Why bots?

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Motoring - Text: Kriti Sharma, VP of Bots and AI at Sage Images © is­tock­photo.com

Bots would not take away (all of) your work, but they will help build a more cre­ative work­place.

Busi­nesses should not be de­vel­op­ing bots and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) so­lu­tions just be­cause they are trendy, or be­cause they think they can re­place their em­ploy­ees. Smart busi­nesses will use these tech­nolo­gies to free em­ploy­ees from mun­dane busi­ness pro­cesses and al­low them to be more cre­ative and “hu­man” at work.

Less Ad­min, More Free­dom

Few busi­ness own­ers wake up and say “Yay! I get to do my in­voices today”. Sage’s re­cently launched chat­bot called Pegg was de­vel­oped to hide the com­plex­i­ties of ac­count­ing and let en­trepreneurs man­age their fi­nances through con­ver­sa­tion. Pegg takes away a lot of the pain by mak­ing it as easy as chat­ting to a friend on Face­book.

Au­to­ma­tion can give ac­coun­tants more free­dom, too. By tak­ing over man­ual tasks like scan­ning re­ceipts and up­dat­ing ex­penses, bots will free up the ac­coun­tant’s time to fo­cus on serv­ing as strate­gic ad­vi­sors to their cus­tomers and of­fer­ing a more per­son­alised ser­vice.

More Time for Higher Value Tasks

Jen­nifer Suther­land, In­no­va­tion Ca­pa­bil­ity Builder at Standard Bank, be­lieves that bots and au­to­ma­tion could help un­lock a friend­lier and more hu­man work­place, rather than tak­ing us into a cold, dystopian fu­ture. Sup­ported by au­to­ma­tion, peo­ple serv­ing cus­tomers will be able to fo­cus on higher value tasks, be more cre­ative, and take more ini­tia­tive.

“Cre­ativ­ity is a mind-set. Many peo­ple be­lieve they sim­ply are not cre­ative by na­ture, when in fact there are tech­niques to bol­ster cre­ativ­ity,” says Suther­land. “But they need the time and space to ex­plore new things. When they are busy for eight hours a day on their core job, they do not have time to learn some­thing new, solve prob­lems, or ex­plore a new tech­nol­ogy.”

AI, she be­lieves, should serve to free up time for things like en­cour­ag­ing cre­ativ­ity, and help bring mo­ti­va­tion and pur­pose back to the front­line of cus­tomer ser­vice. Build­ing Friendly Bots

One of the im­por­tant el­e­ments of a chat­bot is the per­son­al­ity it projects – it must be like­able and adapt­able to the per­son­al­ity of the user. We will be spend­ing a lot of time with bots in the fu­ture be­cause they will be our vir­tual as­sis­tants, so we must be able to en­joy in­ter­act­ing with them. We, at Sage, place a big fo­cus on build­ing “nice” ro­bots.

At the same time, we should em­brace “bot­ness” and build bots to be bots, not to be like hu­mans. Hu­mans are not nat­u­rally the most op­ti­mised for tasks like in­tel­li­gent au­to­ma­tion, which is what we are de­vel­op­ing bots for in the first place. Bots Should Not Im­i­tate Hu­man Bi­ases As bots are set to be­come a prom­i­nent fea­ture of the fu­ture, it is im­por­tant that they re­flect the di­ver­sity of the au­di­ences they serve and do not repli­cate hu­man bi­ases.

For ex­am­ple, many vir­tual as­sis­tants today use fe­male voices, build­ing on the stereo­type of as­so­ci­at­ing women with ad­min­is­tra­tive and per­sonal as­sis­tance work. I de­vel­oped Pegg as a gen­derneu­tral bot for this rea­son. Bots should be in­clu­sive and feel wel­com­ing to peo­ple ir­re­spec­tive of gen­der, lan­guage, or cul­ture.

To get this right, we should con­sider not only how the per­son­al­i­ties of bots are pro­jected, but also the di­ver­sity of the teams that make them, and the di­ver­sity of the data that bots use for their in­puts.

Kriti Sharma was re­cently named in Forbes 30 un­der 30. She built her first ro­bot at the age of 17, de­signed to bring choco­lates to its con­troller. The soft­ware bots she works on at Sage today are de­signed to help busi­ness builders do less ad­min, giv­ing them more time to do what they love.

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