Companies are adopting in ever increasing numbers digital transformation strategies that create new business models, improve process efficiencies and gain competitive advantage. However, many organizations are still in the early stages of digital transformation. The reasons include lack of resources, budget constraints and cultural issues; but perhaps the biggest obstacle is the overwhelming complexity of matching ever-accelerating technological innovations to business processes, not to mention fully understanding the implications of the data the technology generates.
Which is why in many cases an organization’s first steps on the digital transformation journey is to implement chatbots. Why? Because they are the easiest and quickest to implement. In addition, chatbots provide explicit measurable results because they are based on existing processes. While the first implementations of chatbots is typically in customer-facing billing and service inquiries, companies are beginning to use chatbots internally to drive enterprise-wide digital transformation. Here’s why:
Easy and affordable implementation
Chatbots don’t involve complicated IT implementations, which typically can take a year or more. Yash Malge, Senior Director of Robotic Process Automation for Atos North America, points out that chatbots are much smaller in terms of scope and investment than other digital transformation initiatives. Most chatbot implementations can be up and running “in 8 to 10 weeks…seeing ROI in less than three months.” Consequently, chatbots are particularly affordable for small- and medium-sized organizations.
Based on existing business processes
Since chatbots automate routine tasks, such as invoice processing and purchase ordering or bills of materials generation, the business process is already pre-defined. There’s no need to engage in any kind of extensive process analysis. The steps are already laid out, they just need to be automated.
Which means there’s not a lot of IT involvement. Most chatbots can be set up by non-technical staff using off-the-shelf chatbot tools that are easily customized and scaled to most routine business processes. These tools also integrate seamlessly into an organization’s existing IT infrastructure.
Improve employee productivity
A widespread misconception is that chatbots are intended to replace employees, when in fact they augment what employees are doing to make them more productive. Almost every job involves a certain percentage of repetitive, manual processes. Examples include scanning documents, opening email queries and attaching appropriate data, reconciling schedules and performing routine accounting activities. Chatbots can perform all these kind of activities automatically in the background, freeing employees to perform more core activities that require complex thought and creative problem-solving.
Not only are employees more productive, elimination of boring routine tasks increases job satisfaction, increasing retention levels and lowering turnover, saving companies overhead by reducing hiring and training expenses. Hannah Herman writing in Workato notes, “Like many groundbreaking technologies, chatbots’ true value has come not from replacing humans but from augmenting them. This is especially true for teams where quickly executing repetitive tasks is a key concern…’By using bots to deal with lower-level inquiries, support teams can spend more time answering complex questions that are more valuable to the business,’ explains Mike Murchison, CEO of Ada Support.”
Another factor contributing to worker productivity with chatbot implementation is improved communication within the enterprise, particularly HR and IT support functions. Chatbots Magazine points out how many organizations still require following tedious, time-consuming and inefficient workflows to gather information, particularly for many self-support functions such as supplies ordering or pay inquiries, which accounts for nearly 10 hours weekly on average spent searching for and gathering information that is not a core work activity. Chatbot implementation, however, offers the ability “to communicate and access information across enterprise applications and business processes. Say goodbye to the days when over 700 different workplace apps were required to accomplish 700 different tasks…Gone will be the days of exchanging emails about HR related questions…There’s a HR bot for that! Good riddance to spending hours opening cases for daily IT needs… There’s an It Help Desk bot for that!”
As consumers, people increasingly rely on chatbots to order products and make inquiries about their orders. Nobody cares whether “Mary” or “John” is an actual person or a bot—only whether the right information is easily accessible. It stands to reason that workers, particularly younger workers who grew up on texting and social media, will find chatbots equally instrumental in performing their jobs and contributing to the organizational culture.
Learn more about employees
Key to any successful digital transformation initiative is the effective collection of data and proper analysis in applying data to improve processes. While Casey Phillips writing in Chatbots Magazine does point out that, “Analytics are often overlooked and underappreciated when it comes to chatbots,” they do generate reams of useful and relevant information. Effective analytics leads to better understanding of employee work habits, preferences and gripes. Addressing these findings is, as with any digital transformation initiative, key to improving efficiency, gaining greater ROI, retaining and attracting talent, and achieving competitive advantage.