The most useful robot personal assistants in 2017 don’t look like The Jetsons’ robotic maid, Rosie. Instead, they’re invisible outside of their artificial intelligence (AI)-driven impact. The popularity of chatbots in external and internal business contexts is exploding—and we’re pretty excited about it. Even if these bots can’t personally bring you a perfect cup of tea, they can revolutionize the way you collaborate.
Chatbots are service-oriented tech “powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface,” in the words of AI entrepreneur Matt Schlicht. Amazon is just one brand to jump with both feet into supporting access to bots. In fact, they’ve recently opened their machine learning AIs behind their image recognition products, text-to-speech functionality, and Alexa, the virtual assistant for the Echo.
Chatbots are wicked convenient and have the potential to support massive productivity gains within your organization. Your team can turn your distributed productivity and collaboration apps into a single, cohesive network with robots. (Yes, we’re in the future now. Welcome.)
Most of us have already had a few interactions with messaging bots and other forms of interactive language recognition. The technology is incredibly sophisticated, and its amazing capabilities definitely aren’t limited to academic research labs. According to Laurie Beaver, research associate for Business Insider:
- Chat AI can currently have “increasingly engaging and human” conversations.
- With messaging interactions, bots are an intuitive component of the mobile experience.
- You can also utilize chatbots to build a robust ecosystem of interactive apps.
In fact, the technology is now so widely available that 20 million people are interacting with the friendly Xiaoice (pronounced Shao-ice), Schlict reported. When a journalist interviewed this “17-year-old girl,” she displayed normal human reactions, such as embarrassment and ultra-realistic language processing. She’s so popular that tech director Yongdong Wang described her as “the largest Turing test in history.”
Putting AI to work
IT pros aren’t the only ones who’re tired of juggling project management software, team chat, email, reporting tools, and every other app on their plate. It’s a fever that’s affected every knowledge worker—and it results in damaged efficiency from switching between apps when all you wanted to do was manage information and collaborate with coworkers.
IT pros may be the guiltiest of the “slap an app on it” approach to solving workplace needs, but too many platforms can drag down your productivity. Netskope research found the average enterprise employee used 935 apps—within a single quarter. Ouch. Fortunately, chatbots can help with your not-imaginary feelings of app fatigue.
1. Efficient data retrieval
How many times have you needed to log into your VPN, open the right app, and click around to simply remember when a deadline was coming up? Info retrieval and verification are major parts of the work we do, especially in the off-hours at home and when we’re answering employee questions.
With messaging-based bots, your process to double-check when your endpoint security risk analysis is due to your boss is going to get a lot faster. Chat-based bots are built to quickly scan and retrieve data across multiple apps, so reconciling information between several platforms could soon become obsolete as they improve at complex queries. How much time could you save if a messaging robot answered all your questions for you?
2. Contextual info
Messaging isn’t the only function of chat AI that can drive collaborative value. Imagine if you were messaging a coworker about an ongoing project and the chatbot pulled contextual info directly into your app. Your bot could instantly remind you that you aren’t actually available for an 11 a.m. meeting on Tuesday, because your calendar says so. It could also silently insert a link to a document you’re discussing with a project partner. With context-based language processing, they’re happy to do the legwork for you.
3. Help desk ticketing and user insights
What if your complaints to a coworker were silently transferred into an error report by a chatbot and escalated? In fact, what if the bot’s natural propensity for language processing allowed your IT to actually understand how your users feel about your applications and tech? Understanding trends in end user complaints and compliments would paint a richer picture of how people actually feel about your business solutions.
As Forbes‘ Daniel Newman points out, AI can make the distinction between simple issues and problems that needs escalation to a real-live human. Your help desk employees may never take another call about how to restart a computer again!
4. Joining disparate apps
Manual user setup is a chore, and information inconsistencies are the worst. App fatigue can mean sloppy data consistency, and expensive integration isn’t always the right answer. Besides, poor identity governance isn’t just confusing and a barrier to collaboration—it’s a real risk for your organization. Chat-based bots can push user information and permissions out to all the right apps. They can also let you know if your project management and budgeting software contain conflicting information.
Not only does the idea of chat-based AI acting as a cloud over your organization boost productivity, it may also have security benefits. A bot’s ability to recognize unusual behaviors from a device or user profile could help you connect the dots if you’re ever faced with device theft or brute-forced user credentials by a cybercriminal.
Countless organizations and knowledge workers have hit the app ceiling—the point at which their productivity and collaboration tools have become more of a barrier than a benefit. If going through the machine learning motions to build a chatbot from the ground up sounds like a massive undertaking, you’re right. Fortunately, there are a few businesses working to deploy affordable, ready-made solutions for you.