Henry Amm from adenin (www.adenin.com) talks about how the company created Digital Assistant using AI and Bots to make existing Intranets and their data smarter. Presented at Gilbane conference in Boston in 2016.
Hello everyone, I’m happy to be here. Thanks for joining me to this presentation “Making Intranets smart – How AI and Bots allowed us to create a smart assistant for the Digital Workplace”. Let’s get right into it.
First of all we live in the Digital Workplace age. Everything now is happening faster, the amount of data in the world doubles every 18 months, there are an estimated 2 billion people with smartphones worldwide, and companies need figure out a way that allows them to leverage all of this change in ways that help them be productive and stay competitive.
We also happen to enter a new era. Speaking in very broad terms in the 90s we had the revolution of the PC, followed by the Internet and the advent of online shopping, social networks and the Web 2.0 until 2010 when iPhones, iPads and the iTunes App Store started to emerge as the dominating force in consumer technology. Which leads us to today when we see this tech move into the office to make work easier, better and smarter. The Digital Workplace.
There is a lot of inside baseball about what precisely constitutes a Digital Workplace, which we were not going to get into, so just to recap quickly here is how Gartner defines Digital Workplace. The Digital Workplace: I’m not going into great detail about what is or isn’t a Digital Workplace, that’s another presentation. But just to recap quickly what Gartner defines as the Digital Workplace: It’s a new and more effective way to work By exploiting consumer trends, technologies and apps. Sometimes this is also called consumerization of the workplace. And the goal is to raise employee engagement. And there’s also a graphic of what the Top 10 technologies are Gartner has in mind, and I would like to draw your attention particularly to Ambient Knowledge, Silo Busting and Virtual Personal Assistants which as we will see a little later will be a driving force for us.
The transition towards the Digital Workplace is called “Digital Transformation” and it is the hot topic currently everybody is talking about.
Yet only in 1 of 3 three companies actually have a plan for the digital transformation. In other words, if your company doesn’t have a digital transformation policy yet, then you’re in good company.
From those organizations that do have a plan however their executives think that at best their organization is a quarter of the way towards realising the end-state vision of their digital workplace.
And in another survey 77% of executives have said that they are missing digital skills to the extent that it impedes the digital transformation of their organization.
Unfortunately business applications are often quite complicated to use with nearly 2 in 3 people reporting that they need the help of another person or team to access data. [TO DO] 55% say they have to fight the very technology that is meant to help them by manually retrieving the data they need, while 43% say they even have to pull data from many different systems to get one complete view of their customer, product or inventory.
Multiple apps are in fact a key problem for businesses. 75% of employees are struggling to log into multiple business applications, for benign things like forgotten usernames or confusion which applications holds what data. 1 in 4 people have to circumvent policies or dig through large reports to get the data they need, further indicating that their apps may not be working so well.
In fact a whooping 38% are saying their biggest pain with their enterprise applications is that… they are literally unable to access its data inside never mind outside the office. The alarm bells should be deafening at this point.
To put that into perspective another study has found out that 61% of knowledge workers need to access 4 or more systems on a daily basis, and 1 in 10 actually accesses 11 or more systems daily. That’s a lot of systems. And looking through them all takes a lot of time, 36% of your time on average to be precise.
Imagine we had a way to just shave off 1% of that 36%, that saving could quickly be hundreds of dollars per employee.
One multinational company with 70,000 internal users in that study was saving over $50M/year by securely unifying access to intranet, content management, customer support, and ERP sources for all users.
So we can say that the potential for getting digital transformation is huge, and increasingly critical to your business success.
And like with every business-critical opportunity there will be winners and loosers.
Take this fact for example: In the last 15 years just over half of all Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. That’s an insanely short half-life for such big businesses. In fact the average Fortune 500 life expectancy was 75 years in 1975. But had dropped to just 15 today.
So what signs do we see that the market is shaping to follow the digital transformation:
Here are just three headlines I would like to share: American Airlines for example which has replaced the 40 or so lb flight bags with iPads. It’s faster, and of course lighter which means planes fly more efficiently. Bringing physical objects and processes into the digital age is actually one of the big challenges in the digital transformation. Or take IBM and Cisco which are now working to bring the intelligent Watson to the workplace. An unlikely duo really, 10 years ago no one would’ve thought companies the likes of IBM and Cisco would end forming an unholy alliance. * Or Box and Google, which is kind of like David and Goliath, now working together to align their products with the Digital Workplace age. Interesting if they realised in order to fight Office 365, they’re better off fighting together.
Well, American Airlines for example which has replaced the 40 or so lb flight bags with iPads. It’s faster, and of course lighter which means planes fly more efficiently. Bringing physical objects and processes into the digital age is actually one of the big challenges in the digital transformation.
Or take IBM and Cisco which are now working to bring the intelligent Watson to the workplace. An unlikely duo really, 10 years ago no one would’ve thought companies the likes of IBM and Cisco would end forming an unholy alliance.
Or Box and Google, which is kind of like David and Goliath, now working together to align their products with the Digital Workplace age. Interesting if they realised in order to fight Office 365, they’re better off fighting together.
So what do these companies have in common? What is the common ground between them? Well it is that they have recognised an important change in employee demand, and work towards a new reality.
And that new reality is that employees now expect a digital working experience.
They want enterprise apps to be mobile first They want them to be relevant, showing only the info I as an individual will find important and valuable They want things the way their iPhone work. Easy, intuitive, well-designed, fun. They want updates and changes to happen in real-time and be informed about things as they happen. And they want technology to help further blur the lines between physical meeting rooms and virtual collaboration, for example through Slack, sharing capabilities of many apps, etc.
But the struggle to get there is real. So far 2 in 3 employees hate using their enterprise apps because they are just such a poor experience. No wonder since two thirds of large enterprises have no current plans to develop their own apps.
Why aren’t companies investing you ask? Because most of them don’t even have a clear understanding of their digital touch points or what digital means to them. What nearly 2/3 of executives do know however is that their organization needs to pick up the pace when it comes to digital transformation, which at least is a start.
So how do our Intranets fare in the light of the Digital Workplace? Not that well actually. In fact your Intranet may actually suck. Yes. Most companies haven’t upgraded their Intranets in the past five years, so if you’re still on SharePoint 2010 you are in good company.
Since most intranets were built before iPhones were a thing the experience on mobile leaves something to be desired. In fact, most Intranets are strictly desktop-only, VPN-only. Intranets also don’t incorporate much outside data like your dropbox or email attachments, they are literally just the silo for your policies, corporate news, legal things, you know, boring stuff. Depending on your perspective this could be a problem: Some people say they’re like a beautiful city library, like the one just opposite this hotel. They’re beautiful, expensive places of vetted information… but these days folks just resort to Google instead. Which I went over there yesterday and it was nowhere near as full as the picture suggests. Which may be a fate shared by most Intranets. So overall there is very little “Digital Workplace” mantra going on.
Now I wouldn’t tell you so much bad news without talking about the silver lining. There are ways that can help you bring your Intranet into the future, today. How do you make an Intranet smart?
So if we look at this kind of Business 101 chart we can see where all our current enterprise applications lie. Here in the bottom right, they’re made for the workplace and generally not so smart. Than we have these assistants in the shape of Siri, Amazon Alexa and Cortana which are really smart but mostly centred around the consumer market. But assistants for the workplace will be combining the best of both worlds, thus becoming super smart additions to the lesser business applications.
How to make an Intranet smart. We identified 3 key aspects where organizations can tangibly innovate towards the goal of their own Digital Workplace, their own smarter Intranet. First are new ways to search, followed by Card based User interfaces and Bots for conversations between human and data.
First up, Search.
Current Intranet search is not so smart if we think about it. Let me explain: When you ask SharePoint a really, really simple question. How many days of annual leave do i have left? Then the answer you get is: Zero results. Which may be unsurprising, but it’s still frustrating.
Search, while obviously making an appearance in almost every software you use, is attested to be seldom executed well, and even if it it’s still too expensive and complex. CMS Wire cites an example where the marketing department was expected to search through a whopping 12 different systems before they could get their critical up-to-date information. No one would use (I) Google, (II) Yahoo and (III) Bing — let alone 9 more searches when they just want to look up a simple fact.
So I think it’s fair to say that Intranets are overdue for an update. There are new ways to understand your users. These are of course heavily borrowed from Google, but that’s not by accident. In fact this brings us into realms of Artificial Intelligence which Google not only has a domain in but actively encourages developers to integrate with their services. Like Voice Recognition for example for which Google or Amazon are two popular providers of APIs that allow any developer to offer voice recognition inside their apps. Or NLP, natural language processing. In recent years not just Google but Mac OS and Windows 10 all have added support for “natural” search commands. For example I could search for “…” and the Search figures out which parts of the sentence refer to the sender, the recipient, time, and so on. That intent recognition, is artificial intelligence. Tremendously interesting when Search attempts to provide instant answers to users. Which brings us to the format in which answers are delivered to the user:
Let’s imagine for a second that the Intranet of the future is literally nothing but a search box. I can type, or I can speak. And the answers are only given to me in Cards. What if instead of looking into 6 people’s calendars and then reserve a meeting room I could just say “Set up a meeting with everyone in the #development Slack group.”
Let’s imagine I ask my now smart Intranet the same question again: “How may days of leave do I have left?” Only this time I get…a Card. Mh, that’s a cool concept. We have an instant, definitive answer to the users question We also have rich media like a teaser image, visualised data, bar charts, line charts, you name it And of course relevant related info: If I have a question, if i have a problem who can I speak to that will help me solve it. What are relevant policies I need to read etc. And lastly of course meaningful actions so I can request leave straight away from the Card. Neat.
And the Card actually shows information from across multiple sources, like one section is coming from your HR software, the next from Active Directory and so on. The more the merrier.
And Cards also offer multiple actions. I have a proactive action which is something the Assistant offers to me, in case I wanted it. And then there are reactive Cards if I am required to start or decide something. These reactions again could come from very different systems which may handle workflows in their very own unique way but again the Cards unify the experience with their consistency.
Cards are a pretty interesting idea we thought. What’s great about them is that they’re self-contained. That means you can place two entirely different Cards directly underneath each other without risking confusing your users. This also makes them perfect for mobile as you can show Cards as a list on smartphones or tile them side by side on larger displays.
All of these factors have contributed to Cards making their way into the UIs of many mainstream platforms: Twitter, Google, Facebook or Pinterest are just a few examples of companies developing into the direction of more Card-based user interfaces. This means by the time employees encounter their first Card in the workplace they will already have encountered them countless times in consumerized services.
Arguably one of the major drawbacks of most current user interfaces is that users always see the same information. You have all of these buckets here: Updates, Announcements, Shortcuts. They’re always there whether or not they’re actually needed.
And these buckets always show the same documents too.
* I’ve already seen this update * and I’ve read this news like 20 times. But current Intranets have no way of knowing whether this is still relevant to me. Especially in Intranets where there isn’t daily changing content, homepages often feel very stale, almost static to users.
But Cards help with that, too.
Because Cards can be personally tailored. We have all of this information about our users, their roles, departments, workgroups, documents they have worked on, so lets use this to our advantage.
* By using Cards and laying them out dynamically into this grid we can show the user the information he or she hasn’t actually seen before, tailored specifically to their needs. And if the user has seen the content, * let them decide to swipe it away and dismiss it while all the remaining cards reorganise.
Lastly let’s look at Bots.
You may have already heard about them, they’re quite the buzzword since of very recently. But what actually are they? Essentially we’re talking about a new type of user interface. Instead of wanting slightly different buttons and menus for every application, bots all have the same user interface: That being a simple message. Now some of you might say, oh bots are like command lines from the 80s or like Linux, and while that’s true there’s also a key difference that when you send a bot a message it can read it and reply in a way that’s similar to how a human would interact with you. There are different kinds of bots – for messaging bots, e-commerce, banking, flight reservations, etc. – but that doesn’t mean they all have their own app. They all are integrated into one and the same messaging app — effectively making messaging apps the new platform for bots.
Techcrunch already last year predicated bots will replace apps, thus bot stores will be the new app store. Even the founder of Evernote has said that bots are “the most exciting thing in tech since the iPhone
While this might all have been fortune-telling…
When Microsoft and Facebook recently announced their plans to launch bots it became clear that bots are here to stay.
Microsoft for example released a bot framework that lets companies develop their own order taking bots, for example for pizza.
* Following a similar goal Messenger allows you to order Flowers from 1-800-FLOWERS. So instead of pressing one for tulips, two for roses etc you can now swipe and click your way through the process.
* But they also aim to replace emails, for things like confirmations, promotions or even boarding passes as Dutch airline KLM already offers in a pilot project.
When Microsoft jumped on the bandwagon just last month it became quite clear that bots are here to stay. On their developer conference they introduced a cleverer Cortana that incorporates a number of bots and a Bot Framework with which developers can develop bots of their own. Microsofts CEO claimed that human language capabilities will be applied across many different interfaces, suggesting that bots might find their way into all three, Windows, their cloud platform Azure and their business applications division, in the not too distant future.
Using Microsofts bot framework for example they demonstrated a pizza delivery bot that people just chat with. The user says “please send me a large pepperoni pizza” and the bot recognises what the customer has ordered (Pepperoni for toppings, and large for size) and compares is with what is till missing on its end to complete the order and then asks only these questions the user hasn’t yet answered. This chat integration is just one iteration of the bot and Microsoft plans to also offer such chats via Skype or even text messages.
At last Facebook has announced plans to make Bots centre-stage for Facebook Messenger. They want businesses to make Facebook Messenger the new central way to communicate with customers. If you thought “Wait, I thought we use Twitter for that.” there is a key difference: Facebook will allow you as the customer to purchase a businesses products through Messenger. To make you suggestions and handle your order businesses will create their own Bots that are tasked to handle all of your queries. So that when you want to order flowers from 1-800 flowers you no longer call them but Facebook message them. So instead of pressing 1 for roses, 2 for daffodils, etc. you now chat with a robot-human-hybrid that will do the same thing. Main advantage, so Facebook claims is that while a phone call always occupies your attention 100%, a chat with a bot you can quickly nip in and out of without getting overly distracted. But Messenger also aims at replacing good ol email notifications, for dispatch confirmations, promotions or even boarding passes as Dutch airline KLM already offers in a pilot project.
But how could Bots function in a business environment? Well, similar to apps bots will have a narrow skill set, so they can do more or less one thing but that relatively straight-forward. So you will have many different bots in the company. If we return to the Leave request question, a bot could allow the user to request additional Leave in a chat interface. The bot would then have 3 things he needs to know from the user: how long they want off and what for and compare that with how much leave the user is entitled to take. The first, the duration the bot could capture through a chat with the user. Then it could ask them why they request their time off, whether its Jury duty, parental leave, etc. and that’s about it really the bot has filled out the form. Lastly, the amount of available Leave, the bot could for example look up straight from a payroll software. Short and sweet, that’s the idea behind them.
And using these 3 innovations actually has manifested itself in the inception of the Now Assistant. Which is an awarded app made by adenin that is the world’s first AI Assistant for the workplace. And now we’ll see how this app makes an Intranet smarter.
This is how it looks. It notifies you proactively about any updates in your data.
Does so through what we call Now Cards, so they follow their own architecture or anatomy.
And the stream is personal and always up to date. Which means if you have an unassigned ticket or workflow, but someone else takes over that workflow, than the Card will be redundant and disappears again.
And of course like I said before Now Assistant uses AI and Bots. How?
For example for the AI part the Assistant uses Voice Recognition.
But also once the Assistant knows what the user said we try and decipher it by using Intent Recognition that makes a best bet at what the user might’ve asked for and then fulfils that request, for example by serving a card or starting a workflow.
Here is a diagram of what’s happening. First we transcribe the users voice, than we recognise the intent of what they were saying. This obviously is a skill we need to continuously teach and practice with the AI. All of this is what you would call Artifical Intelligence. But carrying on, we then determine an action that will be fulfilled by the Assistant, for example a search, starting a workflow or answering a question.
This is how this looks like for example with the Leave request. You give the AI a range of possible user voice prompts and then it will respond to the Assistant with the right action that it has to fulfill, in this case showing the PTO card.
But we also use Now Assistant inside Bots, so instead of giving output as Cards we can give it as a text block in Slack, or Skype for Business. [Click] So here I’m asking for the same question, and get the same answers just in a different format.
Which is handy because you can use it for commands or search wherever you are, on a phone, your desktop computer, etc.
But Now Assistant also embeds into existing Intranets. Take SharePoint for instance. Where you now can get this little Now Button that just slides open your personal Assistant. Or as a Chrome extension. It shows you all of your latest Cards, you can search, start a voice prompt. It works really well, and it feels like an entirely smarter way to use an Intranet. It also has a little badge here to show me I have some new Cards, so I won’t miss anything.
So in conclusion: * The AI’s aim is to surface relevant data from across multiple sources * Thus making better use of the tons and tons of data you will already have * Therefore smart assistants are a faster and better way to get just you need to know when you need to know it * Not much disruption: Because there is no migration required there is 0 transactions costs because it merely supplements and not replaces existing software
Thank you so much everyone for your attention, I hope you have a pleasant conference. Does anyone of you have any questions?
Making Intranets smart - How AI and Bots allowed us to create a smart assistant for the digital workplace
Employees now expect a digital-driven
Mobile-first Personal Consumerized Real-time Collaborative
The struggle is real
Sources: Altimeter Group, Boston Technology, Santoko Partners
Rarely use their enterprise
mobile apps for poor experience
2 in 3
Large enterprises no plan
to develop their own apps
2 in 3
Companies don’t have a “clear”
understanding of digital touch points
75% Executives think the organization
needs to pick up the pace
“…companies haven’t upgraded their
intranet platform in the past five years”
• Experience on mobile
• “Silo” for company content
• Little Digital Workplace
“Most intranets were built before mobile
devices … making it difficult to provide
secure access to employees…”
Not so smart?
“How many days of annual leave do I
• Intranets overdue an update
• New ways to understand users
AI: “…seldom executed well and is
regarded as expensive and complex”“…12 different systems to get accurate
and up-to-date information…”
• Aim to surface relevant data from across multiple sources
• Make better use of existing data
• Smart assistants are a fast and better way to cut through the noise
• Not much disruption: Supplements and not replaces existing
The world’s first AI Assistant for the workplace.Any Q’s?