The era of Artificial Intelligence, (Chat)bots and Digital Assistants – why is this happening now and why is it happening so fast?

Posted by  Thomas Staven

We’ve seen the move from desktop apps to web apps, from web apps to mobile apps and now we see the rise of AI, bots and Digital Assistants. Unit4, together with leading IT-strategists, is convinced that we’ve seen the next major technology shift already.

Why is this happening now…and why is it happening so fast?

1. Next generation of talent demands simplicity and ubiquity

This new generation who have been raised with iPhones and Androids as well as super simple web apps have a totally different expectation of software than previous generations. Software is something that you can get from an app store, download, and start working with in 10 seconds. They require simplicity and intelligent software.

2. We’re living with work-life blend, not work-life balance

According to Workfront Survey 2015, 52% of us log into work apps / work email every day before or after standard business hours…. Only 18% said they never do this.

Before the arrival of technology, our work lives and home lives were separated. We tended to count the hours we spent in both worlds, because we wanted to have balance. However, technology has brought home to work and work to home. It tags along to the beach, our commute, our bedrooms — even our holidays. We like to stay up to date and we don’t want to come home to a massive pile-up of work if we take a few days off. This means our public and private identities are blurring or they are blending. However, when doing work tasks in your private time, you would like solutions to be as simple and quick as possible. You don’t want to spend hours of valuable personal time on something that could have been completed in a few minutes. Simple and intelligent software are key ingredients in order to deliver the perfect blend.

3. BYOD is a given, BYOS is following

The new generation of talent have their favorite apps for communication, productivity etc. Just as it has become natural to bring your own device to the workplace, it is more and more becoming natural to bring your own software as well. Great software, especially great collaboration software is now so easily available that if the employer doesn’t provide the right apps, people will find their own apps and simply start using them.

4. The “rise of the silent conversation”

Today, 2,5 billion people have at least one messaging app downloaded and we’re more and more used to using multiple messaging apps. We might use Skype for Business or Slack at work and Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp at home or we use them all in our blended world.

We also have the native phone messaging apps. Interestingly, the most frequently used app on the iPhone is Messages, with according to Apple, 200.000 iMessages being sent every second.

Surveys and experience all point to the fact that people are more comfortable texting/writing to communicate for business rather than speaking on the phone. Processflows.com said that 32% of people would prefer text than phone and itproportal.com predicts that by 2020, 40% will predominantly interact with software via people-literate technologies (chat/voice). Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 earlier this year: “We think you should be able to message a business in the same way you would message a friend”.  And Chris Messina from Über recently said that “by the end of this year, we will find it completely normal to talk to brands and companies through messaging apps”.

5. Technology has taken a leap forward with AI and ML and Natural Language processing breaking through from the labs into the real world

The “big boys” (i.e. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon…even IBM) are paving the way making advanced technologies like AI and ML as well as their Digital Assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa etc.) available through their open platforms, meaning that everyone can make use of it to deliver new great applications with much more inbuilt intelligence than ever before.

And looking at some research, all evidence points in the direction of Virtual agents and Chatbots as the primary use case for AI, ML and Natural Language processing over the next 2-3 years.


So, there you go: 5 clear trends or facts that are driving the new era of AI, Digital Assistants and (Chat)bots.

Unit4 truly believes this is the next big shift in technologies and we’re betting big on it, which is why we’re currently developing Wanda. Wanda is our Digital Assistant orchestrating a number of enterprise Bots that will make life super easy for the users interacting with our software. Our users can interact with Wanda through natural language, in their favorite collaboration apps (i.e. Skype for Business, Facebook, Slack.com, Amazon Echo…),

Wanda will help users with all typical employee self-service processes (time and absence, expenses, purchasing, employee details…etc.) as well as manager self-service processes (enquiries and reports, tasks, project follow-up etc.).

Delivering business software through our “No UI” strategy is so much more fun and we have seen the first steps towards software becoming pervasive rather than intrusive, almost non-existent or “silent” in its form…. The majority of processes will be completely automated (self-driving) and when interaction is still needed, it will be available predominantly through conversations via people’s favorite UIs (apps), physical products (like the Amazon Echo or the upcoming Google Home) or through virtual reality, all built on an intelligent “conversational platform”.

Thomas Staven

Thomas Staven

Thomas is passionately dedicated to technology innovation and delivering great experiences and business value to customers and has spent the last 16 years within Global R&D/Global Product Management and Global Sales at Unit4 in driving the ERP vendor's focus on delivering innovative enterprise solutions.

Currently Thomas is driving the Unit4 ERP strategy and working closely with the Innovation Lab as Product Strategist, all to deliver the future ERP and bring innovative technologies such as machine learning, AI, chat bots etc. to the world of Business Software.

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