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Conversational Applications will Pave Way for Truly Social Enterprises
The evolution of computers in workplace revolves around how the enterprise data can be presented and organized to empower business-users. The interplay between employee and data shapes the course of an enterprise’s journey. The efficiency of enterprise applications and productivity of employees, are both defined by the current orbit of human-computer interaction.
One of the companies attempting to disrupting the status-quo of enterprise applications is Digital Harbor. I spoke with Rohit Agarwal, their President and Chief Innovations Officer, about where innovations in the enterprise are headed.
The History of Interaction
In the enterprise world, we have come a long way from the era where command prompts were how humans communicated with the computer. This form of interaction necessitated a knowledge of command syntax, effectively distancing itself from the wide range of non-technical, business-users.
This limitation was overcome with the introduction of Graphical User Interface (GUI). This opened the window of computer use to a wider spectrum of professionals. The “sense and respond” approach enabled business users to function without learning by rote the stream of syntaxes. While Apple was the pioneer of this concept, it was Microsoft which capitalized on this design with its Windows operating system which led to industry standardization.
Later, the consumer market witnessed accelerating demand for touch-computing interfaces, with tablets and smartphones illustrating another pragmatic use of “sense and respond” approach. These devices have been making their way to enterprise world too, especially for the field-level operational tasks.
More recently, the breathtaking pace of innovation in the consumer market has led to introduction of voice-interfaces such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Google Assistant among others. However Agarwal notes, “We are still in the nascent stage for voice-based interfaces which still remain siloed in simple decision-tree based applications. We are still a far cry from complex, back-and-forth business-centric conversations.”
The Next Stage of Human-Computer Interaction
At the center of the enterprise operations is the ability of employees to take business-critical decisions using a confluence of diverse departmental data. Typically, a lot of supplementary work is required for the maintenance and utility of records. The employees also operate on the periphery of workflow and are forced to manually integrate the isolated and insulated bits of data to paint the full picture.
What’s needed is a UI that enables business-users to gather and sift process-relevant and decision-critical data from across the enterprise. The fluid, seamless collection of data on-demand is vital for making enterprise decisions. The user-and-computer interaction can be humanized by embedding a conversational UI that serves the user like an Enterprise Assistant.
As Agarwal puts it, “Having a conversation is at the center of our existence as humans. Thanks to an exponential rise in computing capability, today we have the technology to go beyond GUI and implement “interpret and respond” approach. Further, recording and engaging are barely adequate to deal with the complexities that modern enterprises face. To embrace the future, enterprises need ‘Conversational Applications.”
How Conversational Applications can Transform Enterprise Functions
Injecting Conversational UX (user experience) in the DNA of business workflow of enterprise applications can help transform businesses into a truly social enterprise. These “Conversational Applications” can talk to the users, help them connect the dots in complex operations, and guide them with requisite intelligence at each stage of the business process. In contrast, offline report stats are barely helpful during the execution stage. These applications enable users to converse with the data and engage in context-sensitive collaboration with others.
Example: A Day in the Life
Say an insurance claim reaches an Insurance Officer who must now perform the due diligence to file the final report. The traditional way of doing this was to transfer several key aspects of the job to various stakeholders including third-party (for verification), co-workers (to gain expert insights), finance department (for findings & notes) and the interaction with the applicant himself (to fill the form in requisite format). Traditionally, in a records-based approach, each of these interactions happen at the periphery of business workflow. And this bespoke information needed to be somehow collated to get a comprehensive view. Further, as some employees move out of the organization (either because of changing jobs or retirement), the ones who replace them struggle to make sense of the full picture on the basis of system of records alone.
A Conversational Application can disrupt this conventional way of doing things.
First, instead of overwhelming the claimant with multitude of pages and required attachments, the application can break it down into an intuitive, interactive process. The application shall try to grasp what the claimant is trying to convey in each field of the claim-form alongside the requisite documents to be attached, and provide contextual, proactive assistance in helping him complete the due process efficiently.
Second, in the event of a new officer taking charge, the application can help her connect the dots by looking at the history of past cases and current status of similar claims. By helping connect with officers having experience working on similar cases, the application can effortlessly accelerate the process.
Third, outsourcing the risk assessment to a third-party can become easier when the application is provisioned with elastic security. The officer can briefly hand over a select part of the claim to the third-party for review without having to freshly generate user credentials and define privileges for them. By promptly enabling authorized access to the third-parties in such a hassle-free manner, the elongated onboarding process is averted.
Fourth, the application can send reminders to the officer should the claim violate Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The Supervisor can look at the performance of his department by having a drillable dashboard that is further illuminated by the intelligent assistant thus extracting the relevant information, findings and notes in a hassle-free manner.
By harmonizing all the inputs, enterprises can build a 360-degree profile of the business process through seamless collaboration with both internal and external parties. As observed above, freed from peripheral activities, business users can concentrate on their core function rather can trying to connect the dots in an increasing world of data disarray.
Such applications can help businesses transform into a truly social enterprise, bringing organizational fluidity and efficiency. As business evolves and adapts to the reality of digital revolution, what will the future bring? Agarwal says, “Conversational Applications will catapult the digital revolution to the next orbit of human-computer communication. And Social Enterprise Technology such as Digital Harbor’s innovative enterprise platform that delivers conversational applications, will help enterprises embrace both their full potential and their digital future.”
First Published on Entrepreneur