Bots for Enterprise Collaboration: Why We Can’t Say No Anymore | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Nearly every executive we speak with during digital services research bemoans the issue of enterprise-wide collaboration, and why, despite so many enabling platforms (one proudly counted 29), they struggle to get meaningful information out to the intended user in a reasonable time.

Indeed, enterprises have invested a fortune to ensure knowledge management platforms, collaboration platforms, messaging systems, documentation system, and what not make the required information available to the seekers. They have built extensive enterprise search functionalities across these platforms to help anyone looking for the information. But, it simply does not work. As enterprise search tends to be highly siloed, and CRM, HCM, F&A, Procurement, HR, and other platforms rarely talk to each other. This means information seekers need to query multiple systems, and/or multiple people, to unearth the needed information.

Enter the bots, without the hype. The key agenda of top enterprise collaboration companies such as Microsoft and IBM is to build artificial intelligence (AI) into their collaboration platforms to make it intuitive for users to receive information and jointly solve problems. Smaller but innovative tech companies, such as Slack, are trying to introduce more learning capabilities into enterprise collaboration and search platforms. And with Facebook and Google increasing their focus on this segment – with all players focusing on a massive cross application data crunching engine which can answer queries in a short time – the landscape will rapidly transform.

So, for example, an executive could simply ask an AI bot for the information she requires, rather than sending emails to ten different people. The bot could then crunch the massive data across the enterprise, in all the applications, and get the right answer. But the possibilities extend far beyond this. Think about bots acting not only as servile assistants that answer when the master asks, but also tell executives they are wasting too much time on finding requested information and suggest a remedy to move forward.

Now, think about executives needs that resides outside of the enterprise. Trends such as, IoT are clearly showing that partnership is the lifeline of any digital business. However, this necessarily implies close and fruitful collaboration between the partners. The existing enterprise collaboration and search platforms, which are struggling to meet basic demands, are just not geared to meet this cross application, cross team, and cross companies collaboration. With bots coming into play, there will be tremendous productivity gains for all stakeholders, including faster time to market and better collaboration.

While its true that most technology companies have just made initial plans to enhance enterprise search and embed AI+bots into their collaboration platforms, I still believe we’re not far from a time in which bots helping executives will become a reality in enterprises. Yes, there will be a lot of investments, change management, and user education required; however, this is nothing different than adoption of other technologies.

My sense is enterprises that adopt these technologies sooner than later are bound to reap healthy rewards. Those that embrace bot-enabled collaboration as a “must have,” without which survival will increasingly be difficult, stand to gain significant competitive advantage and innovation.

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