Post-Slack Offices: Part 2

|July 29, 2016 0
Image courtesy of aopsan at freedigitalphotos
Are Bots the next big thing for getting work done together?

Pratima H

INDIA: In the first part, we tried to get over the shock of finding chat-boxes crawling out of their closets like a proud Toby and perching themselves well around guys that wave wands of action at workplace.

Now, may be, is the time for squealing one more exclamation as we find the elf wearing that ‘Toby Has No Master’ look in full form.

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There’s something/someone afoot that explains why even Slack has been investing millions of dollars and future-workplace paradigms on new AI/ML/NLP creatures. Make no mistake – The likes of Cisco (check out Cisco Spark partnerships), Microsoft (Skype is a small example of what’s brewing inside its research cauldrons), and of course, Facebook (via Messenger) are in the fray as well.

Bots are flying into the chat realm. And fast.

Chat-Bots for better Hamstrings?

If the apps apocalypse took time for bosses to wake up to, then there is another siren gathering decibels soon in the form of Bots.

They are here – almost. With them, there are new discussions spewing around pull bots vs. push bots, bots’ help on cutting down chat-noise and a new face of efficiency along with speed.

One may fairly expect the rise of ChatBots, which would act as a catalyst to the move to cloud solutions, like Ranjan Tayal, SVP & SBU Head – HCM Solution, Ramco Systems, feels strongly. He is seconded by Ninad Raval, Director Product and Design, Flock here.

ChatBots as intelligent agents are also likely to transform business economics much beyond what emails did, Tayal augurs. “Emails and other enterprise messaging were more focused towards simpler, easier and more efficient communications between people. Over the years they have continued to improve, but, people involvement has been a fundamental part. ChatBots, in comparison, are going beyond and eliminating need for people.”

Raval is also watching keenly the rise of artificial intelligence of chatbots and the ability to plug in third party applications, as the next lane after chat-apps. “All frequently used apps like Google Docs, Dropbox, GitHub, etc. can now be directly integrated, while completely letting go of the hassle of switching between multiple apps.”

Bots gives context-based appropriate responses: Nilesh Sangoi, Meru Cabs Image courtesy of vectorolie at freedigitalphotos

Bots give context-based appropriate responses: Nilesh Sangoi, Meru Cabs

As an early adopter himself, Nilesh Sangoi, Chief Technology Officer of Meru Cabs Pvt. Ltd. debunks skepticism around bots. “As to apps, the experience differs on the aspect of structure. In an app, the creator decides the interaction and flow but a bot gives you freedom on what you want to say and when. It gives context and appropriate response based on that. Despite initial euphoria, people cannot handle too many apps in practical sense. Many installed apps never get used. Discoverability of apps or promotions is also an issue. Bots can be used in several dimensions.”

ChatBots are likely to transform business economics: Ranjan Tayal, Ramco Systems Image courtesy of franky242 at freedigitalphotos

ChatBots are likely to transform business economics: Ranjan Tayal, Ramco Systems

Bots also house the possibility (at least, on paper) of pre-empting the curse of noise that is inevitably going to challenge chat-tools. In fact, if email was facing its issues because of the tangled pile it generated or the visibility of ‘actual’/’action’ information it hampered, then chat-tools could also run the same cliff soon and much more dangerously.

Noise and clutter does affect productivity, as Rahul Asave, Principal Product Manager, Atlassian (makers of HipChat) accepts and so does Pat Sullivan, CEO of Ryver. More so as it could be an irony that attacks chat-tools where it hurts most – the very notion of efficiency and speed.

It is natural and tempting to get lost in constant notifications and chat-flow for any person. That’s when a tool turns into a paradox- a distraction.

There is a difference between chat and work discussion and we are cognizant of that, Asave concedes.

Sullivan also acknowledges how Signal vs. Noise is a big issue in this space. “It’s easy for certain people to be pulled into a joke or something fun and shift away from work. So we are putting in a lot of time to retain the engagement and fun aspect without sacrificing actual work and without letting ‘noise’ take over.”

Although players are working hard to sort that issue out in time, bots might present a quick fix already.

That said, apps with chat and messaging muscle, are not going to bite the dust too soon – whether it is the brownfield of emails and software they face on one side or the Greenfield of bots that beckons from the other one.

Cobblers still afar

No one is nodding to the label of ‘chat another fad’ – yet.

Chat-rooms will not fizz out soon because we are at the next stage in a bigger evolution, Asave feels while Sullivan brings forth the aspect that ten years from now, it would not occur to anyone in business that there used to be something called email. He arms his argument with enough wit when he concludes that email won’t be completely displaced. “They would be around, like cockroaches of the Internet world. But their relevance would become less and less.”

What can definitely not be ignored is the user experience part which is around the millennial workforce, who grew up with internet and devices, and is exceptionally comfortable with texting, unlike the generation before. With rising number of millennials in the workforce, this momentum is all but looking to gain.

Chat-tools would soon stop being the odd sight or the new thing at workplace and for some offices they may even be the valley they jump to get aboard the next ‘in-vogue’ thing. In any case, the heels have certainly provided a lot of staccato to wake people up to some outmoded ways of making work happen.

Specially when one considers context-switching headache of a number of applications, fragmented nature of office tools, visibility of data at the exact millisecond of action, the laundry bag of emails and the very presence of an extremely-mobile and tech-savvy (and consequentially, a tad impatient) workforce.

That should explain the strange things that are adorning walls and treadmills today. But maybe it could get stranger as we move ahead. Who could have thought that Toby-s can actually talk? Who could have thought that a rhino-head could match with the curtain on a wall? Who could have thought that sandals-with-socks (yes, that’s right – it’s official now) would be in fashion someday?

Yet, they do. All one can do, in turn, is stick to this – Keep running.

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