If you visit a Singapore government website in the near future, chances are you’ll be using a chatbot to access the services you need, as part of the country’s Smart Nation initiative. In Australia, Deakin University students now access campus services using its ‘Genie’ virtual assistant platform, made up of chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), voice recognition andpredictive analytics.
There’s significant hype about chatbots, but examples like these demonstrate how the rapid entrance of this technology into the market is having real impact. Chatbots are essentially the “apps” of voice and messaging platforms, defining how people converse with your digital business services and data.
Speaking ahead of the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit in Sydney, Magnus Revang, research director at Gartner, said the broad appeal of chatbots stems from the efficiency and ease of interaction they create for employees, customers or other users. The potential benefits are significant for enterprises and shouldn’t be ignored.
“While most of the chatbot hype focuses on customer-facing scenarios, there are significant benefits for employees too,” Revang said. “Chatbots need to be included in mobile app strategies to get ahead of this trend or it will disrupt patterns of employee interaction with no enterprise involvement.”
Four potential uses of chatbot platforms that exist in enterprises today include:
- Call center help desk: Specialized chatbots can potentially reduce the number of help desk workers, by facilitating the handling of routine requests via automated chatbot responses.
- ChatOps approvals: A change in a back-end record will trigger an event, which can cause a message to be delivered to an enterprise messaging or workflow environment requesting an employee responds to “approve,” “deny” or “defer” in the app.
- Equipment diagnostic inventory management: When implemented in conjunction with Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, warehouse workers can be notified when a product is out of stock, or if a shipment has arrived at the loading dock that contains out-of-stock items.
- Chatbot scheduling agent: Requires both the use of AI and bot-to-bot communication. The chatbot will likely call another bot that uses AI to initiate a messaging stream combined with calendar access, in an effort to find open time on multiple calendars.
Where to start
When considering potential uses, first assess the impact on resources. There are two options here: replacement or empowerment. Replacement is clearly easier as you don’t need to consider integration with existing processes and you can build from scratch. Empowerment enhances an existing process by making it more flexible, accommodating, accessible and simple for users.
Also, consider the innovation potential. Business transformation often mandates, and certainly benefits from, solutions that use existing processes. However, more innovative solutions often require a new process or processes to improve productivity.
To add chatbots to your mobile application strategy:
- Evaluate the current bot frameworks for possible use in the enterprise, both for their applicability to business tasks and for the benefits they offer employees in efficiency and ease of use.
- Deploy at least one bot framework internally and begin to actively develop bots to assess use, with a focus on current pain points in business applications.
- Combine the use of chatbots and event-driven programming models that will watch for changes in state for existing enterprise databases and applications, to migrate business processes from user initiated to user response actions.