The Digital Workplace is transforming into the Intelligent Workplace — and fast. The technologies behind mainstream consumer bots and virtual agents (we’re talking to you, Siri and Alexa) are now making their way into the enterprise space. Buckle up, and get ready for the future of the workplace!
Welcome to the World of AI & Machine Learning
As we’re well aware, technologies equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) have the potential to empower both people and organizations to be more collaborative and effective. Unfortunately, most organizations aren’t leveraging them the way they should be.
So, what exactly are bots and virtual agents?
Bots and virtual agents are two types of technologies powered by AI and machine learning. They allow users to interact with programs in order to get answers to common questions, and be guided towards various places to take action. Today, the capabilities of bots are expanding beyond simple-guided Q&A conversations, and offer the ability to transact with other systems. Advances in both spoken and typed natural language processing (NLP) have taken AI to new heights. NLP allows bots and agents to more easily derive a user’s intent from their query or demand, and interact with users outside of traditional conversational and transactional engagements.
How Bots Are Transforming Operations
We recently implemented a digital transformation for a large healthcare organization called Contoso Pharmaceuticals.* Contoso was struggling to keep up with requests hitting their internal IT, Marketing, and HR teams. Through our transformation engagement, we developed and deployed bots designed to help internal employees find answers to common questions, and access their systems using a simple conversational interface.
Three common scenarios for using bots in the workplace
At Contoso, Matt works for the IT department and is often tasked with processing IT requests for the his team. He starts his day by opening his Microsoft Teams application and navigating to the IT Support Team collaboration space. He finds the channel “Requests” and sees that three new requests have been submitted to his team. For each request, he replies and tells the Bot: “I am taking ownership of this request”. Matt has now been assigned the request and can interact directly with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM customer service application.
After assigning himself three requests, Matt opens his first one. After reading it through, he realizes he’s unsure how to approach resolving the request. Matt asks the virtual bot agent to check the company knowledge base for information on how to handle the issue. The agent finds an answer and suggest several alternative solutions for Matt to try. Matt continues to work on the case. Once resolved, he lets the virtual agent know, who then signals the system that he has completed that request.
Matt is starting to feel under the weather and determines that he may need to take off work to go to the doctor. Matt opens the Contoso intranet and navigates to the company bot. Matt asks the virtual agent, “How much time off do I have?” The bot then replies back, asking Matt for permission to connect to the HR System. He gives permission and is able to retrieve his Paid Time Off (PTO) balance. After only a few seconds, Matt is able to view his PTO and submit his request right then and there.
In this short example, we’ve demonstrated three use cases of how bots and virtual agents can transform the workplace. Common requests that require email communication, or interactions with complex platforms, can now be replaced with conversational bots that have direct access to back-end systems.
Looking for help implementing bots and virtual agents in your digital workplace/intranet? The IT specialists at Withum are here to help. Fill out our form online, or give us a call at 240-406-9960 to speak with someone today!
Hop on the bot train today, or get left behind
Organizations have always rolled out company-wide technology upgrades with the purpose of helping employees become more productive and engaged — the idea isn’t new. However, many initiatives end up failing. Rushed, incomplete designs, coupled with poor user experiences end up resulting in a cognitive overload for users; which ultimately diminishes productivity and defeats the purpose of the technological redesign in the first place.
Fueled by the recent, rapid development of Artificial Intelligence, NLP, and Robotics Process Automation (RPA), the implementation of bots and virtual agents have introduced a whole new type of user experience. Programs can more easily recognize spoken language, derive intent, and automate and complete routine tasks faster, and better than a human being. This results in efficient, streamlined processes that only require human input for exception handling, escalations, and the like.
Advanced bot technologies exist today, right now — but most organizations are only just starting to leverage their powerful capabilities. We expect that to change in the next 2 to 3 years. Our advice? Start experimenting with bots internally, and you’ll quickly find yourself in a good position to start rolling them out in a consumer context.
Using Enterprise Virtual Agents Internally
As it is often the case, growth in the consumer market drives demand in the enterprise marketplace. Integrating virtual agents internally within your organization will give you a huge competitive advantage as bot technologies become more and more suited for consumer-facing scenarios. Launching bots and agents internally allows your IT department to effectively manage any mistakes and/or issues that arise, without the risk of impacting your organization’s reputation or brand. Internal testing allows for experimentation and empowers employees to get comfortable with the technology.
As you consider leveraging bots and virtual agents to improve productivity, focus on the basics. Ask questions like:
What is the value proposition of each bot?
What is the dialog user journey?
Where is the bot being deployed?
Make sure there is a clear governance to avoid having virtual agents create more problems than they solve.
If you get the basics down pact, virtual agents will live up to their promise — delivering a powerful user experience, improving productivity, and transforming the efficiency of internal operations.
Looking for help implementing bots and virtual agents in your digital workplace/intranet? The IT specialists at Withum are here to help. Fill out our form online, or give us a call at 240-406-9960 to speak with someone today.