Chatbot Summit – an “I was there boast?” Only time will tell
It’s been a few weeks since Chatbot Summit Berlin, so a long enough period to take stock, follow up with new connections made on the day and reflect on its substance and position as the pre-eminent tech event for everything ‘Chatbot’-related.
Since April 2016 , when Facebook opened its platform for the creation, construction, and development of bots, it feels like the world has gone ‘AI/RPA/chatbot’ crazy. The vibe at this event proved that it was to be no exception, as it added a dose of Red Bull type energy to the mix with the intoxicating buzz of innovative start-ups, mature vendors (Nanorep), thought leaders, researchers/academics and analysts, digital/service/sales/marketing ‘heads of’ and consultants all looking to ride the wave of intelligent chatbot adoption. With research proving that companies must modernize their customer experience to keep up, organisations are desperate to embrace this new tech to gain an edge.
Historically, it’s rare to find such an assortment of attendees, yet more and more global companies are screaming out to be ‘disrupted’ from inside their own organisations by giving employees license to discover the next innovation for product/service evolution. This is not just a revenue play either, every multinational seems to have a ‘2 or 3-year digital transformation plan’, which is either delayed or pivoting due to legacy systems or events outside of the businesses control. So, customer channels and employee tools are also seen as efficiency opportunities and value plays, and Intelligent bots can also offer an excellent solution fit for this.
There’s no Doubt About it - The Bot Industry Has Exploded, so what does that Mean?
The event reminded me of Web Summit in 2013, at which in its 3rd year Elon Musk had the keynote, featuring in the following years Peter Theil, Bono, Richard Branson, John Chambers etc. Each one with a view on how internet-based technology can be applied to humanity and solve global problems. Point being- it went from standing start to 22,000 attendees in 4 years, driven by innovation/opportunity/dreams. Given the scope of opportunity for highly personalized, intelligent bots, it will be interesting to see the speakers, attendance profiles and visitor numbers for Chatbot Summit next year.
Funny thing is, it felt a little like the Emperor’s clothes. Don’t get me wrong, the substance and evidence of what the future holds by speakers across all spectrum of industry and academia was inspiring and gave a fascinating account of AI and cognitive technology, i.e. the ‘art of what’s possible’, but looking ahead further than 2 to 3 years, certainly for enterprise companies looking to build and deploy intelligent bots in-house, can be a risky game. Careers are made and broken from such bets. In fact, it’s clear the deployment of Intelligent bots is at its infancy, bordering the innovators/adopters territory on a Rogers model. This means case study evidence of success for bona fide business value at scale is limited. There are very few vendor organisations with the ability to provide an out of the box (essentially AI whitebox approach) which is not only agile and knits together with existing systems, but also improves a conversational bot by providing the ability to update changes in real time based on customer intent and language insights.
AI is Here to Stay - so How are Businesses Harnessing it in Creating the Right Bots, the Right Way?
The challenge for global, complex organisations with multi-faceted requirements across different product and service lines is the usability of AI, conversational and cognitive technology, primarily because it is hard to build for a specific, practical purpose. So, a small agile vendor might be leading in certain elements (for example, specific algorithm layers for customer channeling or NLU), the UI at the customer level could be compelling, but managing in house (for example, conversational/ contextual knowledge), bringing all AI elements together and making them play nicely with existing systems and legacy is another thing- especially when language and cognitive reasoning are concerned. Therefore, so many large, well known global brands are incredibly afraid of moving away from the monolithic global technology platforms with a module approach. This is the never-got-fired -for-buying-big mentality which still seems deeply entrenched in senior leadership teams. The tide is however changing.
On demand PaaS adoption is accelerating and bots have their part to play, one of the fastest growing and leading collaborative platforms is Slack, they have bots that learn your processes and organisational flow, take instructions of improvement and auto suggest to increase your efficiency and collaboration – yet they didn’t attend Chatbot Summit, also notably absent were traditional players such as Salesforce, Oracle, IBM Watson or SAP (well, excluding a couple of speakers).
A Month Out - and Time to Look Forward
So the forums, speakers and round-table session were visionary yet practical, hosted but mainly thought leaders and disruptor brands (incl Nanorep); lots of guidance starting with clear goals and KPI’s; keep your bot experience simple, guide your customers through an educational transition (i.e. pre-warn your customers they are talking to a bot which is learning to help them), set simple KPIs and ensure your test, learn and evolve rather than aim for Rome day 1.
Cutting through the noise, both start-up and larger enterprise vendors are evolving fast and the fundamental AI technology supporting superior customer experiences via intelligent chatbots is creating a storm. Rightly so, more budget allocation is becoming available for mobile adoption as the first customer touch point (especially B2C), Chatbot Summit lifted a small lid on this new investment flow.
Next year will be the litmus test for the event itself, if you can’t wait that long then the next Chatbot Summit is November 22nd in Tel Aviv.
The Chatbot Summit had 104 Speakers, 47 Exhibitors, 43 breakout sessions and 1,545 visitors from across the globe.
For more information on the speakers and agenda the website is still available.