Last year I’ve made a crazy prediction that your next PLM workflow manager will be a bot. As much as crazy the idea was last year it looks like serious now. Enterprise software companies are investing into development of chatbots. Earlier today, my attention was caught by Deloitte University Press article – The conversational enterprise. Here is an interesting “signals” indicating the trend:
In the last 18 months, conversational user interface (UI) start-ups have raised over $200 million; in Q2 of 2016, more money was raised than in the entire previous year1. Enterprises across a diverse range of sectors, such as financial services,4 retail,5 and oilfield services,6 have deployed chatbots to automate internal workflows or business-to-business interactions. SAP,7 Oracle,8 Salesforce,9 and ADP10 are developing chatbot UIs for their software systems
Although the most straightforward use case is B2C and communication with enterprise customers, I’d not just to conclusion and dismiss PLM chatbot use case. Here is another interesting passage from the article outlining the benefits of chatbots for the enterprise:
Chatbots have a number of potential benefits over traditional GUIs. First, they can simplify applications for users. For example, rather than navigating through an interface or website to find information, users can just say or type what they want. Users can also compress multi-step tasks into a single command, such as, “Get my list of open opportunities this quarter, and send it to Janet.” Second, the conversational UIs that chatbots offer may require little to no training, given that they understand and can interpret natural language and translate it into actions. Third, users can leverage chatbots to operate several business applications at once. For example, users can invoke multiple chatbot actions in conversation with team members at the same time.
Combined, those benefits allow for non-expert users to interact with many complex applications in an intuitive fashion in a single interface. This gives rise to powerful automation opportunities, where chatbots trigger actions and orchestrate processes across a range of applications through the course of dialogue in natural language. The business impacts can include reducing costs by increasing self-service, improving end-user experience and satisfaction, delivering relevant information faster, and increasing compliance with internal procedures.
To me UI and User Experience is the most interesting case. PLM user experience is extremely complicated. An average operation in traditional PLM system is always 10 clicks away. As I mentioned in my article few days ago, vendors have made lot of work claiming user interface improvement, but in fact it was a lipstick on a pig. I explained in my article why PLM user experience is not done. The problem is that software vendors are trying to solve user experience by starting from existing technologies. This is a wrong approach. The starting point should be a new concept for user experience and only after that, vendor should think about technology to support it.
“Conversation” is an interesting way to communicate. It can replace complex and clunky UI with a number of clicks and mouse movement. It can be available in a seamless on a different devices and doesn’t need large monitors to perform. The following video brings a number of examples from Kore the technology allowing to build enterprise chatbots
What is my conclusion? Chatbot can be an opportunity to rethink PLM user experience. The devil is in details. But a combination of NLP with chatbot integrated into PLM product can be powerful. Do you think PLM vendors are ready to rethink user epxerience paradigm? Time is coming to play with PLM chatbot. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased