AI and Chatbots, The Future of Business Is Here - Are You Ready?

27 February 2020
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By Dermot Murray, VP of Ideation

Consumers of virtually all ages are increasingly using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology such as Alexa and Google Nest to support their daily lives. Statistics show upwards of 80% of B2C communication is heading towards a digital interface, which is significantly reducing the cost of customer service.

Given consumer users’ growing level of comfort with this technology and the associated cost benefits it can deliver, it is surprising to see such a low level of adoption within the world of business enterprise resource planning (ERP) for Business to Business interactions.

I believe there are two fundamental aspects to this: firstly, there are concerns about the technology and whether it is suitably robust, secure and flexible to be utilised by mainstream users and compatible with their incumbent systems. The second issue is business change and whether the processes which need to be supported have actually been defined.

In terms of the technology, businesses need a platform to deliver the user interactions out of its ERP system. There are many choices, so while every tech organisation has a digital assistant of some flavour or another, we have focused on two mature and widely used options: the Oracle Digital Assistant and the Google Dialogue Flow.

The Oracle solution is chargeable and pre-packaged as part of its PAAS platform offering a wide range of capabilities. It uses a low code framework to deliver integrations, and now offers a series of pre-built integrations direct into Oracle ERP. Through its rapid development, new features and capabilities are being delivered on an ongoing basis which continue to be improved upon. Meanwhile Google’s Dialogue Flow is a powerful, cloud-based solution offering a simple and intuitive way to build out flows in no time at all – and it’s available at no cost (although robust enterprise deployments may require additional, paid capabilities).

Regardless of which tool you choose, they all feature the same core pillars that underpin the technology, with four key considerations. These include:

  • Channel or medium – such as smart tech (Alexa and Siri), Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc - through which the user interacts with the assistant.
  • Neuro linguistic programming (NLP), which converts the conversational dialogue into defined commands that the assistant can execute. Companies including Oracle and Google have made significant investment into NLP to enable users to simply enter a series of phrases or statements that relate to a business process which it then translates into executable logic.
  • Intent, or what you want your users to be able to do and the steps required to execute a business process.
  • Authentication - while there’s high value in implementing a simple Q&A lifecycle that can be carried out anonymously, significant benefit can be achieved through identity confirmation, enabling richer and more complex interactions to take place.

The Inoapps Ideation team has been working with these tools over the last few weeks, and here are a couple of examples of the solution in action:

  • Firstly, we developed a business solution for a home-based user wanting to book a day’s holiday over Google Home Hub.
  • Secondly, we devised a chatbot solution enabling suppliers to query the status of their outstanding payments through a messenger type framework, in this case Microsoft Teams.

The technology is there and it can work for business to business interactions. These and other technical solutions are only going to get better with Oracle Digital Assistant introducing new features and industry tools like Google Dialogue Flow becoming easier to use by the day as they become commodity solutions.

In my next blog I will set out the key elements of business change that need to be addressed in achieving adoption of these technologies in ERP.




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