Why don’t we make Applications Conversational?

The other day our team was engaged in a filling a form online and at once I realized how cumbersome the process was. The onus was on what the enterprise (behind the form) needed. Not enough thought was applied on simplifying and enriching the user experience. As I became more observant, I noticed that this cuts across most applications we use in the enterprise world; not much effort goes into making them Conversational.

A definitive shift in the recent years is the widespread adoption of design thinking in the development of applications.  It provides a human-centered, solution-based iterative design process that seeks to innovate in a technologically and strategically viable way. All fine, and yet many applications still fall short of making things easier for the lay-business user.

At Digital Harbor, our maxim is, “Simplicity is the ultimate innovation”.

Juxtaposed against the current trend at Digital Harbor we’re trying to remap the largely rigid boundaries of enterprise solutions’ design. We’re pushing for a design that reigns in both aesthetics and applicability; that put users at the heart of product experience. In layman terms, we’re trying to accomplish in the world of enterprise applications what Apple successfully achieved in smartphone market through iPhone. We’re augmenting the intelligence of the business-users and amplifying their capabilities; all while making things User Interface more simple, intuitive and interactive.

The Genesis of Conversational UI

The successive shifts in the Information Technology arena can be seen as a continuous drive towards humanizing technology.  The overarching goal has been to make technology as close to humans in behavior and processing, while retaining the computing edge of machines.

In the last decade we have seen an exponential increase in mobile-first and cloud-enabled approach. It is being predicted that the next wave of disruption is Conversational Applications. These applications will able to converse and evolve with users like a human, and continuously learn from their interactions. We foresee the technology leapfrogging the fixation with screens, through incubation of voice-enabled interactions.

However, conversation doesn’t revolve around just voice. In fact, it can be more of a central guiding philosophy behind the design of each enterprise tool and solution. Every effort to make the user’s work more intuitive and interactive, making the process a two-way interaction as the result can be termed conversational.

Conversation is the new user experience, deeply embedded into the user interface.



What makes an Application Conversational?

The leap we’re talking about is identical, but more powerful than the shift from command prompts to Graphical User Interface (GUI). This changed the paradigm and brought computers from the narrow confines of coders and developers to a wider spectrum of professionals.

While GUI is the current norm, it necessitates working knowledge of softwares that comes from training. With the exponential increase in computing power, there is no reason why this should remain the norm. Any lay-business user should be empowered to perform a much wider range of activities today with zero software familiarity, because the onus is on the solution-providers to design and develop applications that make the idea of software training obsolete.

Because the time is ripe for the next wave: Conversational Applications.

Many notions prevail about what constitutes Conversation. If Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are any hint, we’re already there. And yet, the scene is rendered more complex in the enterprise setting and demands solutions that go beyond the simple “record and retrieve” mechanism that these provide.

At Digital Harbor, we’re redefining the way enterprises consume and leverage data, documents and expertise by fusing Artificial Intelligence, Business Intelligence & Collaborative Intelligence. We’re enabling the push from technology-literate humans to human-literate technology.

Let’s briefly explore how Conversational Applications can transform the way enterprises function and deliver customer delight.

Use Cases

In a typical day of a sales professional, much time is expended in notes-making pre- and post the meeting with prospects. And the deal-closing depends on instant availability of a wide range of information, which translates to much legwork to keep them all ready. The sales professional is hard pressed in both ways, to retrieve deal-winning information in a moment’s notice and use some critical time needed for building client relationship to record the facts and impressions for future use. Given the advances in Conversational AI, scenarios such as these are readily addressable. The ongoing recording in the background, averts the need of human effort to note every important element. Further, the conversational application can instantly retrieve any document that’s requested, obviating the need for the sales professional to navigate through several screens to get the information.

The scenario can be extended to several functions of the organization, beginning with the most eligible candidates for automation, i.e. areas marked by the repetitiveness of the tasks involved.

Several of HR functions are entirely about seeking information, which do not require human intervention. Request for leave, payslip, insurance policy details, snapshot of one’s leaves, etc. are easier processed by a conversational application.

In banking, a customer can interface with the bank for a wide range of tasks through a conversational application. In travel industry, 24/7 intelligent support can be provided to the traveller with a human touch in a land of strangers. In eCommerce, the conversational application can be become the user’s concierge-in-chief, helping him make various relevant purchases without a hassle. In-message purchasing is already in vogue.

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