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.
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 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-19.2.1:
Microsoft Teams channel support for ODA (with full single sign-on).
Complete GDPR compliance (not even email addresses are stored).
Fully automated utterance supervised training.
Fully automated utterance testing (with full explanations on any mismatches).
Additional administrator dashboard ad-hoc reporting and analytics to improve oversight and reporting of chatbot usage.
Additional configurable semantic analysis when matching questions to answers.
General improvements to the configurable Vocabulary Engine.
Additions to the Skills Library (more delivered HCM & Campus skills).
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).
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
Figure 1: Charlie the Chatbot in MS Teams speaking Spanish and English
Contact us below to learn more and setup your own personal demo:
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.
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.
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?
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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