The next release of Ida, our digital assistant, will be available this January, 2022. Clients can talk to their account teams about a deployment schedule that works for you.

21.04 in Summary

21.04 is the biggest release of Ida in over a year. Our experience over the last year has validated our opinion that having one-stop shopping for all your answers is the key to successful ROI. Running AI like Ida at scale means getting engagement from multiple departments who need to contribute their organizational-specific expertise to the solution. 21.04 is all about creating a powerful, federated AI platform to achieve scale and maximize usefulness to users while taking your return on investment to new highs.

With 21.04, our customers can run multiple unique versions of Ida while leveraging knowledge and AI models that are common to all your organizations, as we call them. An organization is any entity such as a department, a campus, a business unit, a location, etc. This all happens in a single tenancy so the value propositions really accelerate with Ida.

The second pillar of this release is the ability to understand accuracy and performance over time in a fully automated cycle. No human intervention is required to understand how the machine is doing. One of the key mission’s of Ida is transparency around performance of the AI despite it not being a common approach in our industry.

Finally, a whole host of new organization aware reports are now available as well as a refreshed Ida dashboard making managing the solution even easier.

Release Notes

  • Ability to get to help from Disambiguation flow
  • Accuracy reporting without rating data
  • Added tracking of live NLP data
  • FBL Metrics Report improvements for sampling
  • Fixed jumping scroll on Feedback Loop pages
  • Greater language support for system messages
  • Improvements to AI automated testing
  • Improvements to Dashboard UX
  • Improvements to dynamic Hello response
  • Improvements to train/test labels on reports and pages
  • Organization support by Chat location
  • Report: Answers by Channel
  • Report: Confidence Bands
  • Report: Daily Conversation Summary & Feedback
  • Report: Location of chats based on live data
  • Report: Low Confidence Utterances
  • Report: Monthly Active Users
  • Report: Monthly Answers (month over month)
  • Report: Topics that led to frustration
  • Report: Updated Skeleton Report
  • Streamlined FAQ lookup page
  • Support for decentralized Ida setup
  • Updated Environments tile with link to release notes
  • UX improvement to non-prod vs. prod data and tasks
  • Various bug fixes to thumb rating collection and processing
  • Video Training Guides

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With the release of PeopleSoft Picaso, our clients are asking a lot of questions. It is not surprising because in the world of AI there is a lot of murkiness caused by sales and marketing messages. This post will bring some clarity so you can be well informed.

Many years ago our digital assistant, Ida, shifted to using Oracle’s ODA PaaS service for its natural language processing (NLP) due to its flexibility and power. ODA is often unheralded, but its NLP uses 40 years’ worth of enterprise data from “The” data company, Oracle. It is a unique advantage not held by competing products.

ODA is a stand-alone platform running in the cloud and has no requirement to be used with Oracle Applications. An entirely different team at Oracle runs the ODA division. As with all technology products, and just like Oracle’s database, Oracle’s applications can provide value by leveraging the company’s technology. HCM Cloud, ERP Cloud and now PeopleSoft products are delivering functionality, called “skills”, for ODA customers.

PeopleSoft’s skills are deployed through the brand “Picaso” and this post is all about Picaso, what it is, who should use it and the value it provides.

What is Picaso?

Picaso is the name given to the Chat UI widget (the actual window you chat in within PeopleSoft) which consumes multiple PeopleSoft delivered skills (from HCM and FSCM currently). Just like Workday’s or Salesforce’s chatbots, they are meant to extend the application’s functionality. PeopleSoft Picaso, however, is built on a far more powerful platform than the aforementioned products.

The purpose of Picaso is to provide a conversational user interface (UI) to PeopleSoft which is represented in accessing PeopleSoft data and even conducting a few self-service transactions like registering a PTO day.

What do I get?

Currently, Picaso comes with a web-based channel inside Fluid pages. Classic is not supported. When a PeopleSoft user logs in, they will see a chat icon they can engage with. PeopleSoft then delivers skills via the ODA Skill Store. The current skills as of the Fall of 2021 are:

  • Absence Skill (HCM)
  • Benefits Skill (HCM)
  • Payroll for North America Skill (HCM)
  • Requisition Inquiry Skill (FSCM)
  • Expense Inquiry Skill (FSCM)
  • Employee Directory Skill (HCM)

More information about these skills can be found in the Picaso documentation. These skills are built to access data from these modules and, in some cases, process transactions as pictured below. There are minimum PeopleTools version and PUM image requirements, so be sure to check those out.

PeopleSoft PICASO HCM Absence Skill

How much does it cost?

In the PeopleSoft world, you pay for the application (HCM) and you get the technology included (PeopleTools). Digital Assistants work in the opposite manner. Picaso and its skills are free for PeopleSoft customers, but you need to purchase the PaaS cloud service for ODA. Implementing Picaso may come with additional consulting fees should you need assistance.

How do I implement Picaso?

Implementing PICASO involves a few key steps:

  1. License ODA
  2. Setup your OCI tenancy, ODA instance and provision access
  3. Install the PeopleSoft Skills and setup a channel
  4. Setup connectivity to your PeopleSoft (must be accessible on the internet)
  5. Configure PeopleSoft to allow integration of ODA
  6. Create a Digital Assistant, add the Picaso skills, and setup the channel integration
  7. Train and test the bot
  8. Deploy

In our experience, step 4 tends to be the biggest stumbling block for customers and requires a Cloud Architect to fully understand. Additionally, to get the most out of Picaso, having AI people on hand is invaluable. If you don’t have these roles available, you can enlist an Oracle Partner to help such as IntraSee.

What is the difference between Ida and Picaso?

Customers are coming to us and asking: should I implement Ida or Picaso? This notion is really a false comparison. Each product has a purpose and goes after different value propositions. They are more compliments to each other than they are an either/or choice.

Let’s start with what is not different between Ida and Picaso. Both use the ODA NLP engine as a basis for the machine’s understanding of human language. They are seeded with very different training data, but the engine is the same. Both require licensing of the ODA PaaS service (Ida embeds this license within its pricing). 

Picaso was built with a focus on PeopleSoft. It is present in the Fluid Web UI and helps PeopleSoft users get to data, pages and transactions. It is a great step into digital assistants if your needs are focused on PeopleSoft. With Picaso you will need to handle the AI Ops such as log/analytics monitoring, migrations, uptime, learning, etc. You do have the option of using a partner to manage these services and IntraSee is one such option.

Ida is meant to be a one-stop shop for users including policies, content, data, workflow, transactions, integrations and analytics. PeopleSoft is merely a sliver of Ida’s value proposition. Ida has customers whose use is approaching 1,000 skills so the audience is broader with the scale to match. Ida is often found on many web pages outside PeopleSoft, including SharePoint or CMS systems, and channels like Microsoft Teams. Ida is also available when the user is both authenticated or not.

Ida’s integrations are a key part of the one-stop philosophy. Ida has a catalog of integrations including Salesforce, ServiceNow, HCM Cloud, PeopleSoft, Google, Microsoft Teams and Office 365, Canvas, Taleo, Kronos and others including the ability to configure custom integrations.

Finally, AI Ops is a critical part to your project’s success. AI Ops teams are often made up of Data Scientists, AI Architects and Computational Linguists. Despite what some marketing teams may tell you, AI isn’t magic and it needs human cultivation for it to achieve superior accuracy performance. With Ida, we automate many of these human tasks and include managed services to fill these roles, so you don’t have to (illustrated below). The budget saved on these salaries or consulting fees alone makes an Ida project an ROI winner.

An illustration of Ida’s Value Added features as of 21.03

Can Picaso and Ida work together?

Because both Picaso and Ida run on ODA, Ida can consume skills from Picaso and include them in a one-stop-shop chat. You can get the best of both options and they can leverage the same ODA license, so the cost is only incremental.

The most efficient path is to roll out Picaso and Ida skills at the same time. This path allows you to tune the machine learning model with the broader scope in mind from the get-go. The alternative requires regression analysis and re-tuning you could have avoided. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a gap between implementing Picaso and Ida, but it is not the most cost/time efficient path.

Which one is the right choice for me?

If your objective is to start with a focused use-case, get some experience and add functionality to a PeopleSoft Fluid deployment, Picaso can be a great fit for you. If your mission is to drive ROI through automation at an enterprise level, then check out Ida. For most clients, we implement in 6 weeks and are in production after 12 weeks.

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The next release of Ida, our digital assistant, will be available for customers beginning at the end of September, 2021. This post contains the highlights of this release which focused on automation and improving the ROI of digital assistants.

21.03 in Summary

21.03 includes many fixes and enhancements with a focus on the Feedback Loop process and the new Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) NLP module. We are making the process of giving the machine feedback easier, more streamlined and efficient so it takes you less time each cycle. Ida’s Feedback Loop is a differentiating feature which drives its high accuracy marks.

Ida also adds improved automation to accuracy tracking and will now warn you when accuracy starts to slip or there is a growing concern. This will save you time from having to analyze reports and instead just grab your attention when your attention is needed.

Improved user experience features are also part of this release such as the new ability to rate, trap and provide custom outcomes when users are expressing frustration. An example of this is getting them over to a live agent when you sense they are growing frustrated.

The Ida library was also updated and we now have hundreds of pre-built skills for employees, managers, students, faculty, advisors and guests. You can read more detailed release notes below.

Release Notes

  • Bulk Import/Export Utility for FAQ+
  • Streamlined CV Configuration Page
  • Streamlined bot build process
  • Updated Ida catalog & training data
  • Autotest support for negative testing
  • Improved Feedback Loop labeling/help
  • Ability to record who initiated a chat via handoff
  • Improvements to Lightbox UX in Feedback Loop pages
  • Adjust bot export process to allow “empty” NLP Segments
  • Automated topic-level training data management
  • Improved QA autotest output
  • Last Accuracy KPI Dashboard Tile
  • Accuracy Leak KPI Dashboard Tile
  • Streamlined UI and choices for Feedback Ratings
  • Feedback Loop: New unrated option for ‘too vague to rate’
  • Trap frustration utterances and direct accordingly
  • Fixed show utterances in FBL in some use cases
  • Improved thumbs rating UI
  • Metrics Report: Sort location data by conversation count
  • Add DE branching logic support for auto-suggest inputs
  • Friendly not authorized message when guest-to-auth handoff fails
  • MS Teams Authentication updates
  • Improved translation performance for HTML responses
  • Improved filtering and defaults for Feedback Loop
  • Allow small talk decoupling in a digital assistant setting
  • Support for custom disambiguation response pre-text
  • Updated Feedback Loop Metrics Report to accommodate data model changes
  • Scheduled archiving of old Feedback Loop and Autotest data
  • jQuery conflict resolution for chat ui

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Ida 21.02 will be released and available for customers beginning at the end of this month. Here are the highlights in this release as we continue to fine-tune the incredible accuracy performance we see from Ida as well as make various bug fixes and improvements.

  • No-match text is now configurable
  • Feedback Loop language toggle button styling changes (see both English and native languages used in this tool)
  • Capturing auto-utterance & initiator analytics to better understand who is handing off to Ida
  • Add Oracle ODA 20.09+ NLP model support for improved accuracy
  • Manual chat-ui language setting to force a specific language vs. auto-detection
  • Pruning features for audit data
  • Pruning & archive features for chat data
  • Check skill version against IUC version prior to testing
  • FBL Row Padding Fixes
  • Clean up Thumbs UI/CSS/HTML
  • Support separate DE processes for Help FAQ and NLP Failure process
  • Easy On/Off for Thumbs user satisfaction ratings
  • Audit reports for blank lines in answers
  • New 80/20 split administration page for training/testing data sets
  • Feedback loop now filters at server for improved filtering
  • Fixed MS Teams Variable Error
  • Now Capturing MS Bot User ID values

Product Update Notes

The focus for this release was to continue to improve NLP and utterance matching performance even beyond the 90% mark most of our clients are seeing. The central part of this improvement is supporting updated NLP models. As part of this support, the automated regression testing was significantly changed to more closely model real life thereby ensuring better quality assurance.

A series of features were added to understand how Ida plays in the larger context of an enterprise by tracking any referrals it gets, where it is being used and what channels it is running on (such as Microsoft Teams).

Next we have features added for better multi-language support such as now having a choice between a configured language for a user vs. auto-detection. Additionally, the language being used can now be passed to integrated systems for an end-to-end experience in your language.

We continue to add more skills to the library of Ida. Clients can get up and running quickly by using this catalog. Recently we have been adding content around the return to work/campus. Finally, many bug fixes, performance improvements and other minor updates are included.

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At IntraSee, we have been proponents of automation for a very long time. Every new industrial revolution has taken place because a new way of automating things was discovered. In the world of digital assistants (aka extremely advanced chatbots), the benefits of automating both conversations and back office activities were obvious: reduced operating costs and a better user experience (UX).

But despite the glaring need for more automation in the workplace, many organizations have been slow to make it a priority. And then COVID happened. In a matter of weeks, automation went from a low priority to mission-critical for many executives.

A recent study by Bain & Company brought to light a dramatic switch in how organizations now view automation as a way to create business resilience and mitigate risk during a crisis.

Survey results: most important automation goal pre-COVID
Figure 1: Automation Survey of 500 Executives

As you can see, the COVID crisis has acted as a major jolt to companies globally. The ability to successfully navigate any crisis with the least impact to how the organization is run is now deemed as the number one reason for implementing an automated solution.

Business continuity during any crisis is best ensured by automation. And if this also brings lower operating costs and higher quality, then it should be a slam dunk decision for any organization.

And because of this, barriers to automation are coming down, right across the board, due to the current pandemic.

Figure 2: Barriers before and after the pandemic

What is very clear is that executives have made a massive shift in how they intend to use their technology budgets, and for the upcoming year resources will be focused on the automation of the Enterprise, and previous barriers are all being swept to the side.

And this shift shows up in what has actually occurred since the pandemic kicked in. Looking at the chart below, you can see the adjustments being made that are primarily based on workforce actions – which is what you would totally expect. But you can also see that automation has now become a key focus in terms of delivery-based actions.

Figure 3: Automation shown as a clear outcome of COVID

Even before COVID, automation was on the roadmap across all industry sectors. Only now the focus has intensified.

Figure 4: Automation plans across industry sectors

Bain’s conclusion as to the impact of automation as a pandemic risk mitigation strategy:

While Forrester proclaimed:

The COVID-19 health crisis is on everybody’s mind. Once it passes — which it eventually will — one of its lasting legacies will be a renewed focus on automation

Meanwhile IDC noted:

“I haven’t talked to anyone who’s not doing automation as a way to become more competitive, and more resilient.”

AI in the workplace is set to explode in 2021 as part of the fourth industrial revoluton and the move to AI-fueled automation. COVID-19 has not slowed down this move. Quite the contrary, the current pandemic has accelerated the move to automation as a means of ensuring business-as-usual during a crisis.

Digital assistants are the most logical next step for automating how your entire organization interacts with the Enterprise. Given that, it’s clearly time to implement a robotic means of ensuring business resilience in the COVID and post-COVID world. And if you can reduce operating costs, and improve the UX, all the better.

Chatbot Service
Figure 5: The face of business resilience, risk management, reduced operating costs, and improved UX

If you would like more information, or would like to see a demo of how to automate your Enterprise, please contact us below

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