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There is a crisis in enterprise communications and collaboration—due in large part to the overwhelming technology and application silos that cause a lot of user complexity and confusion. Enterprise communications technology, and specifically unified communications (UC) platforms, were initially built to deal with establishing a single session, which had a start and an ending. There wasn’t a major focus on the communications life cycle or the ongoing experience of users in the context of their business workflow. We’re seeing an emerging trend to address that with messaging platforms, interfaces, and chatbots.

However, with all the buzz about chatbots and conversational interfaces, I think we become vulnerable again to the danger of just putting a technology lens on what really should be about conversational experiences. The workplace demands a communications and collaboration continuum that’s tied to the internal and external business processes that people are involved in daily. There has to be a high level of communications and collaboration continuity in which shared information, content, or data, which is pertinent to the business process, be in context with all collaborative interactions. So, as enterprise planners look to develop strategies around conversational interfaces and chatbots, the goal has to be about moving towards conversational experiences.

What I think chatbots represent is a focus on conversational interfaces and experiences that are more natural for users to access enterprise services.

As I speak with business leaders in various disciplines, such as human resources (HR), sales, marketing and information technology (IT), the constant theme that arises is improving the communications experience. Everyone seems to agree that improved communication experiences between people, whether internally or externally, is the key to better collaboration for getting things done. Having shared information, content, or data in context is key here. We used to call this contextual collaboration. In the current unified communications and collaboration (UCC) space, we promised communications-enabled business processes (CEBP). However, the lack of interoperability, caused by proprietary technology vendor silos, thwarted that vision from being fulfilled across business applications and in inter-enterprise scenarios with business partners and customers.

The Shift to Experiences

We’re witnessing a shift to where enterprise users are expecting simple-to-use interfaces that yield more intuitive experiences. This overall shift is toward conversational experiences that are integrated into people’s workflow. I believe the current wave of team messaging applications, such as Slack and HipChat, are contributing to higher user expectations. These apps are essentially platforms, which support conversations using chatbots and integration into business applications.

In the enterprise, chatbots, as a conversational interface, are valuable to individuals and teams. However, they have to connect to enterprise services and systems. With that, enterprise chatbots have to be secure, in compliance with regulatory policies, and under IT administrative control. Chatbots have to provide context for collaboration tools and collaborative processes. When we look at typical business processes, little of what we do is done in silos. Collaboration and information sharing is critical to any process. Chatbots can be used to augment many business tasks.

What I think chatbots represent is a focus on conversational interfaces and experiences that are more natural for users to access enterprise services. The goal has to be about enhancing your employee and customer experience, streamlining operations and processes, and achieving measurable business outcomes.

Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) will eventually allow user experiences to be even more natural, as chatbots leverage the interaction data to get smarter in serving people. I believe the present and the future of work is about people interactions, defined by conversational experiences.

David Mario Smith is Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. Dave is a Gartner veteran of over 16 years and an IT industry professional with 20 years of experience in the collaboration and workplace technology markets. For more information, visit http://inflowanalysis.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.
 

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