Joining the AI Revolution

June 25, 2018 Katy Hebert and James Eitzmann

In 2016, Justin Bieber topped the music charts, the country searched frantically for a presidential candidate’s lost emails, and mobile browsing tipped the scales on desktop traffic for the time. The ensuing focus on the mobile experience steamrolled most other areas of development, leading top companies to allocate the majority of their budgets to meet the needs of connected users on-the-go.

Fast Forward to 2018. You may no longer be a Belieber, but you are likely still tapped into staying mobile and connected with ease. 

Enter the bots and the AI revolution. From intelligent solutions like Google Home and Alexa, to the pop-culture rise of HBO’s Westworld as a must-watch show, AI is taking center stage around the world.

AI at home

In your own home, you can count on Alexa to play that flawless dinner party playlist, turn on specific mood lighting, search out the perfect dessert recipe for that bottle of Rosé, answer your burning questions on today’s pop culture, and even read you the day’s important engagements each morning … all without opening a browser. 

It’s a growing trend that has market analyst scrambling to determine what this means for both the home and business markets. According to CITI research, 80 percent of their survey respondents planned to use an interactive chatbot by 2020, and Juniper Research forecasted that using chatbots could save the banking and healthcare industries eight billion dollars a year by 2022. Bots have become a major industry. And thought leaders in the tech space are aiming to drive innovations to bring this technology from your living room to the workplace. Companies are beginning to ask how bots may fit into their business, and when does it make sense for them to dip into this new digital trend.

Our AI capabilities

Because the spotlight burns bright on the bots that compose AI infrastructure, Appirio R&D has started to explore the potential of this technology — and ways bots can intuitively enhance our existing portfolio of business applications and partner products. 

With the recent introduction of the New Google Hangouts Chat application and associated API, our team developed a virtual assistant that can effectively help field Sales Reps by intuitively managing the opportunities that drive and close pipeline deals. We call this conversational interface “Nigel”. Nigel connects to CMC, innovative work management tool that streamlines the development process for our Agile delivery teams, which ensures quality and on-target deployment of products. 

Designing AI bots

The Appirio CMC team wanted to make relevant information more readily available to other internal teams, so we capitalized on developing bot technology to support our needs, and we learned a lot along the way. The CMC team’s Chief Engineer, James Eitzsmann, shared his approach for others pursuing bots in their own businesses.  

When designing a bot, the first thing you’ll need to define are the intents that the bot will support. For the CMC bot, supporting intents for interacting with CMC for user’s personal action items were the primary focus. But we also wanted to put information immediately at the user’s fingertips, which could drive productivity and employee engagement. 

The information the bot needs from CMC is available via force.com API calls. So now we have the main systems that need to be integrated for the bot:

  • Hangouts Chat
  • Amazon Lex - we’ll use Lex for natural language understanding (NLU) in order to take the user’s text and use it to identify the intent of the request.
  • CMC via Salesforce REST API

We’ll break this process down further in the second part of this blog about creating bots for different applications, where we’ll dive deeper into how to build a bot. In the meantime, visit the Appirio Hub for more resources on all things cloud-related.

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