Enterprises are slowly waking up to the need for employing chatbots for conducting internal and external businesses. Chatbots have taken the consumer space by storm and heavy weights like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are investing millions of dollars in building the next generation chatbot platforms and chatbots.
Most people employed by small and large businesses worldwide would have already experienced a messaging platform like FB messenger, WhatsApp or Snapchat. People are getting more comfortable in engaging with family, friends, employees, customers and suppliers via a messaging platform. People are realising the benefits of keeping in touch and conducting work over a messaging platform in this fast paced and multi-tasking environment.
The human need to socially engage with others to gather information, build knowledge, conduct business and be more productive is pushing the messaging platforms to be the most popular digital engagement software the world has seen so far.
Just like the mobility wave, when enterprises did not adopt it initially, employees, customers, suppliers and candidates will push enterprises to engage with them via a messaging platform.
Most enterprises already use a messaging platform for internal communication, but they are restricted to internal use and are mostly used just for one on one or group chat.
Since most people will have already interacted with or will interact with a chatbot in the near future in the consumer space, it is but expected that they will not be surprised to do so in the enterprise space.
Organizations are realizing the benefits of employing chatbots to boost productivity, provide better service and create better engagement with employees and customers.
Use cases for customer support / help desk, recruitment, approvals, expense reimbursement, project management, employee engagement, customer engagement are waiting to be implemented via chatbots.
So, what are the requirements for employing a chatbot in an enterprise?
Most enterprise users use sophisticated applications having a rich user interface. Asking them to switch to only text messaging or voice may not find many takers. Using visual elements like menus, buttons, scroll bars mixed with text and voice will be more acceptable. Having a flexible and rich Chatbot UX will be a key criteria in increasing adoption.
This will perhaps be one of the major stumbling blocks for adoption of chatbots in an enterprise like the resistance when mobility made its entry into the enterprise. Most chatbot platforms operate in the cloud and will have to access information and interact with entities inside of an enterprise and outside too. Most enterprises have strict security compliance rules to adhere to and chatbots will be expected to be in the clear. Strict access control mechanisms, data encryption – in motion and at rest, data protection – in motion and at rest, data retention, authentication – multi factor, authorisation and multi-tenant policies have to be setup. Enterprises will expect the chatbot platforms to comply with the security standards and be up to date for handling new vulnerabilities.
As mentioned above most chatbot platforms operate in a public cloud. And chatbots are expected to interact with users inside and outside of an enterprise. They also have to access information stored inside an enterprise and sometimes from external public services. Integration will be a challenge and any platform that can provide seamless integration capabilities will have a significant advantage. Rest API integration and web hooks will be the default choice. However not all enterprise will provide or allow API integration to its internal systems. In such cases providing an enterprise gateway software to integrate with the internal systems on one hand and the cloud based platform on the other hand would be an option. Custom integration software may have to be written for legacy systems and plugged into the Gateway as an add on module.
Large and global enterprises will process enormous chatbot interactions per second. Chatbots will be expected to horizontally scale to handle thousands of simultaneous users and tens of thousands of interactions per second with ease. Additionally, availability will also be key criteria and the chatbots and the chatbot platforms will have to provide 99.99% uptime or more since they will become business critical entities for an enterprise.
Enterprise Chatbots will exhibit the characteristics of a big data platform i.e. volume, velocity and variety. Under such circumstances performance of the chatbot interactions and the chatbot platform will become a major factor for surviving in an enterprise. In today’s business, a delay of milliseconds can cost a huge amount of money especially for the chatbots operating in fin-tech area. Since chatbots have to access internal systems in the enterprises, any slowness caused by them will first reflect on the chatbot’s performance.
In part two of this article we will cover Customization, Natural language understanding (NLU), Domain knowledge, Auditing and Internationalization requirements for enterprise chatbots.