Chatbots are a hot technology topic these days, and for good reason.
If you’re new to the concept of chatbots, just think of them as, literally, a combination of “chat” and “bots.”
Chat, as you know, simply involves the ability to send messages back and forth between two or more parties. Historically, chat participants were humans, but the world is moving beyond that narrow construct for chat.
And what about the bot side of the things?
Generally speaking, a bot is just software that is designed to automate various tasks.
Combined together, chatbots allow you to talk to bots that do things for you.
A chatbot can even talk with other bots, delegating tasks to specialist bots or interacting with a chatbot that is serving another person.
How a Chatbot Can Be Used in an Enterprise Setting
If I want to know how many Priority A customer service requests my company is processing right now, I could just type to my chatbot (or ask it via voice recognition) this question: “How many Priority A requests are open right now?”
The chatbot would find the answer for me, tapping into our customer service database and getting the needed data. It might respond: “There are six open Priority A tickets right now.”
A Major Change in the Information Technology Paradigm
Make no mistake. This is a monumental change in the human-computer interface, and, indeed, if you haven’t heard about the chatbot revolution, you probably haven’t been paying attention.
Think about how primitive mainframe green screens from the earliest days of computing are, as compared with this concept of talking with a chatbot to get information or get something done. That really was the dark ages of computing, wasn’t it?
For that matter, the most advanced user interfaces we have now — whether that’s an airline website like United.com or a retail website like Amazon.com or a software-as-a-service offering like Salesforce.com — will ultimately seem very primitive.
Enterprise-Relevant Consumer Applications of Chatbot Technology
Here’s an example of a consumer-oriented chatbot transaction in the future:
- Me: “Order me a new pair of the same Nikes that I ordered from Amazon.com last year.”
- Chatbot: “That model is in stock. Total cost including shipping is $128.44. Would you like to place the order?”
- Me: “Yes.”
- Chatbot: “The order has been placed. Drone delivery of your new shoes is scheduled for Monday morning.”
This level of sophistication in chatbot-powered interactions is coming soon, as surely as the sun will rise again tomorrow morning.
While the example above is consumer-facing, this hypothetical scenario is still of course an enterprise implementation of chatbot technology. Accordingly, every enterprise CIO I’ve been meeting with of late has raised chatbots as something they are interested in.
Implications of Chatbots for Enterprises and Enterprise Solutions Providers
So, the obvious question for enterprises is: “How will we take advantage of chatbot technology?” and, in turn, the obvious question for enterprise-grade solutions providers like my Infinite Convergence is “How can we best help enterprise organizations to tap into the power of chatbots?”
Every enterprise organization is different, so it’s challenging for me to tell you how your organization can take advantage of chatbots. But the latter question — “How will Infinite Convergence help enterprise organizations to tap into the power of chatbots?” — is easier for me to answer.
A Powerful Combination: Chatbots Meet Enterprise Messaging
At Infinite Convergence, as you may know, we already are very active in the “chat” portion of the chatbot market. We call it “messaging” because “chat” often has other connotations — it’s all about communication, regardless of what you call it, wouldn’t you agree?
Phrasing aside, we facilitate the sending of over 1 trillion conversational messages per year, and NetSfere, our secure enterprise messaging service, has a strong and fast-growing installed base.
On the “bot” side of the chatbot equation, as the CEO of the company, I am making sure that we are prepared for the inevitable future in which messaging infrastructure no longer exists in a vacuum but must be fully extensible and connected to all sorts of other systems, via chatbots and new IoT messaging standards.
You may have already seen my article on how I expect NetSfere, our secure enterprise messaging system, will play a large role in the fast-evolving Internet of Things (IoT).
With chatbots, we are actually further along, having launched a NetSfere chatbot last month.
Net-C, our Version 1.0 chatbot, will soon be coupled with a more powerful chatbot backend, leveraging natural language processing and artificial intelligence. And, as we often do at NetSfere, we are building product to meet specific customer needs.
Indeed, many forward-thinking companies we work with are already thinking about how they can take advantage of sophisticated chatbot technology within their enterprise messaging infrastructure to create internal efficiencies, competitive advantages and/or wholesale reinvention of an industry or niche.
As chatbot hype continues to rise, we at Infinite Convergence are working on the practical use of chatbot technology within large enterprises.
But Is It Secure?
There are so many reasons that NetSfere wins business, but security and integration capabilities are often the most important decision criteria for our very large enterprise customers.
With chatbot technology, the need for bulletproof security is even more important.
If you are interested, I’ve written more extensively about this elsewhere — see my latest Anurag Lal VentureBeat article on chatbot security for more insights.
But the basic message is that enterprises should not start piloting chatbot initiatives without first undertaking a thorough requirements exercise on security and integration needs. (And, of course, working with a partner like Infinite Convergence will ensure that chatbot security and integration are smartly architected and flawlessly implemented.)
The bottomline is that just as the messages sent between a CEO and his COO must be highly secure, so too must the messages between a CFO and a messaging chatbot that has access to sensitive financial data. The chatbot message itself must be fully encrypted and the ability to interact with the chatbot must be regulated with a robust, role-based security framework.
Ambushes Ahead: Be Careful When Exploring a New Frontier
Chatbots are a new frontier for enterprises, but IT organizations and the enterprises that employ them are most vulnerable when they are exploring such new frontiers.
By slowing down and getting the right security, integration and vendor partnerships in place, enterprises can be much more successful with their critically important initial pilots in applying chatbot technology to enterprise challenges and to integrating chatbots with existing corporate messaging platforms.