Do you even need a chat bot?

With everyone rushing out to create bots, I am reminded of the Jurassic Park quote: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”. 

Despite what people will tell you, conversation or chat bots for that matter are not needed for everything.

For example where a simple web form will do, it will out perform against a chat bot. But if that same form could have most of it answered by one question, then a chat bot may be a better solution (or maybe you just need a better form).

Or simply changing your internal processes may negate the need for a chat bot. For example, imagine after analysing your support calls for training the bot you find that over 90% of calls are due to one printer. Do you create the bot, or just replace the printer?

Or if your customer knows your domain language then a search engine or Retrieve and Rank may be a better solution.

IBM normally does all this checking through what we call a Cognitive Value Assessment (CVA). A well done CVA reduces all head aches on projects. Even if you don’t go with IBM, you should realistically examine your business process to determine if you even need a chat bot, and not just jumping on the bandwagon.

Why Conversation?

Most of the chat bots out there are just messaging frameworks, that allow you as a developer to interact with existing messaging systems. How you interpret, talk, react is all handled through code.

Out of the box, where Watson Conversation excels is the ability to take a knowledge domain (ie. Customer) that doesn’t directly match your Domain knowledge. With a handful of questions you can have your conversational bot answering questions it has never seen before.

Conversation also makes it relatively easy to write out your conversational flow (also known as chat-flow & process flow, depending on how long you worked in Watson).

Conversation is meant to piggy back on existing messaging frameworks to build intelligence into them with ease.

The danger of making things easy, is that people skip the theory and go straight to the development. The older people in the audience will remember when Visual Basic (or Lotus Notes for that matter) came out. It became easy to create applications, but most were travesties in UI, maintainability and functionality.

My focus going forward is to cover more the theory end to resolve this. As I am already competing with a number of blogs + videos in relation to Conversation.

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