December 1, 2016
Chatbots have taken over the public imagination, but this trend has been more pronounced in the consumer space. The day when you can order your groceries from the amazon home device isn’t far, but it looks like enterprises are beginning to see the value and ride the trend too. While the thought seems to have planted, it looks like it will be a while before we start to see the real chatbots. For example, chatbots that enable you to submit your timesheets for the week and manage your resources with simple instructions – whether by voice commands or by using chat, seems to be on the horizon, but not as close to reality as chatbots in the consumer space.
Enterprise software tends to be clunky, heavy and complex. This is all the more reason why the introduction and integration of chatbots into these systems could in fact simplify these mammoth applications. The ability to perform tasks specific to the enterprise world, either by voice or by chat – this is essentially what chatbots mean to the enterprise. Because of the complexity of enterprise solutions and the fact that enterprise are certainly not driven by trends, but more by an actual need and tend to implement solutions that are tried and tested, chatbots make perfect sense. Maybe it won’t be too far in the future when your team of 60+ people can decide on where to go for lunch without confusing polls just by using the chatbots that integrate with an existing internal messaging platform that your company already uses.
The integration of these chatbots with existing systems will be crucial to the success of enterprise bots. Having a chatbot that is unable to recognize information from other enterprise applications is of little value. For example, as the CIO of your company, after weeks of travel, if your chatbot is helping you submit your travel bills, it should still be able to understand that you were say, traveling to a different country and be super intelligent in a way that it is able to send out automatic replies to emails while you are in the air on a flight. These chatbots will have to keep their focus on security rather high, integrate with other systems within the enterprise, learn and grow using machine learning capabilities and bring simplicity to the enterprise.
To explore what chatbots mean to the enterprise, let’s take a look at some typical areas of enterprise software and how chatbots could make a difference in each of those areas.
Beginning with increasing organizational productivity – What does it mean to increase productivity? Organizations want to help you focus on work that is core to your job. If you have a complex set of files and meeting requests to schedule, upload and maintain, it takes away from the time that you could spend bringing value to your customer. Chatbots in the enterprise that are geared towards increasing productivity will automate activities that tend to eat up your time. Take for example a world where right after your trip half way around the world, all you have to do is take pictures of your bills on your iphone and tell your chatbot the moment you return to your office to upload the bills to the accounting and payment processing portal on your website. Imagine your bot is able to tell the bills apart – the travel bills from the lunches and automatically posts everything for you. Imagine how much time you can spend preparing for the meeting with the next big client.
Imagine a sales representative heading to a sales meeting with a potential client. Imagine the day he is able to tell his chatbot, Hey, I forgot the name of the school his son goes to, and the chat bot is able to search for that information and also tells you that his son won an award in a recent competition held in that school. The value of a transaction like that enabled by chatbots is phenomenal.
Being able to use NLP and business intelligence to gather the exact information any enterprise worker need without digging through multiple resources will be a key characteristic of the Enterprise BI bot. If you can through simple voice commands narrow down which parts of your business need improvement and which parts are performing well and why, without hours of number crunching and data analysis, imagine what a world of possibilities that could open up. Imagine the potential of an intelligent system that can use machine learning capabilities to predict and understand what your next question might be, take a step ahead and answer that for you too.
Managing information in organizations is a difficult task. Content takes on so many varied forms from so many varied sources. You could have useful information stashed away in your email, in Sharepoint sites, in social platforms that your company uses, in chats you exchange with your colleagues.. The day we have a chatbot that knows where to look for information and connect disparate pieces logically to retrieve that information when you need it, you are talking about the next big step for enterprise searches. Imagine trying to retrieve the functionality of a specific feature in a product for which you have a ton of documentation and video recordings of training sessions. You have a meeting in the next hour and you are able to ask your chatbot about that piece of functionality and it comes back to you with information saying – I found this in the video on your laptop from June last year, but it might still be relevant, as I compared it with the most recent product release document. Doesn’t that sound like sci-fi come true? The day isn’t far.
HR chatbots can make a world of difference in various areas such as pre-recruitment, recruitment, onboarding, intra-company networking, networking with other professionals in the same line of work – these are areas where chatbots could easily serve as your personal digital assistant. Imagine a HR chatbot, helping you through your entire interview phase, through onboarding and finding the first set of resources you will need to begin work quickly. The possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, the application of the digital personal assistant in the enterprise space is phenomenal, but time will tell which of these have most value for the enterprise. We might begin to see a lot of these applications become a reality sooner than we imagine. On to a better, braver world where all we focus on is bringing value and at a faster pace. Chatbots are all set to get us there