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.

Meanwhile, companies like Amazon and IBM continue to struggle to find a “killer Enterprise app” for the Cloud. And Workday has yet to enter the race.

And if you’re curious what Oracle Digital Assistant in Microsoft Teams, in a secure hybrid cloud environment, interacting with Enterprise applications looks like, check out this video:

PeopleSoft Innovator Award: User Experience – Chatbots

Both Honeywell and Southern Company also won the awards in this category and were the only organizations to do so. 

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 😊

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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. 

Part AI, part Wizard of Oz, Watson just scratched the surface of what was truly possible

Technology using Hi
Figure 1: From 1968 onwards, “Hello” was always the desired method to interact with any computer

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.

– Facebook


56% of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service.

– Neilson


When asked why they message businesses, over 64% of people surveyed across 4 markets say it’s because they’re “always messaging anyway.”

– Facebook

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. 

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At IntraSee we are super excited to announce that version DA-19.2.1 is currently being rolled out to all our customers. Also, many thanks to Oracle for all their support and collaboration as we utilize their excellent Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) technology via our Hybrid-Cloud compatibleGDPR 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-19.2.1:

  1. Microsoft Teams channel support for ODA (with full single sign-on).
  2. Complete GDPR compliance (not even email addresses are stored).
  3. Fully automated utterance supervised training.
  4. Fully automated utterance testing (with full explanations on any mismatches).
  5. Additional administrator dashboard ad-hoc reporting and analytics to improve oversight and reporting of chatbot usage. 
  6. Additional configurable semantic analysis when matching questions to answers.
  7. General improvements to the configurable Vocabulary Engine.
  8. Additions to the Skills Library (more delivered HCM & Campus skills).
  9. Extension to FAQ+ Wizard to include transactional and reporting intents, as well as data elements from over 10 SaaS systems and 2 on-premise systems (PeopleSoft & OBIEE).
  10. Embeddable complex web forms inside a conversation (useful for things like address change, or advanced MSS transactions of optional input fields).

Product Update Notes

Many of the product changes we focused on in this release were centered around making the overall chatbot solution simple to maintain by business analysts. Our key philosophy is that AI is massively complex and therefore requires a middleware layer to simplify it, such that functional experts can easily maintain and add to its skills. Therefore, if we focus on the middleware, our customers can focus on the business use-cases without having to create hundreds of thousands of lines of code, or having to become AI experts.

Additional automation and configuration were the keys to achieving these goals, plus improvements to the semantic analysis capabilities of the Vocabulary Engine. Our aim was to add even more means for a business user to train and direct the Digital Assistant, to ensure super-accurate matching of questions to answers – as well as adding to the scalability of the intent matching capabilities. Such that we are confident we can scale up to, and beyond, thousands of questions and still maintain accuracy of matching. 

The main UI additions for this release were to add the option of embedding complex web forms (with lots of business logic) into the middle of a conversation. Plus adding support for Microsoft Teams as a channel, with all-important single sign-on included. The following screenshot 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. 

Sample conversation in Microsoft Teams using Oracle Digital Assistant

MS Teams Chatbot

Figure 1: Charlie the Chatbot in MS Teams speaking Spanish and English

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In January 2011, IBM unveiled on the TV show Jeopardy what they claimed to be the ultimate FAQ chatbot – Watson. Unfortunately, Watson proved to be “all hat and no cattle” and was never able to translate game show success into practical Enterprise AI success. Meanwhile the world has changed a lot, and AI has made many advances since those early days. 

As is often the case with any new technology, the things that appear to be amazing in the early stages of innovation quickly become basic features as the technology matures and real business world problems are tackled and solved.

Today, a chatbot answering basic questions is considered a bare minimum requirement when considering what a chatbot needs to be capable of to be able to perform the jobs of actual humans. 

We now use the term “Digital Assistant” or “Enterprise Assistant” to describe a chatbot that has many more skills than just being able to answer simple questions. Though often, the first time many organizations try out a chatbot solution, it’s by piloting what they believe is the easy option: an FAQ chatbot. 

However, not all FAQ chatbot skills are created equal. In the AI world of FAQ capabilities there is a huge variance between different vendor solutions. 

Think of it this way. Most people can sing, but most people aren’t great singers. In the same way, most chatbots have basic FAQ skills, but very few chatbots have great FAQ skills.

Freddie Mercury vs. someone
Figure 1: Both of them can sing, but one is a lot better than the other.

So, to cast much needed light upon this subject, we’ve created an FAQ about FAQ chatbots that should help explain the difference. 

Q: Can I add as many questions as I want to an FAQ chatbot, and it’ll be able to answer all of them accurately once I’ve conducted supervised training?

A: For most FAQ chatbots the answer is no! Many of them start to suffer the dreaded “intent mismatch” issue at around 100 questions. Only Chatbots properly architected can handle thousands of questions accurately. 

Q: What’s an “intent mismatch” issue?

A: This is when you ask a chatbot a question and it matches to the wrong question, and therefore gives you the wrong answer. This is the worst thing that can happen in the chatbot world, and will destroy confidence of it in your organization. 

Q: What causes intent mismatching?

A: Oftentimes it’s poor training that’s the culprit, and that can be easily fixed. But there are scalability issues that tend to kick in around 100 questions (though it can happen at a lot less than that), whereby the chatbot starts to get more and more confused as to what it thinks the human is asking it. 

Q: Why is there more likelihood of intent mismatch issues once I get close to 100 questions?

A: As the number of intents for a chatbot increases, the chance of some intents (questions) looking similar to other intents also increases. This is a scalability issue. If the FAQ chatbot is not architected properly it will suffer hugely from scalability issues, and will be unable to handle lots of questions that sound (in the mind of the chatbot) very similar. 

Q: What do “good” FAQ chatbots do that allows them to solve the intent mismatch issue?

A: The good ones have multiple ways of understanding what the human is asking. They don’t just rely on simple NLP (Natural Language Processing) training, and are able to also factor in things like subject recognition, entity existence, and knowledge of your organization’s vocabulary. The reason this is a far superior means of intent matching is because this is how actual humans think. We don’t just use one indicator to understand what someone is saying, we deduce understanding from multiple elements and inferences of a sentence. And that’s how a really smart FAQ chatbot does it too, and how it’s able to handle thousands of questions and match them perfectly. 

Q: What happens when the question is ambiguous because the human wasn’t completely clear on what they wanted?

A: This all depends on the chatbot. Some chatbots just cross their fingers, make a guess, and hope for the best. Some recognize ambiguity based on confidence level analysis (which isn’t always accurate either). While the very best have smart algorithms for dealing with ambiguity and will ask clarifying questions to make sure they understand the “intent” of the question. 

Q: Does this mean that a good FAQ Chatbot is more complicated to manage than a bad one? Given how much more it is capable of doing?

A: No, quite the opposite. Because it’s massively more capable it makes it much easier to manage. Think of it this way, training something that already has lots of skills is much easier than training something that has very basic skills.  

Q: Can FAQ chatbots handle the fact that though the question may be the same, the answer can vary due to location/job/department differences of the person asking the question? For example, the question may be, “what is the sick leave policy”. And depending on who is asking, the answer is often very different.

A: Like the mismatch question, the answer varies based on good chatbots vs bad chatbots. The bad ones only support basic 1-to-1 mappings. One question always equals one answer. In the Enterprise world this doesn’t work at all. So, the good chatbots are capable of understanding demographic information about the person asking the question and can tailor the answer based on that. 

Q: My chatbot vendor said I need to load all my “answers” into their chatbot in the Cloud. Is this a good idea? 

A: No, this is a terrible idea. Loading all your content into someone else’s environment is not only technically unnecessary, it’s also forcing you into dual maintenance of two sources of truth. A good chatbot needs to be able to plug into your many sources of content to provide the answer

Q: But what if the answer is too long to show in a conversation? My chatbot vendor is telling me that I need to manually create abbreviated versions of all my unstructured content. 

A: Best practice UX (user experience) is that the chatbot does provide summarized responses (with options to see the full answer) to make the conversation easy to understand by the human. However, good chatbots can use AI to auto-summarize the text, and this would be the recommended approach. 

Q: Can FAQ chatbots only answer a question with static (ex: text, HTML, or web links) information, or can they also include data too? 

A: Basic FAQ chatbots are limited to only being able to respond with static data, but the good ones can also include data from other systems. And the great ones can also bring back that data from both on-premise and multiple Cloud systems. 

Q: It sounds like there’s a massive difference between FAQ chatbots and it’s important to look “under the hood” before I make a decision?

A: Yes, if you can take the time to test-drive a $20,000 car, then you should definitely test-drive any chatbot before making a decision. 

If you’d like to see a great chatbot in action, please contact us for a live demonstration. 

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Our last blog featured analysis of how Workday is falling behind the times in 2019, and how it will hold its clients back in the era of disruption we are now entering.

It may come as a surprise to know, that for those PeopleSoft clients still running an on-premise solution that goes all the way back to 1987, that options in this new era are far more plentiful than Workday’s. So, how is that possible? 

The reasons for this are that PeopleSoft comes with built-in features that Workday still doesn’t have (hint: a portal). While Oracle also provides comprehensive PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) offerings that clients are actually allowed to use (unlike Workday). Also, again unlike Workday, Oracle doesn’t just allow their clients to enhance the UX any way they want, they encourage it!

So, here’s a list of the three fast and easy things you can do today to move your UX to the Cloud, and greatly improve it at the same time. 

Note: All of the options below are managed services in the Cloud that you could configure as you please. But wouldn’t have the burden, or cost, of maintaining and upgrading.

1. Chatbot, aka Digital Assistant, in the Cloud (interacting with PeopleSoft and all your other systems)

Figure 1: Video of a chatbot in action

Summary: Chatbot as a Service, reducing operating costs and improving user satisfaction.

Description: Try out a fully configurable out-of-the-box chatbot solution that is GDPR compliant and comes delivered supporting all the complex use-cases your Enterprise system requires. As well as supporting your on-premise PeopleSoft solutions, it also comes delivered with out-of-the-box integration with over 10 major SaaS vendors, plus adapters for other on-premise solutions like OBIEE.

Plus it is future-proofed to also fully integrate with all Oracle Cloud chatbot skills being developed by Oracle development teams, and can act as a “concierge chatbot” for any chatbot skills created on the Oracle ODA stack (Oracle Digital Assistant). 

Implementation Overview: Fast 12-16 week pilot, with an option to roll out to the entire organization at the end of the pilot. 

2. Portal in the Cloud: using Oracle Content & Experience Cloud (CEC)

Figure 2: Video of Oracle CEC plugged into your Enterprise

Summary: Portal as a Service, improving user satisfaction and efficiencies, while also adopting Oracle’s next-generation portal.

Description: Implement a one-stop-shop, GDPR compliant, portal that combines not just your on-premise PeopleSoft, but also comes delivered with out-of-the-box integration with over 10 major SaaS vendors, as well as adapters for other on-premise solutions like OBIEE.  

Also, as this would be using Oracle CEC, you would now have access to a state-of-the-art content management system too. 

Plus it is future-proofed to also fully integrate with all Oracle Cloud applications, such that it could be your portal of choice for the next twenty+ years. And with this being a cloud solution there would be no environment maintenance and upgrades required by your team. Just a plug and play option for your business users to extend as they wish.

Note: For organizations already using the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub as an on-premise portal, this would not only replace the need for that environment (allowing you to decommission it), but would also greatly improve the UX as part of the implementation.

Implementation Overview: Fast 12-16 week implementation. 

3. Portal as a hosted solution in the Cloud: PeopleSoft Interaction Hub

iHub Screenshots
Figure 3: Some samples of the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub configuration options

Summary: Portal as a hosted Service, improving user satisfaction and efficiencies, while also moving to a hosted portal solution in the Oracle Cloud (IaaS), and utilizing a fully managed PeopleSoft Interaction Hub.

Description: Implement a one-stop-shop, GDPR compliant, portal that combines not just your on-premise PeopleSoft, but also comes delivered with out-of-the-box integration with over 10 major SaaS vendors, as well as adapters for other on-premise solutions like OBIEE.  

Plus it is future-proofed, such that any “pagelets” that exist in the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub can easily be converted to be drag-and-drop components in the Oracle Content & Experience Cloud, if you subsequently move to that platform in the future.  

Note: For organizations already using the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub as an on-premise portal, this would not only replace the need for that environment (allowing you to decommission it), but would also greatly improve the UX as part of the implementation.

Implementation Overview: Fast 12-16 week implementation. 

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