Sage identifies bots as enabling creativity in the future workspace


June 22, 2017 | 12:43 pm
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For companies that want to put an end to mundane business processes and free employees to be more creative and ‘human’ at work, the answer lies in bots, according to Kriti Sharma, Vice President of Bots and Artificial Intelligence at Sage.

A bot is a computer program that works automatically, especially one that searches for and finds information on the internet. Bots are being employed in an increasing level by enterprises to create more personalized content and experiences for customers. Bots are making it possible for businesses to relate with their clients one-on-one. Millions of people can talk to their brands without there being humans on the other end. Hence, for most businesses, bots have enabled them reduce cost of hiring personnel.

Nonetheless, in a post sent to BusinessDay, Sharma says the essence of developing bots and artificial intelligence solution should not be about trends or replacing employees. Sharma is said to be the brain behind Sage’s chatbot called Pegg developed to hide the complexities of accounting and let entrepreneurs manage their finances through conversation.

Accountants can benefit from automation as it gives them more freedom, says Sharma. Bots have the capacity to take over manual tasks like scanning receipts and updating expenses. By so doing, the accountant has time to focus on serving as a strategic adviser to customers and offering a personalised service.

“Creativity is a mindset. Many people believe they simply are not creative by nature, when in fact there are techniques to bolster creativity,” says Jennifer Sutherland, Innovation Capability Builder at Standard Bank, “But they need the time and space to explore new things. When they are busy for 8 hours a day on their core job, they do not have time to learn something new, solve problems, or explore a new technology.”

For Sutherland, artificial intelligence should serve to free up time for things like encouraging creativity, and help bring motivation and purpose back to the frontline of customer service.

An important characteristic of a chatbot is its personality. A chatbot, Sharma says, must be likeable and adaptable to the user’s personality.

“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 place a big focus on building ‘nice robots’,” she said.

She also believes that organisations should embrace “botness” and build bots to be bots, not to be like humans. For her, humans are not naturally the most optimised for tasks like intelligent automation, which is what the goal of developing bots in the first place.

“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. We also should not build bots that project the same stereotypes and biases that characterise human society,” Sharma says.


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June 22, 2017 | 12:43 pm
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