Four Considerations when Building Digital Workplace Chatbots
Why is the digital workplace more relevant than ever and how can artificial intelligence support this model? How can organizations create digital workplace chatbots that improve employee experience while lowering internal support costs? Let’s explore the answers to these questions!
The Digital & Hybrid Workplaces Are Here to Stay
Emerging from the depths of the pandemic, the concept of the digital workplace resonates more broadly than ever before and with a wider range of professions and job roles. The urgent shift from physical office spaces to remote or home offices forced even the most unlikely workers to get on the virtual bandwagon of video conferencing, collaboration apps, and technology adoption at a pace that would have been inconceivable before our world turned upside down.
The digital workplace hardly needs to be defined and it will likely continue to fully or partially dominate the future workplace, with hybrid work models possibly being the future norm for many employees that are slowly trickling back into physical office spaces.
Straddling the physical and digital workplace impacts organizational culture and technology decisions, both of which play critical roles in how effectively a business enables its employees to be productive and to promote employee satisfaction and retention. Let’s take a look at how one technology is shaping the future of the digital workforce.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Digital Engagement
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad technology umbrella that includes natural language processing and machine learning technologies among other subsets of technology (which I won’t get into here). It is the combination of natural language understanding (NLU) with AI and machine learning models that have led to the emergence of conversational AI and chatbots that support both employee and customer engagement, and that play an increasing role in creating enhanced digital engagement experiences.
Chatbot technology is increasingly being used to enable today’s digital workforce by making information more accessible and in the format and on the digital channels preferred by the employee and/or by the business. By reducing the friction in how employees access knowledge to fulfill their needs and by using virtual assistants to resolve common requests before handing them over to human support staff, employee productivity and experience improve but without increasing support costs.
This new technology is therefore key to a new form of automation where digital assistants have the capabilities to understand user intent, simulate human like conversations, and integrate securely with data and business systems. Not only can these bots carry on a conversation but they can also be highly productive by automating underlying business processes and workflows, reducing the need for human interactions especially for more common or repetitive requests.
Four Considerations when Planning Digital Workplace Bots
The digital workplace has called for an acceleration of digital transformation initiatives, which became especially pronounced when the Covid pandemic hit. Chatbots fall into this digital transformation category but are particularly attractive in that, unlike many lengthy re-platforming initiatives, they can be built and deployed in a matter of weeks, delivering quick wins for an organization.
However, a strategic approach to enterprise-grade virtual assistants will not only meet the needs of more automated and enhanced employee engagement but will increase the speed and ease of creating and managing solutions as they grow and scale across the business.
Here are four considerations in building and managing your digital workplace productivity bot solutions:
1.Single Point of Access for Employee Engagement
The internet, mobile devices, messaging apps, collaboration tools, SaaS platforms, IoT devices, and other digital technology advancements make information and internal communication more accessible to employees, increasing self-service levels and productivity. But the technology landscape can also be fraught with friction for workers who have to access several portals or tools. There are multiple interaction points that an employee may have throughout their workday that necessitate engagement with a variety of self-service tools or even chatbots. Hence the concept of a single access point where an employee can self-serve, no matter whether the request relates to HR, IT, sales, training, marketing, or other corporate functions is especially attractive.
Imagine a single virtual assistant, deployed on an internal employee channel like Slack or Microsoft Teams that a user could converse with either by text or voice. This is possible with a multi-bot approach where several mission-specific chatbots can be orchestrated by a single virtual assistant that manages the conversation with the employee. More about this further in this blog.
2. Low-Code Bot Building Tools for the Business Users
The use of low code tools to build digital workplace chatbots means that solutions can be prototyped quickly and easily and that the business can react quickly to change and adapt their bots, without the need to rely on developer or IT assistance.
Business enablement is important when it comes to the building, training, and management of chatbot solutions as it lends greater agility and speed. Low code tools are also a very cost effective means of creating solutions as the need for expensive developer resources may be avoided.
Change is inevitable when it comes to designing chatbot solutions for the digital workplace so the best approach is one that offers the most flexibility and agility across the workplace productivity bot’s lifecycle. Low code is a key enabler here.
3. Secure Integration with Backend Systems
In the course of the average working day, an employee may interact with multiple systems in order to get the information they need – e.g. CRM, HCM, Helpdesk, ERP, and other backend systems specific to business operations. Since much of the data that a worker may require is sensitive, secure access is a critical factor. Compelling employee self-service offerings also rely on personalization which means identifying the user and accessing the information that is relevant to them and their request.
Identity and access management is a key element of digital workplace productivity bot solutions, enabling a bot to authenticate and identify the employee so that they can then trigger secure access to the employee’s data and continue a secure session with them.
APIs are a key enabler in integrating workplace bots securely with backend systems but having a centralized, reusable data integration layer and some out-of-the-box API connectors to common enterprise systems makes bot integration a lot faster and easier. And with proper access controls, different employee roles can gain different levels of access to data.
4. Multi-Bot Architecture
Single chatbot solutions only go so far in meeting the needs of an advanced digital workplace. Since internal employees have different needs that straddle and intersect different regions, functions, and languages a single solution to address these ends up being a monolith that is difficult to adapt and manage. For organizations that have a large number of employees, possibly across different regions and languages, a multi-bot approach to architecting internal bot solutions may be attractive.
But what do we mean by multi-bot?
As the name suggests, this is where an advanced conversational AI solution is broken up across multiple bots where each bot has its own specific mission and skillset. For example, a PTO bot handles requests for time off, a password reset bot automates the process of resetting user ID and passwords, an IT helpdesk bot manages IT support requests, and so on. An overarching Bot Orchestrator or Virtual Assistant orchestrates and manages user requests, routing to the bot that is best skilled to handle the intent.
So whether it’s requesting a new laptop, finding customer details, troubleshooting a device, or checking benefits, an employee can ask the virtual assistant any question in the chat. The bot orchestrator is the single point of the conversation and manages the conversation to and from the user. It can recognize different intents, even when the user switches context, and will route to the bot that can act on the specific intent and resolve the issue.
Chatbots are playing a significant role in enabling greater employee productivity, single access to information, and improved satisfaction. But how a business goes about designing, building, and architecting these solutions will impact the ultimate adoption and success.
You can also download our latest eBook: Lowering the Costs of Building & Managing Conversational AI Solutions