An exclusive perspective on the hottest revolution happening right now!
Aliens aren’t coming but business bots are already here! A wide range of special purpose intelligent business bots are revolutionizing the way products and services are designed, delivered and consumed. I am not talking about simplistic chat bots. These are intelligent action bots. They will replace several processes, workflows and interfaces in a massive enterprise transformation that is taking place now.
These business bots will splinter business processes into nano-organizational units and transform both external touch points and internal operational nodes. Business bots will be the new intangible assets owned and reported by businesses in future. Harvesting and integrating the value derived from these intelligent assets will become crucial for business success.
‘Botization’ of Enterprises
Rising customer expectations, changing business models, shrinking business value along with disjointed systems and processes have created a perfect breeding ground for business bots. This disruptive environmental influence coupled with advances in AI technologies like NLP, DL and ML have created intelligent business bots that are set to invade every bastion of enterprise technology ecosphere.
For most enterprises, technology has become more complex than their own businesses. What has brought in efficiency over the last few decades has also created enormous complexity.
Enterprise technology has turned into an unmanageable T-Rex drugged with opium and chained with duct tape.
This behemoth is now too humongous to maintain and too stoned to respond to sweeping changes in market conditions. Now all that is about to change with intelligent business bots. They are born at the fulcrum of three distinct upshots.
- Inefficient process cesspools
- Broken customer touch points
- Failed strategies on operational efficiency
The value stagflation of many large enterprises can be collared easily with the help of business bots. They will strip enterprises from labyrinthine structures and make them revolve around customers, an indispensable precondition to reviving businesses. Business bots drive down cost-to-serve, dis-intermediate customer interactions and unshackle business processes. No wonder, the array of processes that can be ‘botized’ is increasing on a daily basis. Working closely with a few large enterprises that have taken lead in adopting intelligent business bots, I foresee that business bots will be the next big revolution in enterprise tech.
Soon, enterprises will be able to subscribe to these business bots online just like the way you subscribe to Netflix and watch movies. You would be able to browse many a Botflix and subscribe to a choice of bots for as low as 100 dollars a month or on a Pay Per Action (PPA) model.
Let us look at the emerging innovations, their impact and potential challenges.
Metallurgy of Bots
Intelligent business bots differ fundamentally from regular enterprise software or apps on several fronts. Business bots are lean and mean. They are built for specific purposes with clear capabilities. They have the conversational capability that is invokable on need or at will. They also learn and evolve over time. They are contextual and proficient with customer emotion.
They are profound force multipliers. They work standalone or in tandem with other bots. They can be easily retired, replaced or revived.
All this is enormously powerful for enterprises. The bots will operationalize your organizational strategy. They will crunch massive customer data points in real time, orchestrate tasks, create workflows and take instant action. Driven by powerful algorithms, they will also take operational decisions based on business rules and contextual intelligence while proactively monitoring risk. Tons of real-time data will be thrown at these bots to learn at speed of light, using which they would predict trends and forecast outcomes. While at the same time, they will also anticipate user actions, be responsive, warm and inviting like a charming friend who cares about you.
Customer facing bots will address queries, resolve issues, perform tasks and even recommend right products. Like a trusted adviser, they will suggest loans, stocks, books, gadgets and appliances based on contextual need and help customers buy the right products and services. Offer Bots will provide location specific offers when customers enter a mall. Lead Gen bots will generate leads and identify sales opportunities. Pricing Bots **will constantly monitor marketplace movements and tune your pricing. **Market Bots will provide insights into competitive strategies. Campaign Bots will schedule, organize, deliver and monitor your campaigns. Risk and Compliance Bots will roam your processes freely and foil any dissonance. Where required they will alert human decision makers to swing into action. Onboarding Bots shorten cycle times to bring people onboard while Employee EngagementBots work hard to make them tick and stick.
Clearly, business bots will invade every strategic and tactical realm in an enterprise. They will create new business models and infuse new growth curves into businesses.
Connecting the Bots
Though most bots are built for specific purposes, they need to be premeditated to interconnect with an array of other bots within and outside an enterprise. They need to be designed ground up, to feed off each other and grow. For example, the interdependence of Hiring Bots, Onboarding Bots, Employee Engagement Bots and Training Bots need not be underscored separately. So are Sales Bots, Marketing Bots, Advertising Bots and Customer Service Bots — interlocking them with each other seamlessly becomes critical for their success. They need to be in sync in real time with one another to be able to understand customer behavior and ensure that products and services are in tune with the market expectations.
Neurotransmitters that trigger these Cluster Bots are the cross-functional data streams. Once sparked, these Cluster Bots work their magic through various orchestration protocols. They also will be able to interact with devices across the IOT spectrum. Patient Care Bots could fill out the required medical forms before the ambulance reaches the hospital.
Apart from Cluster Bots, some business bots are designed to nestle inside one another just like Matryoshka dolls where one figurine is nestled in another. Procurement Bots, Logistics Bots, Distribution bots are classic nestled bots. But they also have the ability to operate independently. Similarly Inventory Bots, Order Processing Bots and Shipping Bots are also stackable in one another. New architectures for bot services will emerge outlining the power laws of bots.
Connecting tissue of these bots is the strata of content, data and services that trickle up or down while continuously analyzing and responding to new behavior patterns.
There will also be Instant Bots that are automatically created on-demand with the help of powerful new APIs across service and process chains. These on-the-fly event-based Instant Bots trigger new workflows stitching together an existing set of workflows based on context and situation.
Though you won’t have to wade through monolithic applications or roam around app graveyards in future, you will have a swarm of bots to track and monitor. Enterprise wide Bot Control Centers will come into existence to help in monitoring, scheduling and running of these bots. You can switch these bots on and off just like you control lights in a building. Along with human teams, there will also be Regulator Bots that manage orchestration and choreography of these bots at scale.
But as usual, the scene at many enterprises seems pretty familiar. Core business teams and business enabler teams are excited as they know they need new arsenal to deliver better value with shrinking resources. CXOs too are receptive as they can clearly see the shrinking growth and value trajectories but are ill advised by their coteries. Of course, finance teams are clueless. Ironically the IT teams are the most impervious to respond to a revolution that is set to rock their own realm. They falsely assume that this phenomenon will put the existing technology backbone at risk. Their deep-rooted resistance stems from the fact they are not yet armed with new enterprise wide bot architectures or skillsets required to lead this innovation. All this results in a Fragmented Reality.
Fragmented Reality is a phenomenon that occurs when various stakeholders in a given context construct themselves a comfortable sheath of reality insulating themselves from the impending changes on the horizon.
Each functional sheath is built on a muscle memory of pre-conceived notions, resistance to change, FUD factors, and territorial fiefdoms. There usually are several such sheaths in an enterprise. Every sheath projects an appearance of alignment with the rest of the sheaths in the organization. They collectively erect one imaginary field that I call Fragmented Reality. This terrifying conundrum barricades an organization’s ability to change, which in turn leads to potentially dangerous innovation stagnation.
Here are a few typical action plans that organizations generate when obscured by Fragmented Reality.
- Announcement of accelerator programs which will have zero business impact.
- Meaningless strategic off-sites spending hundreds of thousands of dollars only to head back to work with a more vivid Fragmented Reality.
- Build a few POCs with no plan or focus to move into the zone of tangible transformation.
- Spinning off several conflicting and orthogonal initiatives across functions in the same organization.
How do you shatter the Fragmented Reality lens and plot the trail of business bots in your organization?
What is Your Ammo?
Increasing your competitive edge is the true promise of business bots. To build enterprise grade, mission critical, highly distributed bots, you don’t need to restructure your core functions or rejig your organization. No need to rewrite millions of lines of code. You don’t even need to dole out multi-million dollar deals to system integrators who still palm off their rusted ADM and allied services in the name of “digital transformation.”
Here is a quick step-by-step guide to chart the ‘botization’ flight path and reap the full potential of this innovation.
- Scan the entire gamut of business processes/IT systems and select the ones that hamper your organization’s ability to respond to market changes swiftly.
- X-ray your age-old customer touch points and identify intersections of significant customer friction.
- Identify the operational inefficiencies flogging your organization.
- Create a comprehensive bot strategy that operationalizes your strategic goals.
- Increase your innovation metabolism with nimble ‘networked teams’ that can deploy, measure and monitor bots.
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Business bots are best leveraged with a single platform focus for interoperability and reliability. You need not follow the traditional IT approach where multiple system integrators provide disparate systems that are not flexible enough to create a unified value. Avoid the temptation for multi-year road maps that never live beyond the first two quarters.
Circumvent the impulse to force-fit obsolescent software development processes and mediaeval procurement procedures to adopt business bots.
Like any major inflective innovation, ‘botization of enterprises’ also needs to be driven at the highest echelons. And then small ‘networked teams’ with open communication channels could propel and monitor the efforts. The networked teams with open feedback loops, iterative methods and empowered decision making will be your blueprint to rewire the organizational mindset. Else, the surging **‘botomation’ **wave will surely wash ashore some radioactive enterprise debris.
Finally, dystopian enterprise technology landscape is looking like a sci-fi flick from the future. With the blistering pace of new technologies, you can easily imagine a bank or a telecom in future entirely driven by software bots with absolutely no humans.