My Virtual Colleague

Many companies spend a lot of effort in making sure their external facing website is top notch, always up-to-date, engaging with the users and easy to navigate. However, take a look at their internal facing intranet and there are few things that impress.

Isn’t it time to put the old intranet on the agenda to meet the needs of an ever demanding workforce? Why not update it with technology that ultimately will help employees achieve key business objectives while also enabling them to do their jobs more efficiently? After all, you want to stay in the game.

How come managers don’t realize the value that a fine working intranet can have on their business? It is common knowledge that a well functioning intranet increases workforce productivity, it enhances communication and collaboration within the business, it is a time saver when it comes to finding information and it is a great tool for promoting a common corporate culture.

Dell and Intel recently published a report called “The evolving workforce” where they, among many things, discuss how technology has played a major role in the evolution of the workplace and the workforce, and how it continues doing so.  Companies with outdated intranets would benefit in reading this report to understand how important new technologies are in regards to secure an efficient and happy workforce. “Technology is critical – you’re not delivering any value to customers or workers unless you have a great technology platform” says Christian Anschuetz, Chief Information Officer, Underwriters Laboratories. [1]

For most intranets the critical challenges can be divided in three: Tech problems, Information Design problems and Social Capital problem.

Common issues within these three areas are poor search engines, complex content management systems, bad content structure, difficult navigation, poor usability and little employee engagement.

Hence, the list of things to improve will tell you to:

  • Adapt a clear intranet strategy
  • Provide a better content organization and classification
  • Make it easier to find information
  • Get rid of out-of-date content
  • Improve knowledge sharing
  • Create an engaging intranet
  • Actively engage with your employees
  • Think new!

And here is where new technology can be taken advantage of. Natural Language Interaction Technology (NLI) has for years been used in external facing online virtual assistants helping out with answering customer queries. Lately, some companies have turned this idea around and looked at what such a solution could do for their business internally.

For example, the Co-operative Banking Group in the UK has implemented “Mia” as their online internal adviser for their contact center employees. Mia’s job is to provide the correct answers to a wide range of banking and insurance questions. This reduces the need for staff to confer with team leaders over complex questions or refer to colleagues or other paper based reference material. Hence, the savings on call times have been massive.

Such a solution as “Mia” can easily be adapted for different internal uses, depending on the need; whether that is your call center employees helping customers; your IT department diverting routine or common queries online, or providing your entire workforce with a usable and engaging intranet interface.

“Mia” is built with NLI technology, which means the staff can interact with it her as if they were communicating with a human colleague. “Mia” understands and reacts to inputs in a human-like manner and she will respond by either providing a factual answer, offering a link to a relevant website or intranet page, asking clarifying questions, following goal-driven-dialogs or even updating live, fully integrated back-end systems.

This means that as an intranet solution, employees would be able to ask for information via a simple chat interface and the internal adviser will reply accordingly. Hence, problems with navigation and content organization would be a thing of the past.

In addition, the user experience would be much improved and it will feel a lot more engaging than wasting time searching pages for the right information.

Another key element is that this type of solution is also a learning system. If responses are incorrect or even just incomplete, your employees can flag it for review and improvement, and with the back-end knowledge management tool changes can be done immediately, ensuring your intranet is always up-to-date. This way you also engage your employees in the process of constantly improving the solution.

In the mentioned report from Dell it says: “around the world, work attitudes and work practices are evolving rapidly, fueled by technological development and widespread connectivity. As cheap connectivity shatters physical boundaries and facilitates the free flow of information, ideas, talent and other knowledge resources, the world of work is being redefined and traditional expectations of workers, managers and organizations are being challenged.”[2]

In this challenged “world of work” the intranet plays an important part and it is time to look at how it can be redefined and upgraded with new technology that fits in with the future.

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