appropriate suggestions.

“The language that works in Denver is different from the language that works in New York or London or San Francisco,” Harris said. “The way you would talk to an engineer is different than the way you would talk to a fashion designer or someone in financial services.”

In a decade, he predicted, augmented writing technology will be mainstream among businesses and probably job candidates. The technology will be overlaid onto word processing programs, mobile apps and websites – basically, anywhere writing takes place. Harris said Textio already sells its augmented reality software to major enterprises – a group that includes McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson – and that seems a reasonable indication of the technology’s appeal to corporate culture.

Writing has changed so much since human beings started recording agricultural output, the thoughts of their gods and the rules and histories of their societies. Big data and digital technology promise to fuel the next progressions for this communication method.


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