Battle of the office bots hots up with Slack/Amazon deal

Many businesses use chatbots for their customer-facing services, but bots are increasingly being deployed across HR, used by teams for collaboration and other tasks. That makes the new deal between Slack and Amazon interesting as they face off against Microsoft and Google when it comes to the future of office bots.

Slack recently signed a new collaboration deal with Amazon, allowing the teamwork tool to formally use Amazon’s AWS back-end powerhouse to drive the popular collaboration features. It will also see them adopt Amazon Chime to paper over the chasm in Slack’s offering for voice and video calls.

That means when a company is looking for a productivity or collaboration suite it can broadly choose from:

  • Microsoft Office 365 with SharePoint and Teams
  • Google Docs with Cloud Collaboration Tools for Business
  • Amazon/Slack with Chime
  • Facebook for Workplace
  • And many others.

Each integrates either directly, or through connectors and APIs, with most of the popular function-specific cloud tools like Salesforce and other CRM solutions. While support tools like ZenDesk and ecommerce systems including Shopify allow a business to operate its key services and collaborate on operations, and add new workflow features in a relatively structured manner.

Bots are a part of the business landscape

Coming up fast on the rails, chatbots and AI tools are proving the most useful new features for collaboration tools, allowing operators and managers to focus on their key tasks and let bots handle the day-to-day stuff, encouraging the building and sharing of information.

Slack has a decent list of bots that can easily handle time-off requests, team surveys and polls, task management and much more. The problem with some solutions is the multi-part effort to get a chatbot up and running. Take this example for a SharePoint chatbot

“Microsoft has been using the combined powers of machine learning and AI in SharePoint and Office 365 and a FAQ Chatbot is the next step in this evolution. A FAQ Chatbot can be generated by utilizing LUIS, SharePoint Online, PowerApps, and Flow.”

Typical business operators just want a single tool they can build bots with, from the simplest feedback chats to complex discussions. And, at the other end of the scale, while Google might introduce Meena to its services, or Facebook add Blender to its business tools, most businesses won’t need the power of these super-AI bots.

A happy medium allows the business to get things done quickly and efficiently, cloud tools like SnatchBot can be easily integrated anywhere and applied to internal or external uses. Bots can help workers find information that might be buried in dense FAQs or other content. They can search for the most relevant information or establish who to contact with regard to a specific query. Or, use decision engines to help set up team meetings at convenient times or suggest a course of action.

Modern bots use training and reference to historic data to act smarter and can grow with a team, as well as helping eliminate repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Bots can also talk to each other within the business or outside the org, which will require careful screening for security and privacy issues for any business.

Digitise the business for efficient operations with the right tools

Using collaboration tools can help speed up workflow and identify roadblocks in tasks, products or at the human level. Using bots allows the team to focus on what really matters, and the more of a digital workflow you have, the more efficient operations become.

Analytics from those workflows can also help influence future plans, hiring strategies and team-based arrangements. A mix of analytics, automation and AI enables any business to work smarter. Most of the vendors already provide or sell bots as part of their service, which will result in IT or team leaders having to choose from a series of possibly confusing options.

The best bot will always be the one that meets the needs of the business, rarely the one that looks good in the brochure webpage. Check for features, limitations, compatibility and expandability to decide which bot to use.

And, as bots move from chat to voice and other forms of interaction, the office and IT team will need to keep on top of these trends to deliver bots that meet the needs and expectations of increasingly tech-savvy workers.