Industry Insights: Conversational AI’s Role In Digital Transformation
Digital transformation budgets have grown exponentially since the pandemic, but only a small percentage of transformations accomplish the intended goal. This summer I wrote about why organizations must look to conversational AI to flip their odds for digital transformation success. Read more about how and why in the following Forbes Technology article.
How Conversational AI Can Help Digital Transformation Succeed
Originally published in Forbes
One of the most dramatic workplace shifts caused by the pandemic is the escalation of digital transformation initiatives. The numbers say it all. According to research by Twilio, 79% of digital transformation budgets grew in response to the pandemic — and 26% grew “dramatically.” Gartner, Inc. also found that over 80% of CEOs have a digital transformation program underway, and 69% are using Covid-19 as a catalyst to focus on resigning their businesses.
It’s clear that digital transformation has a new mandate for success, yet when Boston Consulting Group studied 895 transformations, it found that only 30% deliver or exceed planned value while creating sustainable change. To succeed, organizations must understand the unexpected ways digital transformation can fail to meet objectives, strategies for flipping the odds from failure to success and the role of conversational AI.
Digital Transformation: Start With Conversational AI
Deciding where to begin on the long road to digital transformation success can be intimidating and overwhelming. Breaking down the technological aspect of your initiatives and looking at how to operationalize upcoming digital changes is a great place to start.
One of the challenges with many of these transformations is the impact on the employees and those stuck supporting them. Historically, digital transformations would be thrown to employees — who would, in turn, overwhelm the help desk with repetitive and mundane questions, leading to an overall negative experience. With the advances in AI and NLP, we are now seeing organizations looking at their transformation projects more holistically.
This issue is highlighted in Gartner’s top strategic technology trends for 2021, which call out people centricity, location independence and resilient delivery. Conversational AI can significantly impact all three:
- People centricity. Unfortunately, organizations are often hyperfocused on the processes that are being adjusted, and the actual people using these new tools are a mere afterthought. Organizations must keep employees and their needs at the forefront of digital change. The reality is that our consumer experience has dramatically changed expectations when people come to work. Consumer agents like Alexa and others have resulted in dependence on the convenience of access to immediate information and help. Employees expect consumer-like self-help via a virtual agent that embraces conversational AI.
- Location independence. Employees need help in the moment even when they work remotely. With a hybrid workforce, it’s critical to support employees anytime and anywhere they need it. A digital-first, location-independent mindset is a prerequisite for an “anywhere” organization. Employees need automated self-help that is personalized to their role and location, that they can interact with in their native language and that is available 24/7 with answers to enterprise questions — not just IT.
- Resilient delivery. You can’t expect the unexpected, but you can prepare for it. Gartner predicts (via PCMag) that through 2023, “at least half of IT leaders will struggle to move their AI predictive projects past proof of concept to a production level of maturity.” This has certainly been what we have observed over the past year with “home-built bots,” which have failed primarily as a result of lack of data and the expertise required to build a virtual agent that delivers on the experience employees have come to expect. Success requires a virtual agent that can handle unexpected bursts in call volume while delivering high ticket deflection so agents can focus on other aspects of their role, ensuring employees receive continuous help.
This is all great, but it must be done with a final strategy in mind. Recently we have seen HR, IT, finance and every department in between turn to virtual agents to provide a better employee self-help experience. Many organizations aren’t looking at this holistically, and as a result, departments apply one or more chatbots on an ad hoc basis without a cohesive strategy — leading to organizational confusion and frustration. What’s needed for success? A centralized virtual agent strategy that can be seamlessly implemented across the organization.
Automate The Help Desk And Take Control Of Change
From my conversations with CIOs, there’s sometimes hesitation about whether a virtual agent for employee self-help will truly impact digital transformation initiatives. The bottom line is that your IT team can implement the best digital technologies, but that doesn’t ensure success. Even the best will fail if employees find them too hard to use and refuse to adopt them.
As new digital technologies are rolled out, traditional help desk agents become overwhelmed with call volume. As a result, employee questions can go unanswered for days. When that happens, employees lose productivity and gain frustration, and they can ultimately give up. Consider automating the help desk with a virtual agent first, as this can allow organizations to provide support for all digital transformations. Employees can get their questions and issues resolved instantly, giving digital technologies a greater chance for success.
However, it’s important to keep certain considerations in mind when taking this approach. There are characteristics to look for to ensure a virtual agent can bridge the AI-human language gap. This includes conversational AI, advanced NLP and contextual understanding.
Automation also opens up the opportunity for help desk leaders to up-level their team’s skills beyond the repetitive and monotonous password resets to one where they can become experts in AI and machine learning. In addition to building up needed skills in IT, this also frees up staff to focus on strategic initiatives — and everyone wins.