I recently published an article called 8 Productivity Tools Illustrate You Have Way More Time Than You Think and this got the attention of Jack Hirsch, CEO and co-founder of Butter.ai and former VP of Product and Engineering at Evernote. He pointed out two related articles from The Washington Post and Fast Company that highlight how between 40% to 60% of your day is spent dealing with interruptions and another 20% is wasted trying to find information (according to McKinsey). 

"Our research has shown that it costs at least 7 minutes to respond to a teammate's simple request for a document," says Hirsch. "While a few minutes here and there doesn't sound too bad, consider the ripple effect of one distracted teammate not having the best answer, and your natural next step to ask someone else for help."

The Growing Trend of Interruptions Looking for Digital Files   

The average enterprise is now using as many as 1,000 cloud apps. And personal cloud storage continues to grow. In 2017, as many as 1.8 billion people are using cloud storage and 1.2 billion files per day are being uploaded to Dropbox alone. What gets most of the attention these days is usually the security risk of keeping company data in external services such as Dropbox. What's rarely discussed is the growing toll on your company's productivity due to the usage of so many of these cloud apps. 

Think about the favorite app you use at work. Perhaps it's GMail, Evernote, Excel or Slack. Now think about how your coworkers would answer that question. Chances are, your favorite work app is different than your coworkers, and your company is worse off because of all these cloud apps and the accompanying fragmented cloud storage.

While using your own favorite set of apps and cloud storage might make you feel more productive, it makes finding the stuff you need to do your work more difficult, frustrating and sometimes impossible. To make matters worse, with everyone stashing files in their favorite places, you coworkers can't find your stuff and vice versa. That's because your team's data is fragmented across apps and locked up in document silos that are not obvious to your coworkers. When we can't find something, our natural instinct is to ask our coworkers where something is, and this is contributing to yet another daily work distraction.

Deploying Artificial Intelligence to Solve This Problem

Hirsch co-founded  Butter.ai to reverse this growing trend of daily interruptions and being unproductive when it comes to document location and collaboration. He has deployed the power of machine learning and chatbots in an effort to stamp out the request to locate and send over files that, in most companies, are dispersed across a myriad of cloud apps and cloud storage locations.

Unlike customer service chatbots, Butter.ai is intended to be an internal service that your coworkers can use to quickly locate, share and access the files they need regardless of what app was used to create the document or where in the cloud it is stored. 

As Hirsch explains:

"Imagine a world where instead of digging through multiple apps, share drives or wikis, you could just ask an AI assistant for help finding what you need without distracting your team. While chatbots have a long way to realize their full potential, we've found that they're great at two very specific things: understanding simple commands and always being available. What could be simpler than finding a document anytime, no matter where it lives?"

When you examine the growth of We Work and the growing Gig Economy, it is clear that centralized systems and process are giving way to the disruptive forces of cloud applications and cloud storage. AI may not be the only solution to this mass fragmentation issue, but it's clear we need new organizing principles to take back all that wasted time searching for and sharing the files we create.