This Technology Will Transform How You Work -- If You Can Get Team Members to Use It Chatbots are the future of office communication.

By Bear Douglas

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Over the last several years, chatbots have become ubiquitous for businesses trying to scale their customer outreach. Research from Oracle found that 80 percent of businesses intend to interact with customers using chatbots by 2020. While many companies have recognized that chatbots and other automated applications are a powerful means to grow and support their businesses externally, it's equally important to think about how chatbots can support companies internally, both now and in the future.

Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business

The benefits of bots

Whether you're a startup founder, a small business owner looking to grow your business, or an executive hoping to take your enterprise to the next level, jumping on the chatbot train can help your team in numerous ways.

Bots that take care of tasks like scheduling appointments free up your people to focus on meatier problems. Bots that facilitate coordination between people, like collecting project updates, make work more efficient. Even the bots that seem silly, like a joke-telling bot, can have a positive impact on company culture. The ripple effect of using bots can pave the way for innovation, foster better work-life balance and create cost savings.

Let's look at a kind of bot that can help employees save time -- like the Slack bot appointment scheduler, Meekan.

Creating a calendar invitation takes roughly one to three minutes. If you imagine that you schedule an average of four meetings a week, this equates to spending around 10 minutes weekly or at least 40 minutes each month scheduling calendar appointments.

And that's just by automating one task. Juniper Research projects that by 2022, chatbots will be contributing to more than $8 billion in annual cost savings for enterprises.

Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without Coding

What's next for chatbots

There's major potential for bots to impact all sorts of businesses and departments. The results and the changes we'll see depend on how well we, as bot makers, can show teams how to apply it to their jobs -- and how we equip them to adopt it and move it forward in future.

For example, it's easy to imagine how IT and HR departments at major corporations could use bots like Zendesk's Answer Bot. These departments constantly receive internal questions from employees about their pay stubs, their laptops or the password for the Wi-Fi in a conference room. A bot that automates initial responses or routes questions by keyword and category could help streamline these questions, saving employees across departments time.

Most companies want to make good decisions that are backed by observable data about their products and services. The problem businesses have nowadays isn't that they don't have enough data to inform decision making, it's that they have too much. They're either unable to decipher it or don't have enough employees with the right skills to analyze it. Bots can be trained to detect patterns, monitor changes or find informative outliers in data and share them with stakeholders and data analysts.

And bots aren't limited to helping out in the digital world. Just as OpenTable uses bots to help you make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, the same bot technology could help reserve certain conference or break rooms at work.

Related: 10 Chatbot Conversation-Builder Tips

As more employees see the benefits that bots and apps bring to their teams and to themselves, we'll see a corresponding rise in the usage of low and no-code options for creating automated workflows (e.g., Zapier and Workato). And as more people across industries are able to take advantage of that, we'll see even more interesting applications of chatbots to make working life better. Advancements in natural language processing are already improving bot recognition of colloquial language and making them more conversant, and this will only continue to increase with time.

Building bots is only half the story; in order for many bots to be effective and useful, they must be widely used across an organization. Let's say you're using the Butler Bot for Trello, which can perform repeatable tasks like assigning a due date to a project. If only half your team is using Trello, only half of them are seeing that time savings -- or possibly even seeing the project tracker at all. To properly deploy a bot to an organization takes coordination -- choosing apps and bots that make sense for the business, and then working as an internal champion to make sure that the bot sees usage. You can almost think of a bot as a new teammate: You need to create good conditions for its success.

Over time, as more employees become comfortable working with bots, there will be more adoption across businesses.

Bear Douglas

Head of Developer Relations at Slack

Bear Douglas is head of developer relations at Slack, where she and her team help developers build more pleasant and productive ways to work. Before Slack, she led the developer relations teams for the mobile and data platforms at Twitter, and worked on native mobile developer relations at Facebook and Parse.

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