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Collaborating to develop a chatbot network

In this guest blogpost we asked writers from three organisations to share their points of view on creating content for a chatbot network among three organisations: Our own Laura Halonen from Migri, Milja Kiviranta from the Finnish Tax Administration and Tuija Pajukka from the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH). The three collaborators draw their experiences from the Starting up Smoothly project (, which Inland is leading since April 2018.

The aim of a chatbot network is to fill the gap between user needs and organisations’ siloed operations. Although each organisation is responsible of their own content, developing a multibot-network requires inter-organisational collaboration also in regard with content creation. Otherwise the result may not be a user-serving network of chatbots, but rather old siloed operations in an up-to-date format.

How then to succeed in the inter-organisational collaboration…?

Instead of having separate projects in each organisation, developing a multibot-network requires participants to collaborate. Firstly, a key to actually achieve genuine collaboration is to cross organisational boundaries when doing actual content work. Arrange time and place to meet and work together regularly. Brainstorm together — and spend enough time on it! Establish shared practices and channels to keep in touch with each other — you may gain an external view for you own work at the same time (synergy effects).

PRH and Migri workers discussing a user dialog that crosses organisational boundaries. (photo: Suse Miessner)

Maintain the transparency among content work: don’t hide your own content from partners and be interested also what’s going on with their’s. Also sharing know-how beyond organisational boundaries leads to a win-win situation. Take an advantage of support and help from more experienced project members! Additionally, ensure that each organisation is committed to common goals. This means both, working together content-wise but also reserving enough time and resources to do so. And sometimes less people, but rather more of their time is needed.

Stick to the shared perspective

When planning the whole content, keep in mind what’s the shared inter-organisational goal. What truly brings value to the customer, and not just your organisation? When thinking (and acting!) from the shared-perspective, the content is more likely to serve the customer better. Especially, if there’s little time to spend on content creation it may be tempting to just “mind your own business” and only focus on finishing content of your own organisation. Instead, collaboration requires developing a shared, inter-organisational perspective with your partners — and sticking to it!

Follow customer needs

Okay, now you have a super intelligent chatbot mastering a wide range of great content — but does it make sense to your customer? Don’t settle just for the first solution you come up with and be critical on how the content actually meets user needs. Consider carefully:

· What the customer could ask at this point?

· What help does the customer probably need at this point, but may not be able to ask?

· How does the customer get a bigger picture and knowledge that is both useful and easy to understand?

Do not only assume, but make sure you’re moving into right direction by doing user tests. By testing your content with real users you’ll gain understanding how the customer sees the content and get insight how the content actually works. Users can also give you useful tips or suggestions how to make your content even better. And another thing to remember, always have at least one person from each organisation with you for user testing and go through the results together.

An entrepreneur from China was in Helsinki during out user testing phase (photo: Janne Mattila)

Ensure the consistency with governmental lingo

Last but not least, we’re to share not only the best practices but also the stumbling blocks within collaboration. Sometimes administrative lingo differs in different organisations. When writing chatbot reply-texts we tend to stick to those expressions and concepts we’re accustomed to. Choice of words gets even more complicated when there’s no proper, well-established English translation available. As an example, we struggled when trying to find a proper translation for a Finnish word yksityinen elinkeinonharjoittaja (which practically means an entrepreneur doing his own personal small-sized business) as it can be translated in two ways a private trader or self-employed person. From a user-perspective this may appear chaotic or at least inconvenient — same concepts should be referred to with same expressions despite the current chatbot. Therefore, consistency among key words and expressions is one thing you should discuss with you partners.

authors: Milja Kiviranta, Laura Halonen, Tuija Pajukka
editor: Suse Miessner

More articles on this project:
Onboarding a new organisation for a joint chatbot service by Olli Ilmarinen —
1 year of chatbot development — 10 best practices by Suse Miessner
Starting up smoothly — Connecting government agency information through chatbots by Suse Miessner



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