This is the first in a series of articles discussing Operations Bots (OpBots).
Data entry used to mean typing at a terminal. Not any more. It comes as no surprise that data can be harvested from mobile devices, emails, social networks, GPS and Internet of Things’ devices. But the real benefit of collecting data is the backend intelligent automation to analyze data and put it to use. In this article, we discuss one way to use the data with the result of eliminating repetitive mundane tasks.
Every day, hundreds of millions of people use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and other messaging platforms to communicate with their colleagues, friends and family. Millions more are experimenting with speech-based assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. This trend indicates that messaging and speech-based platforms are displacing traditional web and mobile apps to become the new medium for interactive conversations.
To date, most of the information gathering has not really led to intelligent information processing. But with the emergence of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), there are new classes of relatively inexpensive bots that automate and perform tasks. Using AI, built-in learning capabilities reinforces ‘good’ behaviour when analyzing human conversations and performing one or more operational tasks based on the conversation, such as providing contextual information for a customer support interaction, recording time spent on a jobsite or project, checking in/out an employee from work, or capturing details of a meeting. As they become smarter, these bots are starting to act as a personal assistant to perform more mundane tasks within a business, and maturing to become Operational Bots (OpBots).
Today, there are several types of Bots in use;
- Conversational Chat Bots: These are bots that can have conversations and respond to humans on a chat window on a website.
- Informational Bots: These are really like news bots, pushing personalized messages while continuing to learn your preferences, browsing patterns, and information you may be looking for.
- Task Bots: These bots are driving a new trend that complete routine tasks assigned by users within a business process. Using cognitive technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning, these bots are starting to get new cognitive powers and are able to perform higher-order tasks.
Conversational chatbots support unique two-way interactions with a large number of individual customers. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI), these interactions connect humans and backend applications to perform meaningful and powerful online user interactions that are simply not available any other way.
The early adopters for bots have been in areas such as Digital Assistants in the Banking sector, Chatbots in Digital Marketing, Conversational bots in the Retail sector or Patient care, and Task Bots employed in corporate function back-office processes in Finance and HR.
Together these form an OpBot to integrate both communication and data, ensuring a high level of communication between a user and other systems required to perform their task.
The Business value of OpBots
On a purely commercial level, rolling OpBots out in an organisation offers a large number of benefits. OpBots are the next generation of Chatbots that link your internal applications, communications (Slack or MS Teams), Messenger, Whatsapp, databases, CRM, ERP and analytics applications in one easy platform to perform multiple tasks, or allow your AI system to learn how your staff and customer perform their tasks. OpBots promote increased collaboration, sharing of knowledge, visibility, learning and empathy on the social side, and enhancing and enriching the data.
Bots are being designed and implemented for every industry. My next posting will describe our predictions for OpBots, and later articles propose ideas for potential use cases for bots within your organisation, and what you need to get started.