iOS_Chatbotty.pngOn 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.

Come chat with me on Twitter: @TClark01. Like this story? Sign up for the SAP Business Trends newsletter here.

Related:

SAP HANA Is Not Just For Big Companies With Big Data Challenges

SAP Business Suite Powered by SAP HANA Comes “Just-in-Time” for John Deere

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4 Comments

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  1. Martin Lang

    Thanks for the excellent write-up, Tim! You’ve definitely been first talking about this bot! We hope we’ll generate some more stories around this chat bot, as we teach it more tricks, more personality and more knowledge.

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  2. Paul Aschmann

    Cool post and nice to see SAP and Martin’s team developing on their own platform and technologies to bring innovative products and services to their employees.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work guys 😉

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  3. Ray Rivera

    One of Oscar Wilde’s greatest lines has to be, “The value of the telephone is the value of what two people have to say.” I doubt he had any idea how relevant that notion would be 100 years later, particularly when a wit of today might respond, “Define ‘people’ “. Or even, “Define ‘two’ “.

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  4. Carsten Kasper

    Hey this really sound like a great idea for business!

    I implemented a very simple chat bot based on an ID3 search once for a university project. Its aim was to giv answers to very common student questions like “Where is course XY taking place?” or “How do I do this and that”. The clear lack was the database behind the Bot to draw its data from.

    Now imagining there is a whole SAP database with all the businesses information about customers, products, contacs, etc.. WOW! This could really be a nifty little tool for users not turned to getting information out of SAP. In combination with a fast database like HANA it should be quite performant to gather information.

    Just two questions arise in my head that made it quite hard for me:

    1. How would you design the database for the Bot to draw its information from? If it should use the existing data from ERP, CRM, … it might be hard to write logic around it to get the relevant information out.
      Setting up a separate database to store the data in a Bot optimized format might easily lead to enormous amounts of duplicate data.
    2. How would you go about aggregating all the data and bring it into an understandable format for the user?
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