SaaS Technology Company Spun Out of IntraSee

SANTA MONICA, CA, June 17, 2020 — IntraSee, Inc., announces it has established Ida Artificial Intelligence, Inc. (‘Ida’), a technology company providing market-leading solutions for enabling the Conversational Enterprise and the Conversational Campus. 

IntraSee will continue to provide global implementation services in both the conversational UI and web UI markets.  Existing clients of IntraSee will see no material change in terms of how they have always worked with the company.

Ida provides SaaS-based technology services to companies, universities and colleges, and governments undertaking conversational UI, digital agent and chatbot initiatives to enable their users to more easily engage and interact with the organization through human-like, digital experiences. 

By establishing Ida, the two companies are respectively able to better serve the increasing market demand and diverse use cases for conversational UI deployments by large organizations.  

Existing and new clients will be able to take advantage of Ida’s capacity to develop and manage advanced solutions for increasingly sophisticated cognitive services, middleware, autonomics and the data analytics necessary for robust conversational UI deployments within large enterprises.  

Ida’s technologies lead the industry in their use of automation for conversational UI services, including automated configuration, testing, user feedback, remediation and learning. 

IntraSee will continue to provide the necessary professional services which support the unique demands, customization requirements, design and growth needs for such deployments of Ida.  

More can be found about Ida at https://meet-ida.ai.

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In these difficult COVID-19 times that we live in, information is constantly changing and therefore the demand by people everywhere to find out “what is the latest news about …” is skyrocketing. To the extent that help desks across the globe cannot keep up with demand.

Adding more and more people to answer the phones is not a viable option, especially when there are so many other things to do. Thankfully there is a way to juggle all these competing demands, and the solution resides with a “digital worker”. AKA chatbot.

When “help” is more important than ever, and it needs to be fast and accurate, a digital assistant (chatbot) can be a game changer.

At IntraSee we have been working with our digital assistant, IDA, to create a configurable COVID-19 chatbot that can respond to the typical questions in the higher education world that are unique to your institution (not stuff that’s already all over the internet). Note: very soon we will roll out another COVID-19 chatbot for the commercial and public sectors.

Out of the box it will be able to answer questions on multiple topics but can also be quickly taught new topics. Included topics cover:

  • Financial Assistance
  • Graduation
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Housing
  • International & Travel
  • Pay & Time
  • Refunds
  • Remote Access
  • Scholarships & Funding
  • Withdrawals
IntraSee COVID-19 Chat Dialogue

Figure 1: A COVID-19 bot, helping students, parents, faculty and staff

Students, parents, faculty, staff can all interact with the COVID-19 bot. They won’t need to login to ask questions that are not private to the user. And it is smart enough to not get confused between student related questions and faculty related questions.

It also has an advanced language processor that can quickly be taught terminology and acronyms that are unique to your institution. And will engage with the user to disambiguate any vague question such that it knows exactly what to answer. It won’t be guessing and providing the wrong answer.

Better still, it can be managed by subject matter experts with a simple UI to update/add answers as things quickly change in your world. And in case you are wondering, yes, it can also hook into your on-premise PeopleSoft system to perform transactions and answer data-related questions, as well as interact with other learning systems you may have.

So, this is not a one-trick pony, and can be extended to be your one-stop bot for all your campus needs.

And one more thing. It can be implemented in one-to-two weeks. So this is something you can do now!

All of our digital assistant solutions are implemented by starting with a pilot program. The following table summarizes the various implementation options for all of our pilots. And you can always start with our COVID-19 bot and transition over to a full campus digital assistant. Note: we will be offering heavily discounted pricing for the next two months.

IntraSee Pilot Compare

Figure 2: Summary of implementation options

And in the words of John Lennon…

Help
I need somebody
(Help!) not just anybody
(Help!) you know I need someone
Help!
– John Lennon

You don’t need help from just anybody, or any chatbot for that matter. IntraSee’s COVID-19 bot is ready to help take away the stress from your help desk. 

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April 1st, 2020 marks the beginning of a new era at IntraSee. Today we are proud to announce the opening of our new headquarters in Los Angeles, California. Situated in the “Silicon Beach” area of Santa Monica, the heart of the LA tech and startup scene that comprises over 500 different companies. This is something we’ve been planning for quite some time, and we couldn’t be happier to begin the next phase of our expansion.

And to explain why we’ve done this, here are some typical questions we have been asked. So let’s kick it off, IntraSee-style, with a Q&A.

Q: Why Los Angeles?
A:  It’s a great place to both live and work, and gives us access to many more like-minded partners, people and organizations. As an innovation hub, it’s perfect for us as a leading Enterprise AI company to be able to collaborate and engage with people working in the same field. 

Q: Will you be employing more people in Los Angeles?
A: Yes, that’s the plan, and one reason for the move. Plus, we will also be relocating some people too. As we grow, we think this is a place people will want to come to. And we believe we can attract the best and the brightest here for our future endeavors.

Q: Will anything change with regards to service levels and other logistics?
A: No, it will be exactly the same. We are firmly focused on the success of our clients, and that’s what drives us every single day.

Q: Where abouts in Silicon Beach will you be based?
A: We are moving to the Colorado Center in Santa Monica. It’s just one block away from Oracle’s Innovation Hub at the Water Garden.  

LA campus collage

Figure 1: New headquarters in Silicon Beach (Los Angeles)

Q: Any other planned offices outside the USA?
A: Yes. We already have an office in Paris, France. And we are currently looking at options in SE Asia. Demand for digital assistant solutions is taking off all over the world, and we want to be wherever you need to see us.  

At IntraSee we are super excited to announce that version DA-20.1.1 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 compatibleGDPR compliant, and world leading meta-data driven middleware solution. 

Our goal of automating every aspect of Oracle 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-20.1.1:

  1. Integrate Oracle delivered skills into topics that include skills from other sources (ex: IntraSee, client-created, other vendor, etc.). NOTE: includes the ability for a business user to mix and match skills in a topic via the wizard admin tool.
  2. Include embedded web forms within the Microsoft Teams channel as part of a transactional conversation.
  3. Other minor UX enhancements to Microsoft Teams channel support for ODA.
  4. Secondary “fallback” checking for utterances that fail to meet the confidence threshold of ODA.
  5. Ability to conversationally navigate backwards and forwards between multiple bot flows, maintaining memory of previous answers to questions.
  6. General enhancements to provide more human-like conversational flows.
  7. Improvements to automated predictive utterance testing, and automated daily utterance analysis reports.
  8. Improved performance of all response times.
  9. Improved dashboard metrics and reporting.
  10. Additions to the Skills Library (more delivered HCM & Campus skills).
  11. Add support for new Oracle ODA 20.x features.

Product Update Notes

A key addition for this release was the seamless integration of any ODA skill built by other organizations. Primarily this was to support the really cool set of skills built by the Oracle HCM Cloud team. But it also allows for any skill built on the ODA stack to be included too. Which means clients can build their own bot flows, and not have to worry about utterance training, testing, and matching (including disambiguation). The IntraSee “super skill” will handle this automatically, which takes away the #1 reason chatbot projects fail. With this new addition, any bot flows will accurately be matched regardless of who created them.

Why is this important? Because we want to enable a box #2 solution, not box #1 (below). This is how the human brain operates. And this is how a “downloadable worker” should operate too

Chatbot Skills vs. One Digital Assistant

Figure 1: Box #2 is how an advanced “downloadable worker” is configured. Box #1 is a tower of babel.

Microsoft Teams was another focus for this release. The biggest addition was the capability of embedding advanced web forms within a conversation in MS Teams. This proved useful for things like changing address, bank deposit info and more complex manager transactions. Ex: employee promotion with a salary change. 

As always, we constantly make advances with utterance matchingThis is job #1 in our world. If you can’t match an utterance to the correct question/answer then it won’t matter how elegant the bot flow is. So, to that end, we raised confidence thresholds as a general best practice and added fallback checking to catch utterances that fell below the threshold, but which we felt had clear matches to multiple entries in the digital assistants Enterprise knowledge. We then ran the results through our disambiguation engine to ensure the user was able to correctly identify what it was they were asking

This how people talk to peopleClarification is a key aspect of any conversation. It’s not a binary activity, and a lot of grey areas exist with how people state what they want. So advanced matching and disambiguation processes are not a nice to have. It’s a necessity. 

The result was better matching of utterances. So, job #1 achieved!

Finally, we continue to make the conversational skills of the digital assistant more sophisticated, and improve on our automated testing processes and dashboard metrics. If you can’t measure something, then how do you know it’s a success? And how do you know you are getting better each week?

We feel like we can’t focus too much on the training, testing, and measuring of digital assistant performance. Your “downloadable worker” needs to be treated like a human worker in many respects. Only instead of bi-annual performance reviews, you need to be constantly evaluating performance every day, and providing weekly statistics to your organization on its growth and maturation

This is why we make this a focus on every product release

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It was a different world back in the 1960’s, and the TV series “Mad Men” did a great job of taking us all back to a point in time when people did things very differently than they do today. In the show, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) was fortunate enough to have Peggy Olsen (played by the inimitable Elisabeth Moss) as his executive assistant (aka secretary). Interesting note: by season 7 the tables were turned and Don reported to Peggy. 

Peggy’s job as an executive assistant was to smooth out Don’s life, to the extent that all he had to do was attend to the “important stuff” while she took care of everything else. And made sure that he did all the things he needed to do to become successful, and all in a timely fashion (“Hey Don, before you head out can you …. “). That was the essence of the executive assistant, and only the rich and powerful were assigned this luxury, as the cost would have been prohibitive to provide one for every single person in the organization. 

So, what exactly did Peggy do? Well, lots of things! Calendaring, scheduling, reminding (lots of this!), organizing, running of reports, troubleshooting issues, strategic counsel, managing expense accounts, implementing new processes, managing the data in multiple systems (especially payroll), onboarding, offboarding, communications, and coordination of events. 

And did we mention having to remind Don constantly, but delicately, of what he needed to do? That was a full-time job all in itself. And Peggy also helped Don complete things he was too busy to do himself, or could never do properly even if he did have the time (generally due to three-hour business meetings over lunch and cocktails)?

Being an executive assistant meant you had to be really smart, super organized, and have astonishing communication skills. It wasn’t like Don provided a detailed list to Peggy of what he needed each day. Generally it was a few words blurted out as he exited the door. Peggy then had to decipher a brief utterance and figure out everything she needed to get done. No wonder that eventually she ended up being his boss after he left on a leave of absence that she no doubt had to organize for him. 

So that’s what executive assistants did, and still do today. And what about digital assistants (the reason for this blog)? Well, a good one does pretty much the same thing as Peggy! Only they do it for every single person in the organization, 24/7 and 365 days a year. And for tiny fractions of money. 

This is why we are entering the next industrial revolution. Your entire workforce can now focus on the “important stuff”. With no need for departments full of people to help them when they get stuck, or head in the wrong direction.

But to understand the fork in the road we are at today, it’s important to differentiate between chatbots and digital assistants. And to do that we need to look at what happened, and the mistakes made, from the mid-90’s onwards. 

The advent of the internet in the mid-90’s sparked the beginning of an era of bad web site development and poor user experiences (especially in the Enterprise). From the infamous “link farms” that forced the user to guess (like whack-a-mole) which was the right place to click. To sites that were so confusing that the average person would just give up and call someone after wasting countless minutes searching for what they needed. And even then, things often went from bad to worse. The person (eventually) answering the phone often didn’t know the answer and would pass you to a department where they thought someone else would be able to help. All accompanied by massive wait times and mounting frustration. Being bounced from one support person to another was not productive and it certainly wasn’t fun. Ultimately it was an expensive waste of time where nobody was a winner. 

And this is why the most expensive aspect of Enterprise systems isn’t the actual software, or hardware required to run them. It’s the people who need to support these systems (functional and technical) that make up the greatest cost. 

And now we are headed into a new era of conversational UI. And, guess what? The people who brought you the “link farm” are now trying to sell you the “chatbot farm”. This is a long, long, way from Don and Peggy. Don had one executive assistant for a reason. She understood everything, and she could do almost everything. And for the things she couldn’t do, she always knew who could. And her job was to just make sure things got done properly and on time. 

So, what is a “chatbot farm”? A chatbot farm is an army of chatbots with super narrow knowledge of specific subjects. They will be (if organizations take the wrong fork in then road) the “link farm” of the future. Forcing the human to guess which chatbot knows how to help on which subject, and then hope for the best. And it gets even worse if the requirement to satisfactorily complete a task means that you have to discuss multiple subjects. If that’s the case, then welcome to the concept of digital dead-ends.  

But, imagine an alternate universe where, instead of an army of disconnected chatbots with crude functional capabilities, we have one super chatbot that knows everything about your Enterprise, and which also understands the nuances of human conversation. Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet the digital assistant (let’s call it Peggy).The answer to all the problems you never knew you were about to encounter. 

To illustrate this concept, in the figure below imagine the dots are skills (small groupings of “intents”, aka things the chatbot can do). The problem with delivering skills as stand-alone features tied to individual chatbots is that this just provides linear access to what that skill can do (which in itself may not be fully comprehensive of all the things associated with the topic the human is interested in). And also assumes that the human asking the question knows which chatbot to engage with in order to complete the task at hand. Hint: they won’t have a clue! This tower of babel is represented in box 1.

In box 2 we see a representation of how the actual brain works and how an executive assistant sees the world. And, therefore, how a digital assistant (properly tooled and configured) operates. Box 2 is the digital version of Peggy Olsen.The ultimate, as Gartner would refer to it, “downloadable worker”.

Chatbot Skills vs. One Digital Assistant

Figure 1: A tower of babel or one clear voice?

From an IntraSee perspective, we have spent years building a “digital Peggy Olsen”. And, even better, a configurable version that can be tailored to your organization.

“Digital Peggy” is configurable because it is auto-generated by a complex AI and meta-data driven middleware that resides on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). Peggy also utilizes Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) as its core conversational UI technology, which it auto generates at design time via a single push button. 

Then at runtime it interacts with both OCI, ODA, other AI elements, and a massive skills library (created by IntraSee, Oracle, and custom built by clients) which also plugs into Cloud and on-premise adapters (created over a 10 year period) to manage and interact with all the systems necessary. 

Peggy is also super-scalable, and handles things like disambiguation, such that Peggy never leaps to assumptions as to what someone is asking it, and instead can ask follow-up questions to make sure Peggy understands the “ask”. Just like humans do. Well, the best ones anyway. Don Draper didn’t always make himself completely clear in what he wanted, and Peggy just needed to make sure before she took action. Plus, digital Peggy also can quickly be taught to understand terminology and acronyms used in your organization. And starts on day 1 with a general understanding of common business terminology. Almost as if “it” had been working with you for the past twenty years. 

And one more thing. Digital Peggy can speak around a 100 languages. So, welcome to the world of digital assistants, and welcome to the next industrial revolution. It’s ready and available now. 

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