At the moment there is a lot of talk about chatbots and their application inside the digital workplace and intranets, or their use for internal communications. For interesting views read recent thoughts from James Robertson and Luke Mepham. There’s also a good general resource (Chatbots magazine) with lots of bot-related articles.
Chatbots span a number of themes including AI, machine learning, natural language interfaces and search. They are already with us with Siri, Cortana, Amazon Echo and as a feature on many customer facing sites. They are appearing in work tools like Slack. Their widespread application inside the digital workplace as an interface soon seems inevitable. In fact they have been around already, for example with search avatars at companies such as the Co-Operative Bank.
Waiting for chatbot
A key use case for Chatbots is to act as an interface with users to help them complete simple tasks or find the items they need. But for many organisations the practical application for chatbots throughout the digital workplace will be a medium to long-term goal.
In the meantime while we wait for the bots, there are a number of existing ways in which companies are already using search, social tools and intranet-based content to help with the kind of tasks that chatbots are set to support in the future. Here are a few of the ways.
1: Task-based navigation
Some intranets are based on or include a task-based information architecture. This may be as the global navigation, or perhaps through accessing a lists of tasks within the homepage or in different parts of the intranet.
These tasks help users find the necessary systems or information they need quickly and efficiently and are often expressed as a verb such as “book annual leave” or “find experts”.
2. Search tiles based on tasks
Some intranets are using tiles based on tasks to return search hits which include information which basically completes the task. For example I may search for how much annual leave I’ve got left. The tile delivers a personalised answer, indicating how much annual leave I have left.
Another similar approach to using tiles in search is to have dashboards which surface particular pieces of data and information which meets particular needs. Generally these are created on an “80/20 rule” basis, covering the most common questions and tasks. For example, that figure for how much annual leave is left might be displayed on a dashboard.
Live chat is a common feature on many consumer facing sites. Personally, I find it very useful to be able to type and get responses from a live human being.
Some larger intranets are including live chat as a way to support services for employees. For example, some HR questions are being answered via live chat, particularly if the service is being outsourced to a third party provider. This is usually offered via the intranet or HR portal.
5: Social Q and A
Another way of getting an answer to a question from is via a ‘Social Q and A’ activity, where social tools are used to post and answer questions.
The way this is organised across different intranets may vary. Questions could be answered via Yammer or similar social software. This provides a great opportunity to supplement IT help desks or application support where super users are often able to answer some types of questions better than IT help desk staff.
Meanwhile, the excellent Swisscom intranet has a whole integrated Social Q&A application, brilliantly branded as Ask the Brain. Employees can ask questions and get answers quickly and this also helps create connections and a searchable database of responses. Overall this is one of the key use cases for social platforms.
6: Content and FAQs
Of course you can also use content for people to find their own answers, for example through FAQS. This content can help drive employee self-service or support frontline employees who need to access answers to questions quickly, or even in real time.
Here come the chatbots
I think it is inevitable that chatbots are coming to a digital workplace near you very soon. However there are many ways in which employees can help employees complete tasks and add value to your intranet or digital workplace.
I’d love to hear how you’re using your intranet to enable task completion or, even better, how are you are experimenting with bots in 2017! Let me know in the comments below!
Picture credits: Forever Changes