• Olli Junnila

What are Bots good for?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

If you charge into your average meeting room or office and ask “Who knows what bots are and what could we do with them?” how many hands would raise? How many would say “Yeah, we could use them to automate stuff?” Not many I’d expect from my recent meetings. Why is it, that we have a fast and cost-effective way of automating a lot of basic routines with bots, but people don’t know about them? Well, let’s get to the very basics first.

So what is a Bot?

Bots are often also called chat bots, and that actually describes them quite well. With Bots you interact in a chat service with a robot, instead of a human being. As a quick example, you could open in your Messenger a discussion with a concert reservation bot. The bot would ask you which concert you want to attend, which day, how many tickets and where you would like to be seated. Then it helps you through your transaction and you would pay with your credit card. You receive your tickets into your Messenger. You might also buy parking for your car as an additional service. All this is done in your Messenger, not a web page or mobile app, but the very same Messenger you use to chat with your friends. And it’s not only Messenger that supports Bots, they are available all over, also in Workplace.

Bots in Workplace

The example above is a typical example of a Bot in the public domain, but let’s look at what you can do with Bot’s in the Workplace environment. I won’t go into what the Bots are technically capable of doing, but rather how they could be utilised in a business environment.

  1. Many times Workplace helps organisations with their email flood. People start to interact more on Workplace and Workplace Chat and tedious emails and mailing lists cease to exist. Some organisations make a conscious decision to kill their internal email. This does not mean that email is completely forsaken. Now people are jumping between Workplace and email. What if you would have an email bot in your Workplace, which would list the unread emails and a link would transport you to your email.

  2. What if your lobby would have a digital sign-in for your quests and a bot would notify you when the quest has arrived and you could choose to instruct the receptionist via quick links like “I’ll be right over,” “Sorry, I’m running 5-15min late,” “Please instruct the guest to the meeting room” and so on.

  3. Is your IT support ticketing system complex or hard to find? What if you could send a support request through a bot and the problem solving discussion would be done via Workplace Chat?

  4. How about measuring the mood of your organisation. A chat bot reminds everyone once a month to tell how they feel at work. The user selects from a bunch of facial expressions which best describes their current mood at work. A background service calculates and shows the current mood of the organisation and how it has evolved in the recent months.

These are just a few simple bots, but hopefully you get the point? More complex bots utilise AI to determine the best matches for a users Sharepoint or FAQ search, You could have a bot integrated to your shift scheduling software enabling shift changes without manager interaction.

Why wouldn’t I just add these features to our mobile app?

The beauty of Bots is how your Bot looks is already pretty much decided for you. You don’t need to design, implement, test and maintain your user interfaces. It’s there, it’s in your Messenger, Workplace Chat or Slack, but what is not limited at all is what you can use it for. This makes for a huge difference. Let’s take the case of mood metering. Rather than doing the sketching, UI & UX design for both Android and iOS, you would just design the narrative between the bot and the user. Another fact that provides huge raise in adoption is that you don’t need to download, learn and remember to use another app, it’s all in you Workplace Chat.

Five big advantages in Bots over Apps

  1. Building bots rather than mobile apps is much less expensive.

  2. No additional apps for the user to download and use, it’s all there automatically on Workplace Chat.

  3. You only develop and maintain the backend and narrative logic, no need to maintain an entire app and provide versions for iOS and Android.

  4. Since it’s already in your Workplace, less jumping between apps and adoption rates are huge compared to individual apps.

  5. No downloading of new versions, version management is done in the backend, so all new features are available immediately for all users without downloading and installing new versions.

So building bots can be easy and cost efficient or you can go mad and do amazing stuff with them, but how should you start? First of all, there’s already a few companies that provide bot-builder cloud services which allow you to build simple interactions without a line of code. Naturally you can also build your bot from scratch. Start with something simple to drive adoption and when your organisation is familiar with the basics of bots, continue your journey with the mindset of freeing your organisation from repetitive routine stuff that consume time. The business cases are easy to justify and verify!

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