At IntraSee we are super excited to announce that version DA-19.3.1 is currently being rolled out to all our customers. As usual, many thanks to Oracle for all their support and collaboration as we utilize their excellent Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) technology via our Hybrid-Cloud compatible, GDPR compliant, and world leading meta-data driven middleware solution.
Our goal of automating every aspect of ODA design, build, test, and deployment wouldn’t be possible without having such an awesome partner to work with. So, with that said, here are the highlights for IntraSee DA-19.3.1:
Ability for the Digital Assistant to proactively remind and assist the user with approving/rejecting workflow/tasks from over 10 SaaS vendor systems, plus multiple on-premise systems (including PeopleSoft)
Enhancements to Microsoft Teams channel support for ODA
Improved handling of case creation and live person transfers
Improved performance of all response times
Configurable notifications for all conversation flows
Configurable ability for managers/advisors to assign tasks to employees/students
Additions to the Skills Library (more delivered HCM & Campus skills)
Product Update Notes
Many of the product changes we focused on in this release were centered around adding more features around workflow/task management and notification. Having the Digital Assistant be able to track workflow in many SaaS and on-premise systems and proactively remind and guide the user through to completion is an important product milestone. Much time is wasted in many organizations having highly paid departmental experts having to monitor and chase up with managers to get them to approve/reject important tasks they need to attend to. Now this is fully automated and the Digital Assistant can handle the entire process with the manager/employee.
Also, via a conversation, managers can now assign tasks to their team members, such that the Digital Assistant will then ensure they get completed.
Note: Remember, the most expensive aspect of your Enterprise system isn’t the software cost. It’s the cost of the humans that support it. Reducing the demands on their time will massively reduce your operating costs.
Additional features were also added to make conversations more human-like by adding contextual verbiage as part of the conversation to better guide the human. We also added improved logging of cases in any help desk system (including Salesforce), as well as an improved transfer to a live agent if the Digital Assistant detected the human needed interaction with a help desk person to resolve their need.
The main UI additions for this release were to enhance support for Microsoft Teams as a channel. Given the huge adoption rates of Microsoft Teams, and the high level of security this provides, we expect this channel to quite possibly eclipse the web channel for many organizations in 2020.
The following video shows a conversation in MS Teams with Charlie the ODA chatbot, speaking both Spanish and English. Out of the box ODA will speak over 100 languages, so this is a terrific and simple way of enabling multi-lingual self-service for your organization.
Contact us below to learn more and setup your own personal demo.
We are at the dawn of an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution and there is a lot of confusion about how this technology should be used to provide support for students, faculty and advisors in higher education. Terms like chatbots and natural language processing are thrown around, but many projects are not really AI and are not much better than the old IVR phone systems we hated. Press 1 for a better experience! Worse yet is that if you choose the wrong platform, you will be fighting a bad reputation and adoption issues for a long time to come. So let’s examine the top 10 features an effective digital assistant (or as some mistakenly term chatbot) should be offering your users.
1. Personalized answers, not “one answer fits all”
Any chatbot can answer an easy question where everyone gets the same answer such as, “What is a FAFSA form?” or “How do I reset my password?” In higher education, however, rarely are answers so generic. Higher ed culture is built on autonomy such that there are very few of these one-answer questions. Each department and school tends to have their way of doing things.
What if the user asks, “Do I need to sign up for a cap and gown for graduation?” The answer for a full-time student in the school of engineering will be different than the answer for a part-time student in liberal arts. If your chatbot can’t understand this difference, then it really is no better than pressing 1 on MovieFone.
2. True natural language processing, not just a crude search engine in disguise
A true AI-based digital assistant relies on AI modeling. Any chatbot that promises to crawl your existing web site and “just work” should be met with skepticism.
Time and again our student focus groups have told us they don’t trust or use search engines found on university owned web sites. The results are often contradictory and lack relevance. So why would your chatbot crawl a web site just as these web search crawlers do? You really are just deploying another web search disguised as a chatbot and that will not produce the experience or results you are looking for. A true enterprise digital assistant works in a fundamentally different and better way.
3. Deeply integrated with the SIS and LMS, and not just serving up static content
Any digital assistant needs to be able to help the student, and in order to help them effectively it needs to be able to talk to the two biggest systems of record in higher ed: the student information system (SIS) and the learning management system (LMS). Not only should the digital assistant be able to look up and use data from these systems, but also assist the user in conducting transactions such as paying their bill. If your chatbot is only providing links, than there is a missed opportunity much like we saw in the age of printed mapquest directions.
The digital assistant should have a catalog of adapters for your SIS and LMS systems, and a configurable suite of predefined intents like “Show me my grades” so you don’t have to build everything yourself.
Configurability is important, so you can change the delivered functionality based on your organizations needs, because in higher ed, nobody fits into generic boxes.
4. Understands the meaning of human language, not just a click through navigation tool
The promise of AI and natural language processing is that a user can type in anything and the bot will understand them just like a human would. Many people assume this is a given for all chatbots, but that is definitely not the case.
Crude chatbot solutions resort to providing a series of buttons to push you along a pre-determined path. Does that sound a little bit like the old IVR phone trees? Press 1 if you agree!
We believe a user should be talking/typing and not clicking. And the better the bot can understand humans (in over 100 languages too!), the less back and forth and the less clicking needed. Which, ultimately, leads to a faster, more enjoyable experience.
5. Has the tools to allow you to grow its understanding, not a one-and-done solution
The whole point of artificial intelligence is that it gets better over time, right? How will your digital assistant get better unless it automates feedback and monitoring and allows you to model and test new training methods in multiple languages.
And the digital assistant provider should also deliver monitoring and training as a service. If your AI isn’t learning then it’s not AI.
6. Includes advisor and faculty “intents”, not focused only on students
There are a lot of student use cases that typically are catered for in early chatbot projects, but we find it a shame that faculty and advisors are often being ignored. After all, if you make the advisor experience more effective and comprehensive, the end result is that advisors can better service their students. Which, consequently, contributes to happier students who are graduating on time more often.
The challenge, however, is that your technology has to be up to the task. Securely automating advising processes isn’t a simple task. Data protection, advanced language understanding and entity recognition have to be the basis of this kind of solution. And many projects, using crude chatbots, don’t meet this standard.
Our digital assistants are being used by advisors to look up data on advisees based on PeopleSoft security settings, and even process tasks like advising notes, or approvals on course load. In one example, by using the digital assistant, a user can approve a course load in under 30 seconds, when previously it would require navigating and updating two web pages with about 10 fields and take multiple minutes (assuming they can remember to do it correctly).
7. Speaks the language of your institution, not just canned responses that could apply to anyone
While it sounds like a good idea to purchase a basic chatbot with pre-delivered answers to common questions, you have to consider what that really means. Not only will none of the answers be personalized to the user, but it also means answers will not reflect the nuances of how your institution’s processes work.
If one of your goals is to offer better service than human beings, 24×7 and in dozens of languages, than your digital assistant needs to provide better answers than a human would. Not canned responses that don’t fully answer the question.
When a vendor tells you, “You just plug it in and you are live in a week,” be skeptical.
8. Highly secure and protects sensitive data, not an open invitation for data breaches
In the age of cloud applications and data breaches, security is more important than ever. We have seen institutions deploy a non-authenticated bot for a narrow use case and believe that data security is not a risk. Even if your chatbot can only answer basic questions about admissions, you can’t prevent the user from typing in a social security number, a test score or other sensitive data. If you are not using an enterprise digital assistant, where is that data stored? Is it secure?
Further, the security of the bot channel is often overlooked. Channels like Facebook and SMS are used, but keep in mind, those channels are not secure, and there are no guarantees for how that data is stored or how it is protected
Using a secure channel like a web channel or MS Teams will protect your data and provide your institution the controls needed.
IntraSee uses the most secure cloud in the Enterprise: the Oracle Cloud. And for customers using Azure or Oracle Cloud for other enterprise data, there are even greater assurances.
We have also built in features like abbreviated logging of conversations to protect sensitive data ensuring that we are never storing your sensitive data in the cloud. This type of data security is something that basic chatbot vendors almost never can deliver.
9. Can handle an extremely broad range of questions, not a one-trick pony
Many chatbots live on their own islands. They are locked into narrow functionality specific to the service desk software they come with, or a particular vertical space like admissions or financial aid. As Amazon has taught us, people want a one-stop shop to serve all their needs.
Imagine a student has a question, but first needs to figure out which of the 20 chatbots they need to go to. That is a recipe for failure and isn’t really achieving the promise of artificial intelligence.
High performing AI should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, just like a human! It is important to handle a wide variety of student questions, but it is also important you can leverage delivered skills from enterprise software partners. IntraSee’s digital assistant can combine our catalog of skills, delivered Oracle or PeopleSoft skills and custom client skills into that perfect one-stop digital assistant.
10. Helps drive student success, not a crude FAQ machine
It is one thing to be able to answer questions 24×7, but the goal ultimately is to help students. The best form of help is proactive, timely help.
A digital assistant should be capable of reminding students about their to dos and holds, as well as initiating a chat with key reminders that an assignment is coming up or their enrollment window is opening soon.
While reducing the cost of human-based service desks is the easy ROI case for digital assistants, their role in student success can be much more impactful.
If you haven’t seen a digital assistant or chatbot than can do all of these things, then just reach out to us below and we will setup a demo to show you live!
We’re just back from a terrific Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco (Sept 16-19, 2019). For us, this was an especially gratifying conference as our clients won five innovation awards, and we were also featured in a major press release highlighting the developing partnership between Oracle and Microsoft.
So, to break down the conference into bite-sized chunks, here’s the top 10 things we found most interesting coming out of OpenWorld last week:
1. Game-on, Oracle and Microsoft vs. Amazon
There were a lot of big announcements this year at OpenWorld. And it was clear that Larry was genuinely excited, showing slide by slide why being first to market isn’t the most important thing. Being the best is what matters. And the newly expanded alliance between Oracle and Microsoft promises to pass by Amazon in the Enterprise cloud space. For any customer running Oracle or Microsoft applications, there’s almost no reason to even look at AWS anymore. There are faster, cheaper, and more secure options. And Oracle and Microsoft have them.
What’s fascinating is that this partnership is real. It’s not a marketing stunt and is already manifesting itself in impactful solutions, and promises to get deeper and deeper as time goes by. And we know, because we are a part of this new eco system, integrating Microsoft Teams with Oracle Digital Assistant.
2. Autonomous Linux
For anyone who is a history buff, you’ll know that every industrial revolution was sparked by a new development in autonomy. Whether that was spinning cotton or making cars, if you could automate what were once manual processes, you had a revolution on your hands!
So, hello Autonomous Database (announced last year) and, also, please greet Autonomous Linux!
Yes, Oracle has pulled off the double whammy, an autonomous database sitting on top of an autonomous operating system. And to make matters even worse for Amazon and IBM, it’s faster, cheaper, and more secure than all of Oracle’s competitors (as Larry mentioned, without human pilots there’s no pilot error – or cost). In fact, you can’t beat the friendly new pricing model for autonomous Linux. It’s free! And it’s even a simple one step configuration change to switch from IBM Linux.
“When you use Oracle Autonomous Linux in the cloud, the price is just right: It’s free,” Ellison said. “So if you’re paying IBM, you can stop.”
And in case you’re wondering what an autonomous Cloud actually provides. It’s automatic provisioning, scaling, tuning, patching, and updating, as well as automatic threat monitoring, exploit detection, and remediation functionality. So it’s truly elastic, and ultra-secure. That’s pretty cool, right?!
“I’ll give you one simple rule to prevent data theft. Put your data in an autonomous system. It’s the only rule I can come up with. Only thing anyone’s come up with so far. No human labor. No human error. No data loss. That’s a big difference between us and AWS.”
– Larry Ellison
3. Automated User Interface: Digital Assistant
Larry also brought attention to the fact that the most expensive aspect of Enterprise software is the people at every organization that support it. People are much more expensive than machinery, and therefore automating what humans do doesn’t just make systems more reliable, it also makes them cheaper to run.
So, if we now have an autonomous database, and autonomous Linux, then why not also include autonomous subject matter experts: Digital Assistants?
This is the realization of the next industrial revolution (putting a back office HCM solution on someone else’s server is not a revolution). An autonomous Cloud, with autonomous robots answering questions and performing tasks will soon become the new normal. All accessible in multiple languages and multiple channels. Like Microsoft Teams, for example. Suhas Uliyar, VP of Bots and AI at Oracle, and his team, have created an incredible product with Oracle Digital Assistant, and it was on full show throughout OpenWorld. And the future roadmap is amazing. Oracle is investing heavily in AI for the benefit of all their clients. On-premise or cloud.
At IntraSee we have also fully automated the creation of Oracle Digital Assistant skills in a hybrid cloud environment. Such that it can interact with all your Enterprise systems, Cloud or on-premise.
Check out this video of an automated conversation within Microsoft Teams using Oracle Digital Assistant skills created autonomously by IntraSee.
4. Oracle Autonomous Cloud at Customer
A lot of people were very happy to hear that Oracle’s unique Cloud at Customer option is now being upgraded to “Gen 2”, which means it will also be on the autonomous stack. Even the database will be running the autonomous database in the upcoming months.
So, what is Cloud at Customer?
“Cloud at Customer allows you to take the best database, Oracle autonomous database, on the best cloud infrastructure, Exadata, and put it into your data center behind your firewall.”
– Larry Ellison
5. More Regions Than Amazon This Time Next Year!
Well, who saw this coming? This is huge for many clients. Oracle is now promising that by next year they will surpass Amazon with the number of regions they support. All running their autonomous cloud. And that magic number is 36 total regions. That’s a massive expansion from the existing 16 regions. Which compares to Amazon’s 25 regions. If Oracle can pull this off it will drastically change the entire cloud landscape. Especially if Oracle can keep to the commitment to provide their entire stack in each region.
“All the services are available in all our clouds and that’s our policy. Amazon doesn’t do that. Amazon has some services some places, some services elsewhere. When we meet next year, we’ll have more regions than AWS. It’s stunning, it’s absolutely stunning.”
– Larry Ellison
6. PeopleSoft Still Receiving Large Investments
For those clients still using PeopleSoft, the great news was that Oracle is still investing heavily in the entire stack. Plus the rolling support still continues, meaning PeopleSoft is supported until at least 2030, and probably beyond. Paco Aubrejuan gave a terrific presentation and highlighted IntraSee as a key member of the chatbot eco system. He also called out our client Honeywell as a customer success story showing an on-premise PeopleSoft system fully, and securely, integrated with Oracle Digital Assistant in the Cloud. In fact, around 12 minutes of his 45-minute session was dedicated to chatbots/digital assistants.
The other item that received the bulk of the attention was a bundled third-party tool called “Kibana”. It looked really impressive and is an offline data visualization tool that has built-in PeopleSoft security awareness. And, like autonomous Linux, it’s free!
The astonishing thing is that if you were an organization that moved to Workday from PeopleSoft, you have less modern UX options now that you are with Workday (who don’t have a chatbot/digital assistant at all). Well, hopefully you signed a three-year contract and not a five-year one.
7. Oracle’s Application Competitors Are Falling Way Behind
Larry focused on Salesforce, SAP and Workday, when discussing the state of the “opposition”. Salesforce got dinged for being very expensive, lacking in a full suite, and having inherent security holes (multi-tenancy) built into their software solution. This was why an errant SQL script recently opened up access that allowed different customers to see each other’s data. Something that would be impossible to happen in an Oracle cloud.
SAP got dinged for not really having any real cloud applications at all. And Larry thanked them for that! Certainly, it will be interesting to see how many European clients move from SAP to Oracle in the next twelve months. Our guess is that it’s a lot.
And, of course, Workday got hammered for having no cloud infrastructure of their own, and no technology Platform-as-a-Service. Meaning they are a SaaS-only solution running with a “tired” UX and no digital assistant/chatbot solution. Even as the entire world sees that we are now moving to conversational UI being the dominant UI for self-service by the end of 2020.
8. Content & Experience Cloud
This may be Oracle’s most underrated product in the Cloud. Though it did get some more attention this year, and Larry even included it in a slide for his keynote. It mostly gets promoted by Oracle as a marketing tool. But it’s actually much bigger in capability than that. If anyone is looking for a portal-like technology in the Oracle cloud, then this is it.
Hopefully next year we’ll see Oracle Content & Experience Cloud (CEC) get credit where credit is due. But we think, for clients who are running on-premise portals like PeopleSoft Interaction Hub or Oracle WebCenter, that moving to Oracle CEC is a great way to transition into the cloud.
9. New Redwood Brand!
Remember when Apple switched from the multi-colored Apple logo, and went to a monochrome look? Well, this may be even bigger! The stark Oracle red and white is no longer a thing anymore. Welcome to Oracle’s softer and gentler new theme that was on display everywhere at OpenWorld this week.
So next time you go to Oracle.com you’ll be in for a very pleasant surprise. This is the new Oracle. A company focused heavily on automation and the user experience. The new mantra is faster, cheaper, better, and more secure. And that’s a great focus for any company.
10. 2020 Will Be the Year of Digital Assistants
Everywhere you went at OpenWorld there was some reference to Digital Assistants. Gartner is predicting 2020 is the year that it hits the mainstream and heads widely into the entire Enterprise. Oracle also thinks so. And we do at IntraSee too. In some ways 2019 reminds us of 1998. That was the end of the client-server era. Web systems were about to dominate and Google was founded, and very quickly defeated Yahoo and won the search engine wars. And, by the way, they did this through having a fully automated search solution (Yahoo were massively manual-oriented).
Going into 2020 it’s clear the web will take a back seat when it comes to self-service tasks for employees, managers, students, faculty, and advisors.
Conversational UI’s will be driving interaction with all your Enterprise systems. Automated conversations running on an automated cloud isn’t the future anymore. It’s a reality that can now be implemented today. Well, if you choose Oracle as your platform that is.
Also, on a personal note, we did get to speak at the conference jointly with Oracle on the subject of chatbots/digital assistants. And one of our clients, Honeywell, also got to present at multiple sessions. It was a great conference, and we enjoyed meeting everyone there.
And, of course, if you’d like to see a demo of what the future (2020) looks like, please let us know and we’d be happy to oblige.
It’s been a terrific week at Oracle OpenWorld and we’ll be publishing a blog next week to summarize what we learned while we were there. But today we’d like to focus on the awards that our customers won this week. So here are the highlights…
Oracle Cloud Platform Innovation Award: Oracle Digital Assistant
We are very proud to announce that Honeywell were the winner of this very prestigious award, and that Southern Company was a finalist in this cutting-edge category.
“We’ve been working closely with our partner IntraSee to create an HR digital assistant for our global employee base and Oracle Digital Assistant was the natural choice for us because of its ability to securely operate in our hybrid cloud infrastructure,” said Mark Burgess, senior director, HR Technology Solutions, Honeywell. “Our aim is to have it be the preferred method to get questions answered 24×7, access to policies and an amazing end-to-end approach for completing transactions with more speed and accuracy. We knew we wanted our HR digital assistant to be available where employees spend their time online, and an integration with Teams was therefore essential. Our vision is to have it become to employees what J.A.R.V.I.S. is to Iron Man.”
Our ground-breaking work to integrate Microsoft Teams with Oracle Digital Assistant, for conversational interaction with on-premise and Cloud Enterprise systems, was also a major factor in this press release from Oracle. It illustrates the potential power of the Oracle/Microsoft partnership and how it is fueling the opportunity for the practical application of AI in the Enterprise software world. Thanks to a deeper connection between the companies, Oracle/Azure Cloud Platforms can now be used in conjunction to reduce software operating costs and increase user satisfaction, while also delivering GDPR compliance and meeting complex enterprise security requirements.
Plus, Paco Aubrejuan, at his always excellent keynote session, announced IntraSee as a key member of the Oracle/PeopleSoft chatbot ecosystem, and featured Honeywell as a prime success story (and we’ll cover more on that in our conference blog next week).
PeopleSoft Innovator Award: User Experience – Cloud
Orlando Health was a winner in this category.
For Orlando Health we deployed the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub into the Oracle Cloud (OCI/IaaS) and connected it to their on-premise systems to provide guided processes for managers to complete critical PeopleSoft HCM position requests using the Fluid user interface. While also improving the overall user experience, automating manual processes, improving visibility to key data, and saving time and money with lower support and training costs
So, if you’d like to win awards, improve your user experience, use the latest Oracle Cloud technologies (even if you have an on-premise solution), and save your organization lots of money, please contact us 😊
A recent blog from our good friend at Oracle, Matthew Haavisto, announced that “classic” navigation will cease to be supported in PeopleTools 8.58. And thus ends the era of breadcrumbs within PeopleSoft! Some people will be sad to see them go, but the timing couldn’t be more perfect. The fact that breadcrumbs were ever needed was an indictment of everything that took place from the beginning of the web site revolution of the mid 90’s onwards. Gargantuan web sites with thousands of pages undoubtedly caused confusion, disorientation, and billions of wasted hours while humans were forced to hunt-and-peck to find what they were looking for.
Using methods trail-blazed by Hansel and Gretel (breadcrumbs) only highlighted that something was very wrong in the world of software development. There had to be a better way to help people “navigate” a world of chaos.
And the good news is that today there finally is. And it has nothing to do with dropdown mega menus, slide-out help, site maps, personalized feeds, online training, or even search engines. Instead it harkens back to the true sense of the word “classic”. And can be summarized with one word, “Hi”.
For thousands of years people have been using conversations to determine what they need to know and how to do things. This is the real “classic” tool for communication.
Pointing and clicking were merely devices used by software developers who expected humans to understand machines, when deep down, they always knew that to do their job properly that machines needed to understand humans.
Today chatbots/digital assistants offer a navigation-less way for people to interact with massively complex Enterprise software systems. In this new paradigm there is no navigation, the human just speaks what they want, and the technology does the rest.
This new form of “navigating” the contents of massive computing systems shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick introduced a talking computer (essentially a digital assistant called Hal 9000) in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. In 1984, when Steve Jobs launched the original Mac, it’s ability to say “Hello” at the press release was considered a key part of the event. Even though the Mac didn’t have any AI abilities whatsoever, this was clearly a hint by Jobs that ultimately this was what he saw computers really being capable of. Years later, with the introduction of Siri on the iPhone, he was able to see the early (though very flawed) realization of a long-held dream.
In 2011 IBM even raised a false hope that Hal 9000 was about to be a reality, when in fact it was just a teaser for what other organizations would eventually deliver.
Today, in 2019, we now live in a world where most people use one application on their phones more than any other: their text-messaging application. This further reinforces the idea that people just want to have conversations using a single application. The days of “there’s an app for that” are long gone, and why combining chatbots/Digital Assistants with text messaging applications is now the preferred method for people of all ages.
Over 58% of people surveyed feel more confident messaging a business than calling them on the phone. The same number feel more confident messaging than filling out a form on a website, and more than 55% feel more confident messaging than emailing a business.
56% of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service.
When asked why they message businesses, over 64% of people surveyed across 4 markets say it’s because they’re “always messaging anyway.”
The message to organizations globally is very clear. Old-style web navigation is a thing of the past. The new UI that people overwhelmingly prefer is a simple text messaging UI. No menus to hunt for, no complex web forms to complete, no figuring out which field to click into, no popups, no having to learn how multiple systems “work”, and no wondering if you did everything right.
Figure 2: Turning complex apps into simple conversations
At IntraSee we are happy to bid farewell to breadcrumbs. And, also, all the other impediments to the user experience that frustrate and challenge the use of Enterprise systems today. And we welcome the new era of a navigation-less UX that works the way people would like it to work.
Special Note: In the Enterprise world, organizations often have their own standards for which messaging application they prefer. Skype for Business once was very popular but has now been replaced by Microsoft Teams, which just recently surpassed Slack in terms of usage.
Other than the excellent UI that Microsoft Teams provides, it also has the advantage of running in the Microsoft Cloud (Azure). For organizations where security and data privacy matter (that should be everyone btw!), an architecture that supports Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) running in the Oracle Cloud, integrated with Microsoft Teams running in Azure will provide a premium level of security. Especially now that Oracle and Microsoft have enabled secure connectivity between their respective Clouds.
If you’d like to see a navigation-less UX in action, please contact us for a live demonstration.