On a recent visit to SAP’s Newtown Square office, I had a chance to catch up with my good friend and colleague Martin Lang. One of Martin’s Tweets, about the promise of a “chat bot” powered by SAP HANA, caught my attention and I was eager to learn more. He agreed to meet with me so we could kick the tires on his team’s clever creation.
Before we get to the demo, a few thoughts…
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of hearing about all this talk of crunching unstructured data at the speed of thought and other big data promises. I don’t mean to dis any of SAP’s game-changing goodness – it certainly is impressive – I just need to see some examples of how this stuff works in a scenario I can relate to. And since I am in the business of communications, the idea of a chat function powered by SAP HANA is definitely something I can relate to.
So how does this chat bot work? Imagine using a basic chat function like Microsoft Lync, with the ability to invite the SAP HANA powered chat bot into your conversation to help answer questions about employees, customers – anything really, so long as the info resides somewhere in your enterprise.
SAP intern Benjamin Raethlein together with Sanket Firodya brought up the chat function, invited the chat bot (lovingly referred to as “Bob the Bot” by the team) into the conversation and asked who I reported into, which SAP building I work in, recent documents I published and more. All answers that came back were spot-on. Since I telecommute Bob Chat amusingly came back with “NONE” for the SAP location I work in. While accurate, it could use a little more description. I was told it will be easy for users to update this type of info as the chat bot functionality continues to grow.
This desktop demo was cool, but according to Martin, this app thrives in a mobile environment (pictured), where the business value really kicks in.
Imagine a sales team working feverishly to close a deal at the end of a quarter. Maybe they all need to get online to hash out some details. Maybe one person on the team is on the road and drops out of the conversation. No worries, alerts can be sent to all chat participants whenever there is an update. Since the convo is always saved, it’s easy to jump in and out of the chat at will. And of course, Bob Chat is always at the ready to answer questions around product availability, pricing, customer history and other info that might reside in the enterprise or CRM system.
The chat bot is currently running behind the scenes of a popular internal app called SAP Wire. But Martin tells me this is just the beginning.
“SAP Wire is quite similar to WhatsApp, one of the most successful consumer chat apps ever with 300 million users,” said Martin. “However it’s built entirely with SAP technology and with the enterprise in mind. So in a way it’s more than just a chat client, it’s a platform, that doesn’t just facilitate chats, but it can also connect to other apps and business processes to get a time sensitive question answered.”
Sounds to me like the SAP HANA-powered chat bot is ready for prime time. If you are attending one of the SAP TechEd events, you’ll be able to see this super cool app in action and determine for yourself if it makes sense for your business.