The Chatbot Lawyer: Is this the Future of BPM?

The business process management suite (BPMs) has always had a difficult relationship with the user interface (UI). The broad spectrum of capabilities within the BPMs (business rules, business activity monitoring, process design and orchestration, data integration and content management) meant that when it came to UI design (mobile and desktop) the BPMs vendors were always playing catch-up with best practice web forms and business intelligence applications.

The emergence of chatbots and some compelling use cases such as DoNotPay, the world’s first robot lawyer, point towards a different future for the BPMs UI. DoNotPay is a chatbot lawyer that can provide legal assistance and dispute claims with parking tickets in New York and the UK, delayed flights or trains in the EU and claiming payment protection in insurance (PPI) in the UK. More recently the robot lawyer was updated with the ability to draft legal letters to local councils for urgent housing assistance.

A chatbot is a type of conversational agent or virtual assistant. A computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods. Chatbots are integrated within the apps that customers actually want to use, within messaging apps such as WeChat and Messenger which act as the operating systems for the chatbots.

DoNotPay and other chatbots are underpinned by a procesdonotpays automation engine designed to execute tasks based on information provided by users textually or increasingly verbally using voice recognition. While today the DoNotPay services may be relatively simple workflow type processes it is not difficult to imagine that a chatbot in the near future will have the ability to handle more complex or nuanced legal or customer service issues that are managed using a BPMs or similar application.

The emergence of chatbots means we need to reconsider what we think of as the BPMs UI, especially for customer centric processes. Increasingly messaging services and eventually the internet of Things (IoT) will be the UI for process participation. Mobile BPM now means integration of process within apps that customers actually want to use (e.g. messaging services) rather than forcing users to download a business app.

The UI for process participation is changing with messaging applications and in the long term voice recognition emerging as the dominant process interaction methods.

The Purpose of the Internet of Things is to free us from the Internet

I already spend too much time on the web so what’s it going to be like in 2025 when another 26Bn smart devices are connected to the web?

 
The recent, excellent, research by Pew looking like at digital life in 2025 gives some pointers to what life might be like once all these smart devices come on-stream. The Pew report reflects that this is a market in the very earliest stages of its evolution with little overall consensus and concerns being expressed around the social (privacy, exclusion) as well as technical implications of Internet of Things (integration). One word however that pops up frequently in the Pew report is “invisible”. The Internet of Things (IoT) will be notable for being invisible.

 
As humans we pretty much mastered our ability to generate data and the emergence of the IoT will take our ability to create data to another dimension. What we haven’t mastered however is our ability to increase time. Human attention is a scarce resource. As a result most of us will be happy to outsource our attention for important yet mundane processes that enable us to focus on more important or enjoyable activities. Health monitoring, driving, service scheduling, insurance renewals, ensuring your finance products are on the best rate of interest, product research and price comparisons, all of these are important yet mundane processes we perform on a daily basis that most for us would be happy to outsource.

 
Wearables like Google glass and smart watches fail the invisibility test that will be one of the key attributes of successful IoT solutions. Wearables draw users further into the web rather than freeing users from it. Having milk bottles, toothbrushes and trainers sending you alerts and competing for your attention is just ludicrous.

 The IoT will act as an airbag for our lives, ready to step in when you need it, not constantly competing for your attention. By freeing us from the mundane activities that today we would have to do manually on the web we are being freed from the internet itself. IoT solutions will make us less dependent on our current web interfaces. We will use the screen and keyboard interface to the web less and less as voice and gesture become more a more appropriate method of interacting with IoT devices. BPM and workflow technologies will orchestrate automatic processes triggered by smart devices, freeing users from mundane processes, interrupting our daily lives only when a decision is required.

 
Initial successful IoT solutions for example smart meters, inventory management, insurance telematics are for the most part invisible to users and eliminate mundane yet important processes. With IoT the internet will become more and more a part of our daily lives but less and less obtrusive, wrapped around us ready to assist rather than competing for our attention.

The Internet of Things … that don’t need connected to the internet

How often does your house burn down? Pretty frequently it appears if you are a Google exec. As I’m sure most of you are aware Google have just bought Nest, the “unloved home products” manufacturer (not the “unloved, home products manufacturer”) known for their thermostats and smoke detectors.

To excuse the pun but is this a case of Google having money to burn or a pointer towards something more significant for the emerging IoT industry? In my opinion it’s probably a bit of both. First of all current Nest products are niche and will only appeal to gadget freaks or maybe people with OCD who need to regularly check if their house is on fire. A $150 price point for a smoke alarm when I can get one for less than $10 will strangle adoption.

In a previous post I stated that all of the data generated by IoT devices is only of use if it is connected to business processes. Successful IoT companies will produce solutions for essential business or consumer problems not just smart devices.

It has been said elsewhere that there are two IoTs, one for industry and one for consumers. The industrial IoT is alive and well providing things like monitoring and control of for example essential and dangerous business processes. When it comes to consumer IoT successful products will be those that also trigger essential but mundane processes and services for the end user (e.g. car repairs and essential home maintenance) or provide important personal and environment monitoring services (e.g. health, weather and traffic monitoring). Getting back to Nest it’s not the thermostat that needs web enabled it’s the boiler/furnace. Being able remotely adjust my thermostat is not an essential service however I’d really like a call out to be automatically triggered if my boiler/furnace breaks down. Knowing my house is one or two degrees warmer than it should be isn’t critical. I need to know quickly if an elderly relative has remembered to take prescribed medicine or had an accident in their home. $200 fridges, kettles or toasters are non-essential items and don’t need internet connectivity.  The core objective of a domestic smoke alarm is to get people out of a house before a fire takes hold, it doesn’t need to be web enabled.

Nest CEO Tony Fadell told WIRED “Both companies believe in letting the technology do the hard work behind the scenes so that people can get on with their lives,” This statement I think implies an understanding of the key role business process automation will have on the successful adoption of IoT. At the moment Nest products provide the Internet of Things for devices that don’t need to be connected to the internet. However I think Google are buying the technology, patents and potential roadmap rather than the current product suite?

Successful IoT companies won’t simply supply devices, they’ll provide business and customer process solutions.

nest

Forget B2B and B2C. What about B2D?

For a while we’ve gotten used to the B2B and B2C acronyms so today I’m going to suggest a new one, B2D or Business to Device.

It has been said elsewhere that the best customer service is one that doesn’t need to happen. As the Internet of Things (IoT) market begins to really heat up increasingly organizations will provide ambient customer service, directly to devices themselves without any human involvement. Over the past few years we have gotten used to this with new software releases and patches being delivered directly to our laptops, pcs, mobile devices and applications. Business relationships will increasingly be B2D or directly with their own products rather than with customers and other businesses.

Business to device is however subtlety different to IoT. IoT refers to ability of everyday objects to connect to the internet and their ability to store and process information. B2D takes IoT a step forward connecting the smart devices to business processes for example triggering a support case when a product fault is detected.

In a previous post I stated that all of the data generated by OT devices is only of use if it is connected to business processes. There’s no point analyzing the data to predict a future product performance issue if a support process isn’t triggered or collecting customer usage data if the data doesn’t find its way into the hands of a sales person or the product development team.

IOT really has the potential to disrupt the supply chain, marketing and customer service processes of almost all industries. The potential efficiencies however will only be fully achieved when the smart devices are integrated with smart processes (or smart process applications). That’s what I’m calling B2D.

IoT + Process = B2D

IoT + Process = B2D

If This Then What is the Future of Workflow and BPM?

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a service that lets users connect multiple different mobile apps based on a simple rule. “This” is the process trigger, “That” is the process action. Today the tool lets users rapidly create connections between 71 applications or what IFTTT calls “channels”. The simple workflows created between channels using the IFTTT rule are called recipes and can be shared within an IFTTT community.

If This Then That

If This Then That

So what’s the big deal?

In the BPMS suite we’ve been executing simple and complex business rules like If This Then That for years. The emergence of IFTTT is important because it does two things that BPMS does not do well; integration and simplicity.

Many business processes cut horizontally across organizations and as a result touch multiple business applications. There is thus an ongoing drive among BPM and Case Management vendors to continuously enhance their integration capabilities. This is however a continuously moving target and integration remains one of the greatest obstacles for the successful deployment of both cloud and on premise BPM solutions, often adding considerable cost and time to projects.

When it comes to the integration of cloud and mobile applications into business processes the difficulty multiplies. We are only just seeing the emergence of smart process applications and on demand business processes. Mobile BPM applications have emerged with integration to back end systems but is any BPM vendor doing mobile app to mobile app integration?

Mobile and cloud app integration is a key IT battleground. As business software users we regularly use mobile apps and on demand software to address business problems. This consumerization of the business IT landscape however sits uncomfortably with IT heavy BPM projects.

IFTTT radically simplifies the process of stitching together and automating web services and as such throws down the gauntlet to other business applications that are heavily reliant on application integration.

Consistent with consumerization IFTTT empowers users to integrate and develop their own workflows. It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to expect this simple IFTTT rule to be extended to support more complex rules and events and ultimately encroach into the market for workflow and BPM applications.

IFTTT Channels

IFTTT Channels

Intelligent Process Applications

Peter Whibley
14.00

Intelligent Process Applications

Intelligent Process Applications

This blog will be about the future of business process, what I refer to as Intelligent Process Applications.

Both Gartner and Forrester have different opinions about the future of BPM and Case Management. Gartner have proposed iBPMS (intelligent Business Process Management Suites) while Forrester have proposed Smart Process Applications. So who’s right? Well in my opinion both are half right. It’s obviously true, as Gartner propose that future business processes will be deployed with more intelligence built-in. It’s also true however that as a consequence of mobility and the consumerization of IT we are moving businesses to an era of on demand business process applications as envisaged by Forrester.

However, as you would expect, both Gartner and Forrester have played a bit to their customer base and in my opinion have given emphasis to features and functionality that while important are really only a subset of greater industry themes. Rather than iBPMS or Smart Process Applications I think the term Intelligent Process Applications is a better description of where the business process management and case management market is headed.

Future Intelligent Process Applications will have four key components (I’ll discuss these in more detail in future posts):

1.    BPM and Case Management

They’ll be underpinned by a BPM and Case Management applications that act as the engine for process automation and employee empowerment. While some business process apps will be rigid and inflexible others will exhibit flexibility with more case management like characteristics and empower participants to adjust processes rapidly in response to changing business and market demands.

2.    Intelligence and Awareness

They’ll possess intelligence. By intelligence however we are really talking about awareness.  Using business intelligence, data, content, social and predictive analytics as well as integration with smart devices intelligence and awareness functionality will be used to alert businesses and employees to key changes in their environment.

3.     Customer Experience

Yes mobility is a crucial capability but it is only a subset of a more important theme, customer experience.  Our personal technology experience has changed our business IT expectations. The app. internet model we have become familiar with in our personal lives is starting to take hold in business, changing not only how enterprises acquire business applications but also how they design and execute their business processes. Mobile capabilities will be crucial to the success of future process apps but only if they are designed with customer experience in mind.

4.    Cloud

The delivery vehicle for intelligent process applications will be via a multi-tenant cloud architecture. The greatest challenge for process app vendors will be to bring the speed and simplicity of the app experience to multi-application process solutions. 

Is this too simplistic? Have I missed something? Will social play a bigger role? I’d love to get your opinion.