Bots promise to make enterprise software invisible

Chatbots, Generic
On July 14, 2016

Bots will soon transform the world of productivity tools, business workflows, and enterprise software. The change will happen incrementally, almost invisibly, until it redefines software completely. Remember the old story about boiling a frog?

Starting with mainframes and COBOL, each version of computing technology has been applied to the cause of automating, simplifying and codifying business processes. Enterprise software tools such as ERP, HR, CRM and accounting automate business workflows; create structured entities; divide it into roles; map it to specific screens, and create views for each individual user. The end user experience typically involves form-based UI for data input and reports for data output.

But there are some problems here. First, the success of these tools depends on capturing the right data at the right time. When a salesperson doesn’t input customer meeting updates in a timely manner, it limits the manager’s ability to make adjustments. When the manager doesn’t approve the expense request in time, it slows down the whole process for others.

And there’s a second issue. Business processes follow a version of the 80-20 rule: Most of the users in a business will use tools lightly while a very few are heavy users. Enterprise software is purchased and optimized for the few core users at the expense of the many casual ones. The casual user may receive notifications but has to log back into the system to update each form. Multiply this by a large number of business processes and you realize the magnitude of the problem. Since it takes effort, users batch their work for later – and frustration sets in across the board.

All this ends with bot integration.

Bots will soon make enterprise software simpler, easier, friendlier, and perhaps even delightful for the casual user. Imagine never having to fill in another form or log into another tool. With a bot, a user can just send a message or respond to a question from within a messaging app. A click, an acknowledgement or a quick response is all it takes to move the process along. Once it becomes that simple, users will do it in the moment. And quicker data input speeds up the pace of business processes across the board.

Bots can also personalize the experience. They won’t bother a user during a meeting or send multiple reminders for urgent tasks. Bots tend to have a personality, making them fun to interact with.

If you think we’re not there yet, think again. Bots such as Growbot and Hey Taco! are fun and easy HR tools for managing employee reward and recognition programs. Birdly is a CRM bot that provides a 360-degree view of a customer. Biztera is a workflow bot that speeds up approvals. And an accounting bot my firm recently built for financial software company Sage captures expenses and income. Results from beta testing have been very promising, with many users convinced they were chatting with a human rather than a bot.

Bots make enterprise software invisible and seamlessly woven into life’s moments. They simplify the casual user’s life by reducing the cognitive load and delivering terrific experiences while dramatically increasing the velocity and efficiency of business workflows.

You think enterprise software is a dull business? Bots are going to breathe new life and excitement into a heretofore boring, but important, category of software.

Beerud Sheth

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