The Conversational Enterprise

Advances in cognitive technologies are making it possible to provide more accurate and relevant automated dialogues, giving rise to an increased use of chatbots for enterprise and B2B applications

By Farzin Shahidi, CEO, NextPlane

Over the last year, several organizations have launched chatbots for all kinds of niche services — from software applications that engage in natural-language dialogue with users — to provide basic customer service or send our calendar invites. And now, chatbots are completely replacing live agents in call centers or provide interactive assistance to customers visiting websites or using mobile apps. They can answer questions about products and services, schedule appointments, direct users to additional resources, and perform many other tasks.

Looking back the concept of digital assistants has always been available on our mobile devices — specifically smartphones and smartwatches with voice commands — and have slowly changed the way end users consume information or accomplish tasks. That technology, artificial intelligence, is nothing new, of course. Computers and machines solving problems and responding to their human counterparts has been going on for decades, and has been recognized as a trusted method of interaction in many critical workflows.

But now, as technology becomes the landscape, rather than just a piece of it, the use of AI and machine learning in the enterprise is growing steadily. Additionally, there are already some real-world use cases of AI progressing how we accomplish work in the enterprise, specifically through our mobile devices. Specifically, recent improvements in speech and language processing technologies are making chatbots more capable and prevalent than ever. For example, advances in speech recognition software are helping reduce word error rates; likewise, machine translation — the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another — has improved exceptionally from the early Siri days.

The Dawn of Chatbots In the Enterprise

Chatbots have several potential benefits over traditional modes of communication. First, they can simplify applications for users. For example, rather than navigating through an interface or website to find information, users can just say or type what they want. Users can also compress multistep tasks into a single command, such as, “Get my list of open opportunities this quarter, and send it to Tom.”

Second, the conversational UIs that chatbots offer may require little to no training, given that they understand and can interpret natural language and translate it into actions. Third, users can leverage chatbots to operate several business applications at once. For example, users can activate multiple chatbot actions in conversation with team members at the same time either with individual users or in a group messaging session.

Combined, those benefits allow for non-expert users to interact with many complex applications in an intuitive fashion from a single interface. This gives rise to powerful automation opportunities, where chatbots trigger actions and orchestrate processes across a range of applications through the course of dialogue in natural language. The business impacts can include reducing costs by increasing self-service, improving end-user experience and satisfaction, delivering relevant information faster, and increasing compliance with internal procedures.

Overall, enabling humans to communicate with systems and vice versa with low friction and natural interactions using message-based interfaces will only increase our dependency on chatbots.

Join the Conversation

The Economist sees bots as the next frontier, TechCrunch announces that we should forget apps as bots are taking over, many commenters see them as a keystone technology for the IT industry going forward, underlining the obvious trend that we are approaching a massive shift towards the AI-enablement of enterprise applications. Once business applications are enabled with a conversational UI for simple tasks with predefined rules, the next leap will be the introduction of autonomous features where bots and assistants comprehend the holistic context of a user and a certain business scenario. Last but not least, enterprise systems will be augmented with cognitive abilities to bring the amplification of knowledgeable workers to a whole new level.

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