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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At IntraSee, for over a decade, we have been providing award-winning user experiences for both our higher education and commercial clients.  This has included “one-stop shop” web sites, guided self-service, and mobile/responsive everything. By greatly improving the UX of our client’s Enterprise/Campus systems they have seen: lower calls to the help desk, better data quality, improved productivity, and a more satisfied user base.

Meanwhile, information and data has kept growing at a frantic pace. According to studies by IDC, this growth is exponential, and by 2020 the amount of data we have in our enterprise systems will double what we have today!

Even if all this data and information is on one well-organized web site, it is becoming overwhelming for the user, and every day it gets harder for them to find what they need.

In 1989, Moviefone debuted and changed the way we expected to find real-time information about movies playing in a theater near us. You could call a phone number and use your keypad to interact with an automated computer voice to find movies near you. Up until this point, people had to find a current newspaper, locate the entertainment section by flicking through page after page, then scan the entire page looking for the theater and movie listings. Can you even imagine that today? I will tell you, today’s undergrads certainly can’t.

80's Movie Listings

Figure 1: The UX may have been bad but the movies were great!

That newspaper pre-1989 is where we are today with campus systems (which, according to studies, are on average 13 years old).

There is a lot of great information in your campus systems, but if students can’t find it then it may as well not exist.

Moviefone’s success was merely a sign of things to come. A sign that having a conversation was more appealing than scanning a newspaper. And students today prefer one medium for having a conversation above all else: texting!

Your Chatbot experience will be nothing like KramerBot!

Students today are Digital Natives. They have been immersed in a hi-tech world their whole lives and expect to be able to use these technologies on campus. Just as they can’t conceive of those newspaper days, they won’t understand why they can’t just interact with your student system via conversational messaging, just like they do on the internet and with their friends. And on the internet, right now, they are using Chatbots to interact with many sites.

Conversational UI is replacing Web UI as the new standard

Chatbots are the technology allowing students to have a conversation with your student systems. The chat interaction is certainly natural and appealing, but that is only half the story. A well-implemented Chatbot can be your super application. It is a master aggregator without the feeling of information overload. As Kramer would say, “why don’t you just tell me what movie you want to see?” Imagine some of the things students would ask your Chatbot.

  • When is the deadline to drop a class?
  • What were my grades last semester?
  • What is the balance on my meal card?
  • How much do I owe on my student account?
  • Who can I contact about studying abroad?
  • I have moved off campus, can you update my address to 123 E Chalmers St?

A Chatbot also allows device independence. You can start a conversation on your phone, but then finish it on your laptop or even in a computer lab. That is something a student expects today.

While Chatbots can be good news for the students and faculty, they also present an opportunity for the institution. What are the ROI possibilities? As we discussed in our post, There’s gold in them thar hills, the savings a good user experience brings can be significant.

The common consensus on AI is that if you were spending money on it three years ago you were wasting your money.  But if you are now waiting three years before you plan to spend money on it then you will be woefully behind everyone else and will never be able to catch up. Now is the time to spend on AI. And, let’s face it, your current student body will almost all be gone in three years and they want this now.

The great news is that being on PeopleSoft doesn’t prevent you from implementing a Chatbot solution now. So don’t fall into the trap of using that as an excuse for doing nothing.

The interface of tomorrow won’t be a web page. So be prepared, and get a jump start on your own Chatbot implementation with our Chatbot Pilot program, by contacting us below to learn more.

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Let’s just say this up front. We at IntraSee could not be more excited about the new era we are all about to enter in the UX world. It seems like yesterday (actually, circa 1997) that it became apparent that web-based systems would be the UI of the future. Now, just 20 years later, AI is the new UI. We are officially entering the Conversational era!

85% of executives surveyed report they will be investing extensively in AI-related technologies over the next 3 years

And to explain why this is such a big deal, let us describe it this way: your current Enterprise system is a mass of sub systems that have grown and morphed over many years into a kind of neural network that is almost incomprehensible to the average user. Expecting them to navigate and understand this complex labyrinth is not a reasonable expectation. To them (and even your IT staff) your system looks like this:

Neural Net

Figure 1: How navigating your Enterprise system looks to your users

Whereas, this is how they would like it to be:

Chatbot UX

Figure 2: A better UX

But, as anyone who has seen any sci-fi movie knows, all robots/chatbots are not created equal. It’ll be just as easy to purchase a lemon in the new era as it was in the old era. And, of course, because this is software we are talking about, how you implement your Chatbot solution will be the key to its success.

To that end we have decided to rollout a new program starting August 2017: the IntraSee Chatbot Pilot. The premise is simple: demonstrations by skilled sales people can make almost anything look good. So, for your own peace of mind wouldn’t it be much better to see the solution working with your data and applications? When you buy a car don’t you like to take it for a spin, kick the tires, and put it through some real-life scenarios?  You don’t rely on the sales person to tell you how much you’ll love it without trying it out for yourself. Well, unless your name is Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Griswold's Car

Figure 3: “You think you hate it now, but wait till you drive it”

At IntraSee we believe that UX is the key component of the employee/student experience with your Enterprise & Campus systems. A bad UX will cost your organization in many ways (see: There’s gold in them thar hills): lost productivity, bad data entry, too many calls to the help desk and a frustrated organization. By implementing a Chatbot POC/Pilot you will be able to get immediate feedback on the benefits of an AI-based solution, and also get to understand the logistics behind a successful implementation. Put simply, you don’t have to roll the dice on this. We can take away the risk and associated stress by providing a solution you can show to your colleagues, and, just as importantly, the executives in your organization.

If your senior leadership team haven’t already asked you what you will be doing with Chatbots, then they will soon. This is your opportunity to shine.

The program will work this way:

  1. We will connect a dedicated environment in the Oracle Cloud (IaaS) to an HCM or Campus environment of your choice (it can be on-premise or Cloud, and it can be either PeopleSoft or Oracle).
  2. We will configure our environment to match your brand, and turn on the desired chatbot features that you’d like to test out
  3. We provide access to a limited number of your employees/students
  4. You get to kick the tires for one month!

Note: Our initial POC/Pilots will focus on Employee/Manager Self-Service and Student/Campus Self-Service.

To find our more please contact us below.

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