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Digital Workspace 4.0 is becoming a business requirement. But if you plan to enter the new era, you are facing the question: Where do I start? How can the new technologies – such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence – be tested and used sensibly and without great effort? A digital assistant in the form of a chatbot is a good way to get started. It not only functions as a digital service that helps to increase efficiency or productivity. Rather, it also has great significance for the corporate culture. A chatbot can help to increase the acceptance of new technologies, which often have negative associations in the business context.

Many people do not have a good feeling at first when it comes to machine learning or artificial intelligence. After all, the examples presented in the past show competition to humans: robots, for example, which take over a large portion of the tasks in the manufacturing industry, or digital assistants that make call center employees superfluous. However, the acceptance of new technologies is crucial for almost all projects that are to be tackled within companies in the future.

Human factor

Chatbots also had their pitfalls, at least in the past. They were often used to process IT tickets. If an employee had an IT problem, he or she was supposed to contact the chatbot instead of opening an IT ticket by e-mail or calling the call center. In practice, the problem was based mainly on the following two reasons. First, a person struggling with IT feels the need to complain to a human counterpart about his suffering – and not to constructively deal with a machine. Second, the chatbot often provided insufficient answers because the database was too poor.

Existing IT tickets were used as a basis, which usually contained a good description of the problem by the user, but an insufficiently described problem solution by the support staff. If, for example, it said: “As discussed over the phone, I am glad that I could help you”, it was impossible for the chatbot to learn from it. It can be noted that use cases where a chatbot relies on human-created content are very difficult. However, if you use the right use cases, the chatbot can be a very good introduction to the new digitalized world.

The Chatbot as friend and helper

In the private context, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Co. have managed to use digital assistants in a very positive way and have managed to make people perceive digital technologies as a real support, not as competition. Siri helps to call home while driving. Alexa orders her favorite chocolate or plays music that is sure to please. The database is machine-generated, for example through the order history or search queries at Amazon. These are clear, structured patterns on which a digital assistant can build.

The younger generation in particular, who will soon be pushing into companies, is getting used to digital assistants – and will naturally assume that they will be able to use this technology at their future employer. Today, 45 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds already have experience with Siri. By way of comparison, among 35 to 44-year-olds, the proportion of Siri users is just 20 percent. This is shown in the study “Digital Trends – Survey on Digital Language Assistants” by the German Federal Association of the Digital Economy (BVDW) from October 2017.

For digital assistants, two things are important in the business context as well: They must create positive associations, and in use cases, the content must be generated automatically to receive high-quality responses very quickly.

In practice, this can look quite different. For example, the chatbot can be found as an employee in Skype for Business; it can be reached via SMS, integrated into applications, or a web interface. It can be set up in such a way that it only reacts when it is addressed, or it can think along and approach its users proactively. In reactive mode, for instance, it answers questions about sales, HR, or facility management: Which of my customers’ invoices are outstanding? How many remaining days of vacation do I have? Which meeting room is currently available? Of course, the chatbot helps and can also book the desired room right away.

In the proactive mode, the chatbot gives a hint, for example, that the employee has to leave for the next appointment because there is a traffic jam, and the current menu of the canteen is communicated in time for the lunch break. However, a good assistant also has to keep quiet at the right moment. That’s why he offers his congratulations on your holiday and only gets back to you afterward. What all these use cases have in common is that they access machine-generated data, such as groupware, CRM, or ERP system.

New technologies – in a positive context

What is interesting is that a chatbot focuses on exactly those technologies that will shape the new era: Big Data and artificial intelligence. These tools are put into a positive context, which increases their general acceptance. A cultural change is initiated even before predictive analytics, for example in production lines. A chatbot can also be set up very easily. It takes a maximum of a few weeks before it is ready for use. It can be based on proven Office applications that are already available.

The chatbot is a very good investment when it comes to showing employees how new technologies can support them in their work. But IT must also be given the chance to keep up with change. In a chatbot project, it learns how to deal with the various new technologies. This is at least as important as the change in corporate culture. In the context of the digital workplace, the chatbot thus offers a wonderful entrance into the new digitalized world.

The original version of this article by Martin Ammerschuber (SVA GmbH) can be found under https://focus.sva.de/digital-workspace-4-0-der-chatbot-oeffnet-die-tuer-zu-einer-neuen-aera/

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