Managing Future Digital Employees
Business bots will evolve into intelligent agents working at our companies, so we’ll need to manage them
Imagine this: You’re a sales rep that travels worldwide. You get an email from an important customer who wants to see you immediately to discuss making a large purchase that will finally move the needle for your business. You know that if you show up, it’s a done deal. You contact your company’s travel bot to approve travel.
The bot sees that your travel budget is exceeded, but it also knows the rules on how to get an exception for you. It can contact your boss to get an exception to the rules. The bot reaches out to your boss via a chat message and your boss approves the exception. The bot approves the transaction and everything moves forward. As an added benefit, the bot keeps track of each detail of its activity by writing the transaction to the blockchain as a permanent record of the decision process.
When audit time comes around, the travel accounts are out of balance. The company notices that overspending occurred. But, what happened in the decision chain? They reference the transaction that the bot was involved in, any automated decision making, and any associated human decisions on the blockchain-enabled solution. So, they were able to audit a bot’s actions, what steps were taken, and when.
This simple scenario represents something close to today’s world. In the future, these bots will become intelligent agents and will be involved in millions of business workflows. They will make decisions, change their “mind” based on probabilities and outside inputs. They will also communication with humans and with each other. This complex mesh of independent intelligent agents communicating amongst themselves and humans — combined with them making independent decisions — will create a complex digital world of systems within each company and within each industry. So, audit and feedback mechanisms will become more important.
In the future, these bots will become intelligent agents and will be involved in millions of business workflows. They will make decisions, change their “mind” based on probabilities and outside inputs.
The Rise of Autonomous Computing
Autonomous computing is a growing sector of the commercial landscape. Whereas in the past software acted as an extension of human activity, software of the future will act intelligently on its own. Part of the autonomous software landscape includes the world of bots — little pieces of independent, intelligent systems designed to perform specific actions. For example, some bots could make purchases in the supply chain when inventory levels run low; and, other bots could support employees by answering their HR questions. They will become our new digital employees.
There is little doubt that the technology must be managed. The question is, how? Let’s dive into some of the thinking behind the BotChain, our platform for managing business bots (aka future intelligent agents that will work at our businesses).
The 3 Steps for Managing Intelligent Agent Employees
When we were thinking about the future of intelligent systems at Talla, a couple things jumped out at us. One was that as bots get more intelligent they will become truly “intelligent” agents. Meaning, they will become more independent and autonomous. The other thing that jumped out at us was that they will communicate and collaborate not only with humans, but with each other. We have a metaphor in the world today of independent agents with their own goals working together on common goals — humans in the workforce. So, they way I start to think about managing autonomous systems is to start with how we manage humans today.
We have a metaphor in the world today of independent agents with their own goals working together on common goals — humans in the workforce.
In order to manage humans, a company needs to first hire and identify each employee (independent agent). We get to know them personally, enter them in to an HR system, do a background check on them, and introduce them to other employees. Identity is fundamental. Once we have established that , we can move on to managing and helping them improve. It’s a 3 Step process we can describe as: IAE — Identify, Audit, Enhance.
Let’s take a look at the details.
On the first day of work, a new human employee gets an ID badge. In order to collaborate, we first need to know who all the collaborators are. We want a reasonably dependable way of knowing who we are collaborating with. So, the first order of business when managing bot technology is to provide a means to verify the identity of a bot. We need to give them their own “ID badge”.
The BotChain will provide an identity service for business bots. The blockchain is a good architecture to host a shared identity validation service. So, step one will be to provide identification as a foundation for other business bot developer services. The result is a safe, reliable way to validate bot authenticity to ensure security and provide a foundation for additional services.
A human employee gets an annual review and also becomes part of annual auditing processes. This ensures that we’re following processes and also performing well within the workplace. In a business to business environment a bot will have contact with many people and other bots. Bots will be collecting information and making decisions. So, how do you go back and see who authorized the bot to make a make a particular decision? Or, a more complex problem, what if the bot made a decision all on its own? How can we go back and review those decisions?
Talla’s BotChain technology uses the blockchain to create an audit trail for bots. With an immutable ledger, the blockchain provides a solid foundation for a great tamper-proof audit system. Actions and decisions can establish an record that can be validated on a blockchain. This audit trail process can create the foundation for more advanced audits, alert systems, feedback loops, and a review process for these bots.
Similar to managing a human, part of managing a bot is to help it learn and develop new skills. You want a good employee to always be acquiring new knowledge and skills. Like an employee, a bot will become more valuable to its employer by continually improving. Improvement can start by tapping into the knowledge and skills of the larger business bot community.
As an example — think of the Alexa marketplace of skills for the Amazon Echo Alexa bot. There is a marketplace on online at Amazon where you can upgrade Alexa’s capabilities with a click of a button. New skills then get downloaded into Alexa’s “brain.” This is how I like to explain my plans for the BotChain. You can think of the BotChain marketplace as starting off similar to the Alexa marketplace, except it will focus on business skills and will allow all business bots to share and download skills with each other. Business bot developers and other ecosystem partners will begin to make business bots smarter.
Putting It All Together
Modern bot technology will bring a new scale of system automation inside all businesses. Supporting business bot technology effectively in the modern enterprise will require new thinking. Companies in the know understand that ensuring the authenticity of a bots and creating audit trails for bot activity are critical to the wellbeing of business operations. Also, like their human counterparts, bots need to continuously improve to stay viable.
Talla understands these needs from our years of working with business bots. Also, we understand the challenges at hand. Our mission is to not only make business bot automation safe and verifiable using blockchain technology, but also to provide the means by which companies can make working business bots improve as the business landscape changes for our future digital employees.
If you want to learn more about the BotChain, start here.