8 Intranet bots that should exist
In 2015, Brit Joshua Browder took on the lawyers and local government on behalf of motorists. Browder’s thinking was simple and generous: when a motorist incorrectly receives a parking fine, challenging the legitimacy costs time and money and requires a deep knowledge of the small part of the legal system – barriers that dissuade people from legitimate appeals. He doesn’t charge for this service that has saved others.
His solution was the donotpay.com bot. His “robot lawyer” asks a series of questions, following a logic tree, that guides the unfortunate motorist towards the guidance they need. It’s quick and it requires no more knowledge than the website name and information the user can readily get and to date, he’s helped 175,000 motorists save more than $5m.
Bots have yet to make a significant impact in the workplace, but where there’s a defined process, we believe they will make a huge difference to employees. Further, by creating a single user interface to countless third-party applications, they may help improve the overall experience.
As well as many communication and collaboration products starting to support ‘bots’ straight out of the box, and numerous companies jumping on the bot bandwagon, Frameworks like Microsofts Bot framework, Google cloud services, Amazon’s Alexa and AWS services all mean that creating a bot that works with your enterprise software is now well within the reach of an average developer. These services move bots from being a keyword -> response style text adventure into tools with the ability to see, hear, speak, understand, interpret and learn.
Here are our views on enterprise bots that need to exist.
Booking meetings is far more complicated than it should be, requiring the user to skip between systems for attendee availability, room booking and catering. A bot interface could take the hard work out of this, allowing employees to get on with something more productive. Adding some intelligence to the bot would let it know to inform building security of any external visitors and even email or text message attendees to check their dietary requirements (and remember them for next time!)
We’ve all been able to book simple point-to-point travel online for well over a decade – so why is this so difficult at work? A bot which picks the right flight or train and automates the approval workflow and submits expenses, would save thousands of hours of productive time in many businesses.
Getting an intelligent bot to do this would open it up to even more opportunities; arrange a car share or group discount for people taking the same trip at the same time. Suggest more economical or green options for internal meetings. Try and coordinate other meetings to make best use of the travel time.
Most corporate expenses have rules on how much can be claimed in any one category in a day and smart expense systems will ask for additional comments to explain expenses that fall outside of pre-published rules. Our bot solution says that if there are no exceptions, if this expense has never been claimed before, if it matches the employees travel/work commitments, then it automatically approves expenses leaving line managers to deal with the differences only.
Request / Approve vacation request
There are some work tasks that are tedious and beneath you – bots can help. There are some simple, basic processes to check when approving a colleagues vacation that make them ideal bot fodder. Here’s the workflow
- Employee adds an all day event, titled ‘holiday’, in their personal calendar
- Bot checks the employee has enough vacation time left?
- Has this time already been requested by them? or by another member of the team?
- Does someone need to approve this? e.g. a project manager, other team members, a line manager
- Approved? Add to the formal vacation tracking system or calendar
Think before you post Bot
Getting the right phrasing isn’t just political correctness, it’s a legal necessity. The wrong words could cost your company millions and you your job. The ‘think before you post’ bot searches your text and makes suggestions to improve the language. Use for diversity awareness, competition law compliance, acronym decoders, job advert creations and much more.
Cognitive services could let your bot better understand the tone and emotion of a message, so you could choose to step in when messages are angry or abusive. Or offer help if messages seems down, frustrated or desperate.
Nearly every question an employee has has been asked before but building a comprehensive list of bot responses for each and every possible query will take you way too long and cost way too much. Do some research and identify the top 100 queries across your business and build those out in bots. It’s quick and very efficient.
Giving the bot access to line of business systems and search might let the bot answer even more. IBM’s Watson at Work promises to offer a personal expert that could analyse and interpret data and perform complex calculations, without you even needing to ask.
Put me through to…
This seemingly simple and very common task is reasonably complicated but bots are well placed to do the leg work and make the connections. Your bot needs to know who you’re after, check their diary, check the people directory, check their presence awareness and then recommend the best route to get in touch. It’s your bot-EA.
Get a room
A bot allows an otherwise complex process to be broken down into a simple sequence of questions and answers. It can also act as a bridge between internal IT systems and interfaces designed for humans, like voice or text message.
A simple example of exploiting this might be an SMS bot that has access to meeting room availability.
- SMS to the bot with ‘Help me find a room’
- Bot replies by SMS asking for location / building, required room capacity and meeting duration
- You send the answers
- The Bot responds with the nearest available room(s) and asks if you’d like to formally book the room
Dawn of the rise of the bots?
The Intranetizen team are already experimenting with bots (some of the examples above are real ones from our workplaces), and we’re pretty sure that we’re going to see more bots as part of our digital workplaces in the near future. As technology evolves to support more natural, human interfaces and become more capable and accurate at understanding meaning and needs there will be less need for ‘real people’ to spend time and effort on simple repetitive tasks or to move between multiple tools to complete complex calculations and analysis.
While some might worry about what that leaves for people to do, right now we can see opportunities for reinvigorating interest around the role of the digital workplace and how the technology and tools its constructed from are orchestrated and accessed.
Do you think bots could change enterprises? Let us know about bots you’re using or would like to see, or if any of ours are the bots you’re looking for.