How the rise of the bots could change the enterprise


By Justin Grimsley

Think back to the last time you ordered lunch for the office. Remember how much of a hassle it was, especially when catering to food allergies and preferences? Well, Taco Bell aims to change that experience with the introduction of TacoBot. Now, as you’re collaborating with colleagues on Slack, everyone in the lunch meeting can enter their order with Taco Bell’s cheeky, digital butler. No hold music. No complex online ordering process.

TacoBot for Slack isn’t the only bot causing a buzz. At F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled a bot platform for Facebook Messenger, telling the crowd: “You never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.”

In reality, however, some of the Facebook Messenger chatbots have fallen flat or not delivered on their promised vision. Microsoft’s attempt ended with a radicalised, racist bot. And those weren’t the first time bots gained notoriety. Anyone who used AOL Instant Messenger experienced a spam bot at some point.

Back then, bots were also supposed to change our personal and professional lives. However, the computational power and algorithms evolved substantially since then and are now augmented with massive data sets and machine learning that wasn’t previously available. This new breed of artificial intelligence can make bots much more insightful and human-like.

If the consumer applications solidify and gain traction, employees could expect to experience more human-like interactions with enterprise apps. Bots could potentially help automate mundane businesses processes. Here are three realistic examples:

  • A salesperson won’t have to waste time logging activities, creating contacts, changing opportunities and updating accounts. They could just ask the Salesforce bot to do it for them, based on a recent calendar appointment and Microsoft OneNote.
  • A marketing head could ask the Eloqua bot for data on their latest launch campaign to share with the management team.
  • A product manager could ask a JIRA bot if developers are on track to deliver a new piece of software by the targeted launch date.

Taking it another step further, bots could make it easier to get work done across the many applications you use most at work. Bots could create new mobile moments, as Boxer’s Andrew Eye describes here, that help eliminate mundane tasks and open up more time for employee creativity. For example, why should you need to switch between four apps to get the information you need to reply to an email? If you’re using Socialcast or Slack, why should you need to open a browser and then log into an enterprise app to get the information you need to respond to a question?

Fundamentally, people just want a great experience. If TacoBot for Slack can make ordering lunch fun and simple, people will likely use it. If I can use a bot at work to answer a question in seconds instead of minutes, I’m more productive and happy.

It’s still early, I know. Nonetheless, as bots mature over the next few years, I’m optimistic about how they could provide a better experience for the way we work.

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