In 2016 AlphaGo was the first computer to defeat a world champion at the ancient Chinese game of Go. Fast forward to October 2017, and the latest iteration, called AlphaGo Zero, crushed the previous version, AlphaGo Master, by 100 games to zero. Thus, making it “arguably the strongest Go player in history”.

That the latest version of something beat the previous version isn’t the shocking part of all this. We’ve become used to things getting better and better. Version 4 of something should be better than version 3. Now, what makes this a fascinating story is how AlphaGo Zero was built, and how it became so powerful. And with that, a very important lesson can be learned for the practical implementation of AI in the Enterprise

To the casual observer, and many experts, one would imagine that AlphaGo Zero had more powerful processors, access to more data, and more time to “learn”. Not so. In fact, the opposite was true. AlphaGo Zero had less processors, was provided with “zero” data (hence the name), and had a tiny amount of time to learn.

AlphaGo Efficiency Graph

Figure 1: Less is more

So, the big question is, how is this possible? There’s a very long answer to this question, but the short answer is that AlphaGo Zero was unencumbered with big data and was allowed to just think for itself. All it needed was the right algorithms.

The creator of AlphaGo Zero was a brilliant group called DeepMind (based out of the UK) that Google acquired for $500 million in 2014. Professor David Silver explains it succinctly:

“Algorithms matter much more than either computing or data available”

– Professor David Silver

This in itself is a breakthrough in AI, and massively impactful to not only future developments in AI, but also in the practical application of AI in organizations today. It also runs counter to the hype machine touted frequently, and should lead organizations to question the validity of being told over and over again, “implement AI, let it mine your data and learn, and in about a year you should start to see value from it”.

Advising people that implementing AI is a year-long process that would take lots of high-priced consultants to implement, with just the hope that it would work, was bad advice out of the gate. AlphaGo Zero has shown that there is a better way. A smarter way.

This whole story reminds us very much of the famous “Search war” that took place back in the late 90’s early 2000’s between Google and Yahoo (remember them)? Yahoo at the time had a massive lead in the Search ad revenue business. Only one problem: it was built using massively inefficient technology that required huge amounts of human interaction. Whereas Google built their search solution by implementing vastly better algorithms that allowed them to completely automate every process. Nobody needs a lesson in how this all turned out. Smart algorithms, automation, and scalable architecture always wins out in the end.

Which brings us to the original point of this blog: how can these lessons be applied to Chatbot implementations in the Enterprise? Let us count the ways…

1. Chatbots can only succeed if they are accompanied by clearly defined processes that define all interaction with your entire enterprise system.

Chatbots themselves are merely a UI. They are not “the brain”, they are a mechanism by which the user can communicate with the brain. Instead of clicking on links, now you can have a conversation with your Enterprise system.

So first, the neural network needs to be in place, and the paths through that network need to be defined. These paths are called processes. And the way to navigate through a process is via a conversation.

At IntraSee we have built, over the past decade, a way to turn your entire Enterprise into a neural map of processes that can be traversed via a browser. Now we have enabled the ability to traverse that same network via conversational AI. AKA Chatbot. The chatbot piece was relatively easy for us, the previous ten years of work was much harder 😊

2. Chatbots should be smart out of the gate. And if they are not, then you have implemented the wrong chatbot solution.

There’s two ways to attack a problem:

A. Lots of people, and no clear plan

B. With smart algorithms, few people, technology automation, and a plan

Option A was how Yahoo tried to win the Search war against Google. Option B was how Google won. At IntraSee we believe that option B is the only tenable way organizations should attempt to implement a chatbot solution.

It is our belief that many vendors in the chatbot market will bring huge teams of consultants to “solve” the problem. These teams will spend years manually building out spaghetti code dialog flows that will be both unmaintainable and unworkable.

It is the IntraSee approach to automate every aspect of a chatbot implementation.

We believe that chatbot implementations should be short projects that provide rapid returns on investment. Increases in customer satisfaction will be immediate, support costs will drop, and organizational efficiency will occur within weeks of the implementation.

3. Greater success will be achieved with one chatbot that understands your entire enterprise. Having multiple chatbots organized by one concierge chatbot is a recipe for failure.

If you click to search, you don’t need to find the right version of Google to get what you want. Google doesn’t fail to return results and suggest that you try a different version of Google to get the right results. Your chatbot shouldn’t do that either.

It’s our belief that many vendors will try to push a multi-chatbot solution, where each chatbot handles its own “silo”. This reminds us of the early days of portals where organizations ended up with hundreds of portals and people had no clue which one to go to. Multiple chatbots would be equally disastrous.

Imagine someone trying to have a conversation with a chatbot where some of what they needed was in Taleo, some was in PeopleSoft, some was in Oracle HCM Cloud, and some was in Oracle’s Content & Experience Cloud. This should be handled by one chatbot that understands each system. You can’t start bouncing people back and forth between chatbots, with each chatbot saying, “sorry, I don’t know the answer to that. Talk to the other chatbot”.

That said, nobody can chatbot enable their entire Enterprise with one chatbot overnight. It will be an incremental process initially, and then will expand rapidly as successes are realized and the correct, scalable, chatbot infrastructure is put in place. But this is clearly the path we believe organizations need to tread. Even Google didn’t index the world overnight. But they did implement the concept of one search engine then used technology-automation and smarter algorithms to eventually make Google the one place everyone went when they needed to find anything. This should be your chatbot goal too.  A chatbot that understands all “intents” within your organization, and can manage conversations across multiple Cloud and on-premise systems.

At IntraSee we know how to do this, and have built a scalable Enterprise-centric solution that will allow you to meet your organization’s goals at a price you can afford. And, more so, it is a solution that will automatically adapt to your changing infrastructure. Such that as you slowly migrate from on-premise solutions (like PeopleSoft) to Cloud hosted solutions (like Oracle HCM Cloud), the solution will adapt to the change, and thus protect your UX investment.

Ultimately, what AlphaGo Zero has taught the world is the importance of the “I” in AI. AI needs to be intelligent out of the box. Chatbot engines are frameworks that can be infused with intelligence from the get-go. That’s what we do at IntraSee. And this is what made AlphaGo Zero a winner.

Please contact us to find out more.

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It’s been a great week at OpenWorld this year, and especially fascinating if, like us, you follow the latest technology trends. Because this year Oracle really nailed all the relevant buzzwords, and then some! AI, Chatbots, Blockchain, Cloud… this was the theme of the conference. Then Oracle took it to another level and also included a new partnership with Slack. Yes, Enterprise software is looking decidedly cool these days. And with it, Oracle sent a huge message to the market. That while many other vendors are doing aspects of what Oracle does: nobody does it all, other than Oracle. The sheer breadth of their product portfolio is something else. Now, all they have to do is show that their depth can match their breadth.

This is also a far cry from Workday, who recently announced their intent to open up their platform for developers. Given how far ahead of Workday Oracle is, it’s hard to imagine Dave Duffield’s company ever catching Oracle in this race. Workday’s one strength appears to be its HCM SaaS product, but Oracle appears to be getting stronger and stronger in this area too. You’d imagine that being a one-trick pony would eventually catch up to Workday, but we shall see.

As far as technology conferences go, this was a “drop the mic” week for Oracle. And here’s the highlights as we saw them:

AI infused into the entire Cloud

Unlike IBM, Oracle doesn’t see AI as a standalone product looking for a purpose in life. Which is probably why they don’t have a catchy name for it (ex: Watson, Einstein, etc.). The Oracle vision is that AI is infused into their entire Cloud suite on a feature by feature basis. For example, AI will be used to allow recruiters to better match candidates with job openings. This is a very practical application of AI. At IntraSee we firmly believe that AI is best used to solve issues that are already known to be a problem in the Enterprise world, as well as a tool that can enable automation of what are currently highly manual tasks. In the technology world, it’s the pragmatic bird that gets the worm.

“We have the broadest suite of cloud applications — it’s not just CX, HR or ERP, but we have all these capabilities. We can provide AI and machine learning that bridges those applications, not just within those specific use cases.”

– Jack Berkowitz, VP of products and data science for Oracle’s Adaptive Intelligence program

Oracle announces chatbot platform

Finally, Oracle enters the chatbot market with its own framework for building chatbot solutions. Granted, this is a very busy market that they have entered, but at the same time it was absolutely necessary for them to do this. The expectation is that individual application teams at Oracle will build chatbots that deal with their particular area of functionality. Which means they really needed their own chatbot framework to do this. And by creating a framework that their developers can use, they will also be opening up a framework that anyone else can use too – if they go the Oracle PaaS route for their development tools.

“I call this the next browser. This is just the natural way in how you converse.”

– Suhas Uliyar, Oracle vice president of bots, artificial intelligence and mobile

Slack & Oracle partnership

If the chatbot framework wasn’t enough to get the crowds excited, Oracle decided to pile on and announce a partnership with Slack. Now, the fact that Slack is used extensively at Oracle had something to do with this. But this was also a message to the market that Oracle is redefining itself as not just a Cloud company, but as a cool Cloud company. Being able to drop a chatbot into Slack will definitely be a huge plus for their chatbot initiatives. Good call Oracle.

“As you see all these large enterprise software companies looking at messaging as a major platform, they’re looking to partner with us first and foremost.”

– Brad Armstrong, Slack’s head of global business and corporate development

Content & Experience Cloud now has a suite of APIs!

If you’re rolling out a chatbot framework (that requires APIs to function), then you’d better have a content management system that delivers APIs. And that’s exactly what Oracle did. Perfect timing indeed. Now we can configure a chatbot to not just allow you to take time off when you need it, but also let you know what the time off policy is for your region – by pulling up the policy document/HTML in CEC via the now delivered APIs. This is beyond exiting to us at IntraSee. And, by the way, if you’d like to see a demo of this, please let us know and we’d be glad to oblige any time.

“If you are using any kind of on-premise portal right now (ex: PeopleSoft Interaction Hub, Oracle WebCenter, etc.), then the Content & Experience Cloud is where you should be headed as part of your overall Cloud migration strategy.”

– Paul Isherwood, CEO at IntraSee

Blockchain as a service

Having spent half of Monday night discussing blockchain uses in the Enterprise world (over steak and wine) it was great to see Oracle jump into this market too, and be an immediate player right out of the gate. Given the rampant security issues that seem to be occurring daily, it’s refreshing to see Oracle giving full backing to this technology.

“Larry [Ellison] is heavily focused on cybersecurity at all levels and Oracle’s [blockchain] service focuses in on how to deliver secure transactions.”

– Amit Zavery, senior vice president at Oracle Cloud

Cloud at Customer

Many organizations have very special regulatory requirements that mean they can’t be in the Cloud. Plus, some people just feel nervous about not having their data on their physical premises. Because of that, Oracle has a very unique offering: the ability to install “the cloud” on an organization’s premise.

“We install these machines behind your firewall and attach them to your network, but they’re a subscription service just like in the public cloud. The best way to think about this is that it’s an extension of our public cloud that sits on your data center floor.”

– Larry Ellison

Autonomous Database

You thought driverless cars were cool, right? Well, now we have the world’s first “self-driving” database. Larry was super excited to announce the Oracle Database 18c’s self-patching and self-tuning capabilities. All powered by machine learning and designed to minimize human intervention and reduce security risks (presumably by patching itself really quickly!). If previously you didn’t think of databases as being cool, well, now they are!

“This is a big deal, by the way. No one else does this. This is the most important thing we’ve done in a long, long time.”

– Larry Ellison

PeopleSoft still getting improvements

In 2017 PeopleSoft may not be considered a buzzword anymore, but, like a classic ’71 Mustang, it has a fanbase that may never go away. And count us in on the crowd that has a deep affection for it. So, it was very gratifying to see that there were still many PeopleSoft sessions at OpenWorld, and that they were so well attended! Also, having sat through the roadmap session, it was nice to see that Oracle continues to invest in the PeopleSoft product line, and that many more functional enhancements are scheduled to be released in 2017 and 2018.

Mustang

Figure 1: 1971 was a vintage year for the Mustang

“Don’t make the mistake of believing that because you are on PeopleSoft now, that you can’t use Chatbots and you can’t be in the Cloud. You can do both.”

– Paul Isherwood, CEO at IntraSee

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.

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Chatbots have been the talk of the town for the past year, and it’s become very apparent that their time has now come. That all said, there are already well-known horror stories of organizations that have wasted tens of millions of dollars attempting to implement AI solutions. At IntraSee we figured that now was the time to give the lowdown on where the market stands, and what we think people need to be aware of when implementing a chatbot solution in their organization. And in true IntraSee style, we’ll do this via our Q&A format.

Q: Are AI and chatbots ready for the market now, or is it all hype?

A: There’s no doubt that the hype-train is running full steam with AI right now and at some point reality will settle in. But at the same time, there are elements of AI that are ready to be used now. The trick is to know what to use and how to use it. But we at IntraSee can firmly say that chatbots are the element of AI that is now market ready (for the most part).

Yes, not all chatbots are created equal, and it’s important that each organization picks the right chatbot for the right job. There are many vendors in the marketplace and some are much better than others.

Q: I’ve heard that once you implement a chatbot solution that it takes about a year before it gets intelligent enough to add value. Is that right?

A: Well, only if you’ve not implemented it properly. One thing that has become very apparent is that all the large consulting companies see chatbots as a new revenue stream. So, their focus is on staffing as many people as possible on these kinds of projects, while also setting expectations low with their clients.

The facts are that if a Chatbot is implemented correctly you will see value from day one. If your implementation partner can’t deliver on this, then maybe you need a new implementation partner.

Q: So how long does an implementation take? I’ve heard that over a year is pretty normal, with a large team of consultants to assist.

A: If the vendor is a “body shop” then this is how they make their money. But this is a terrible way to tackle a chatbot implementation.

The golden rule is to start with a chatbot pilot. And this pilot should last no longer than 12 weeks. If you can’t prove the value of chatbots in twelve weeks in your organization, then it would be reckless to proceed with a full implementation. Which, by the way, should also take twelve weeks if done properly.

Q: Your recommendation is a twelve-week pilot, followed by a twelve-week full production rollout that provides value from day one?

A: Correct. You’re the client, and this is what you should expect. Just find someone who can meet that requirement. If someone tells you it can’t be done, it probably just means it can’t be done by them.

At IntraSee we would be more than happy to assist you, and can definitely meet this requirement using our AI implementation methodology and product suite.

Q: What is the typical scope of a chatbot pilot?

A: It can vary a lot for individual clients, but a good place to start for a pilot would be manager self-service transactions (ex: change supervisor, terminations, promotions, etc.). Search functionality can be very useful too, based on what your help desk is being asked about on a regular basis. Things like PTO balance, PTO policy, view paycheck, life change event information (marriage, birth, divorce, etc.) are subjects that can easily be tackled.

The ultimate goal should be that anything that can be done via web access for your larger demographics (ex: employees, managers, students, faculty) should be made available via chatbot. And that special focus should be made on things that are currently creating high volume with your internal help desks.

Q: What red flags should I look for when someone proposes a chatbot implementation to me?

A: The obvious ones are duration (it’s really long), the other is resources (they are proposing lots and lots of consultants). The key to remember is that the majority of what occurs during the implementation should be automated. Which means you should never be starting from ground zero.

Hordes of consultants building spaghetti dialog flows will only result in unmaintainable systems that are constantly breaking and that ultimately will just need to be scrapped.

Q: What value do I get from implementing a chatbot?

A: People will now be able to successfully complete tasks that they otherwise would have:

  • Failed at, by either getting the wrong information or entering bad data.
  • Called a person at the help desk, invoking costly expenses per call.
  • Taken too long to complete, and impacted productivity in other areas.
  • Gotten frustrated, which would have caused organizational resentment.

Research shows that chatbots are expected to save businesses $8 billion annually worldwide by 2022

Also, other than cost savings you will gain from a successful chatbot implementation, you will also win fans among a very large demographic that is already versed in the use of chatbots, and vastly prefers to “chat” via a messenger application than pick up the phone and call anyone. We are, of course, talking about millennials. That said, we have found almost universal delight from every demographic we have piloted this with. Not surprisingly, people prefer a more “human” way of interacting with systems. There’s a certain delight people get from being able to interact with a “robot” in a natural conversational style. And this “delight” will ultimately benefit your organization via greatly reduced support costs for all your internal and external systems.

Q: I’ve been told that we have to train chatbots to understand our organization and that this can take a very long time. Doesn’t AI imply that the chatbot is already intelligent? Why would it take so long to learn?

A: Again, this isn’t the fault of the chatbot. It’s the fault of the implementer. Chatbots are really good at a number of things:

  • Understanding a natural language utterance (ex: “I’d like to move Jim to Diane’s team next Friday”)
  • Breaking that into “intents” and “entities” (ex: Intent = Transfer Employee, Entities = 2 people called Jim and Diane, and one date field = next Friday)
  • Learning the vocabulary of an organization
  • Being able to follow a dialog flow
  • Understanding different languages

What chatbots need lots of help with is:

  • Automated definition of multi-step dialog flows
  • Interaction with complex on-premise and Cloud systems
  • The ability to “seed” its knowledge base, so it can be smart from day one.
  • Complex branching logic based on multiple enterprise rules
  • Automated training
  • Interaction with multiple systems in one conversation (and sometimes a single utterance)

At IntraSee we understand what chatbots can do, and what they need help with. And we have created a single push button solution to solve for every requirement – out of the box! Because of that, we can accomplish in one day what would take anyone else over a year, and with an army of consultants.

Figure 1: Chatbot integrating with Enterprise HCM system

Q: Does it matter what Enterprise software I am using if I want to do something with chatbots? Right now we are using PeopleSoft for some things, and Oracle HCM Cloud for others. Plus, we have lots of custom applications we’ve built, and some other cloud solutions too.

A: It does not matter at all. Your chatbot solution will be your new UX for all your systems, no matter what they are. Of course, over time those systems will change, but your chatbot solution will adapt to the change. It will become the most important thing you do for the next decade at least. And will add more value than anything else you’ve ever done.

“Conversational AI-first” will supersede ‘cloud-first, mobile-first’ as the most important high-level imperative for the next 10 years”. Gartner Sept 2016

Q: Are you saying that IntraSee has solved the AI riddle for how it can successfully be implemented by organizations today? And that other vendors in the marketplace are selling incomplete solutions that are wildly expensive and have no guarantee of ever being successful?

A: Yes, that’s exactly what we are saying. Plus, we believe that everything we do is “future-proofed”. Meaning that as the market changes our solution will automatically adapt to where AI is headed in the future without any additional rework.

We have created our implementation of chatbot technologies such that it can organically grow and adapt to market changes and client requirements. We believe in protecting the investment of our clients, by ensuring that every dollar (or Euro) you spend with us is the most productive you’ve ever spent.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have.

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We’ll never forget the first time we saw a PeopleSoft application. The year was 1995 and our client was using PeopleSoft 3.0. Now, you have to remember that back then Windows had been out for quite some time, yet this looked nothing like any Windows-based application we had ever seen. It was almost as if Windows had not been invented when PeopleSoft was first designed (which, of course, wasn’t true). In fact, it wasn’t until PeopleSoft 5 came out that we felt, “yes, this looks like a fairly modern application” (even though the UX had clearly not been fully considered). And it was fairly modern, for about one year. Then the web happened, and PeopleSoft went back to being old fashioned and clunky again.

Then in the year 2000, the PeopleSoft Portal was announced, and we were all so excited. Finally, a chance to rectify mistakes of the past and deliver a UX that was thoroughly modern and laser focused on employees, managers, students and faculty members. And that was the dream, that PeopleSoft could finally fulfill its potential. The architecture was great, all it needed was a modern UX.

In 2005 IntraSee was founded, and it became our one intent: to enhance the UX for PeopleSoft customers such that ease of use, ROI, user satisfaction and efficiency could finally be realized.

We feel, for our clients, that we have made that UX change happen. But, as always, the world continues to turn, and technology has now taken a next generational leap – at the exact same time that the Enterprise world has begun a move to the Cloud.  And it’s a change far more significant and impactful than the switch from client-server to the web.

Now we are seeing a UX shift from web to Chatbot/AI, at the same time we are also seeing a shift from on-premise to the Cloud.

This UX change has been a long time coming, and we at IntraSee have been preparing for this for quite some time. For almost five years we have been building a UX suite that could support any pluggable Artificial Intelligence UI. And now we are rolling it out across the PeopleSoft & Oracle Enterprise. A chatbot for your entire Enterprise (see our Chatbot Pilot blog to learn more).

We believe that the combination of the Cloud as the new architectural standard, and Chatbot as the new UI standard, will have a massive impact on what all PeopleSoft customers should be planning to do next.

So here’s what we think every PeopleSoft customer should consider doing next:

1. Divert internal IT funds from classic web projects, and move those funds to AI/Chatbot projects

Now is the time to start spending on your future. For anyone waiting another three years to start to dabble in AI, it’s important to understand that this would be too late.  You will be so far behind the curve you will never catch up. Make 2017 and 2018 the years you piloted Chatbot solutions within your organization. Talk to your business community, show them how a Chatbot solution can meet their requirements far more efficiently than a classic web solution. Implementing HR Help Desk? Wouldn’t a chatbot be a perfect fit for this? And far more efficient and user friendly than searching and clicking through pages and pages of FAQ’s.

Our recommendation would be to pick one piece of functionality and pilot it. That way you can gain a deep understanding of the true capabilities of AI today, as opposed to simply believing all the hype. At the end of a well-executed pilot you would understand its applicability to your organization, cost-savings it would provide, and what was involved in implementing and maintaining a Chatbot solution. You’d also have the added benefit of being able to sit down with the executives in your organization and say, “this is what we can do, and these are the benefits we’ll get from it”.

And pilots are relatively inexpensive. No need to commit to a full implementation until you know exactly what you will be getting.

Challenges to Implementing AI Diagram

Figure 1: Piloting a Chatbot solution will remove the barriers for a full implementation

2. Move your UX to the Cloud

Consider moving your current “portal” solution into the Cloud, today. Even if this is just a lift & shift to Oracle IaaS, that would be a great start. Once you are in the Cloud you can start implementing a more modern UX that relies on Cloud capability. This could be just a simple case of moving the PeopleSoft Interaction Hub onto Oracle IaaS, or it could be as forward-thinking as migrating your Interaction Hub to the Oracle PaaS platform via the Content & Experience Cloud.

Cloud UX Builder

Figure 2: Move your PeopleSoft UX into the Cloud & do this!

3. Create a plan to migrate core custom functionality into the Cloud, while also rethinking the entire UX

Every PeopleSoft client that we know has spent large amounts of money building their own custom applications using PeopleTools. Now is the time to consider rebuilding those critical applications (that aren’t delivered on any SaaS platform) on a new Cloud technology platform, while also redoing the UX at the same time. Such that you are also adding value to your organization while you make the move. If the technology platform is also the same as the one being used by your preferred SaaS vendor, then all the better. Going with Oracle PaaS if you plan to one day move to Oracle SaaS (via HCM Cloud) makes all the sense in the world.

4. Add one more checkbox to your SaaS selection process

For those PeopleSoft clients who are currently evaluating SaaS vendors in preparation for their move off of PeopleSoft, it’s critical that you add another checkbox to the evaluation process. Does the vendor have a fully thought out AI/Chatbot infrastructure? If it doesn’t then you may want to just keep walking. Nobody wants to be the person who bought a great looking client-server application in 1997 at the same time that web-based applications were about to be the new thing.  And nobody should be buying an application in 2017 just because the web demo looks shiny and new. There’s a new requirement now, and it’s critical that you can meet that new requirement, because in a couple of years it will be the new standard.  Does it come with a Chatbot platform?

The next two years will be of massive significance for anyone using PeopleSoft today. Decisions made now will impact your organization for many years to come.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that because you are on PeopleSoft now, that you can’t use Chatbots and you can’t be in the Cloud. You can do both.

Please contact us to learn more about how you can evolve your current systems and keep pace with the next wave of UI.

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