The importance of intelligent virtual assistants is increasing in the enterprise. Experts see them as a key element of the future of work due to the huge competitive advantages they grant. Gartner expects 25 percent of digital workers to use a virtual assistant as part of their daily routine by 2021. In 2019, only two percent did.
There are currently no enterprise-grade virtual assistants comparable to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. The combination of two types of bots is key here: specialized Conversational Artificial Intelligence (CAI) bots and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots. Both bot types are being used by enterprise customers to automate simple, repetitive tasks and requests, but their functionality differs. CAI serves as a simplified user interface, offering centralized access to various applications while allowing users to communicate in natural language. CAI bots are not only used as FAQ bots with simple question-and-answer functions, but also as information bots. For example, procurers can use them to find out the status of their orders.
Potential for procurement processes
SAP-based procurement already utilizes simpler types of bots for repetitive tasks like the search for suppliers or approval processes. In the future, bots will have a high appeal on the transactional and digital side of procurement processes and will gain exponential growth with the advent of cognitive and machine learning tools. If RPA and CAI bots are combined to an Enterprise Assistant, their functionality spans the entire procurement process. The sourcing process serves as an example.
- PR Processing bot (RPA). This bot processes and checks incoming purchase requisitions for material group, accounting, and supplier. If no suitable supplier can be found, the bot automatically creates tenders and sends them to select suppliers.
- Negotiation bot (CAI). The negotiation bot is a chatbot that guides suppliers through the tender preparation. The negotiating component stems from the implementation of different negotiation strategies.
- Awarding bot (RPA). This bot compares all incoming offers, allocates award based on previously defined rules, and creates a follow-up document.