My date with Wanda

Posted by  Kin Onn Chong

I first heard about Unit4’s Wanda Digital Assistant a couple of years ago. It was introduced during an online presentation, and through the crackly speaker, someone said things like “machine learning” and “intelligent bot” and other buzz words. It wasn’t a live demonstration, just static images and words.  But even then, I knew it was something special.   

So who or more precisely what is Wanda? It's a chatbot that is connected to the Unit4 Business World ERP system. You type what you want in a chat app (usually Skype or Linkedin), Wanda listens, and in seconds, produces answers or results within the chat app. It also knows multiple languages and just picks up the language on the go.

To get to know Wanda better, I arranged a date. There’s a login demo where you can link your personal Skype account to Wanda Digital Assistant and from there, I just started chatting.

There’s a certain freedom that comes from doing your ERP tasks in a chat screen. It feels liberating that you don’t have to remember your cost centre ID or worry about which button to click. Every sequence with the chatbot comes naturally, it’s just as if you’re speaking to your personal assistant.

With Wanda’s help I raised a couple of POs, arranged some travel requests, entered timesheets and even approved workflow tasks in Skype. A caveat here is that the current demo doesn’t connect to an actual UBW system and is just a sequence of scripts but it gives you a good feel for what Wanda can do and how it can help you with those tiresome everyday tasks.

As a first date, it was not too shabby.

But is Wanda a big deal? Absolutely, and for a couple of significant reasons.

Firstly, Wanda negates the complexity of ERP systems (or any applications) today. Even though there’s a movement to simplify the look and feel of these complex systems, it can never get overly simple because there are tons of processes in an ERP solution  and too many links and buttons to click on. A typical user needs to remember where to click, which fields to enter and how to enter them to avoid processing errors. Users must invest in training and manuals, while vendors employ a bunch of designers and programmers and consultants to test the “look and feel” of user interfaces.  

All these infrastructures can be rendered obsolete by Wanda. You type in what you want in natural language (and it is English for now) and Wanda does all the hard stuff by interfacing with the ERP system and getting it for you. No need for formal training, no need for user manuals – just type and go.

Secondly, Wanda’s potential is limitless. Imagine if Wanda was not just connected to an ERP system but to every application that you use. Why not do everything through Wanda? So rather than having to login to different systems, remembering different passwords to submit claims, to check your leave balances, to raise support cases, to raise a travel request and so on let Wanda do all the heavy lifting. Life’s too short to worry about how different apps work.  

So is  Wanda a triumph? I believe so. Join me on a journey and let’s watch as Wanda becomes smarter and acquires more skills to make our lives easier.  

Kin Onn Chong

Kin Onn has been a Unit4 Business World consultant for over 10 years. He enjoys learning about technology and applying it to solve challenging business issues.

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