Is Your ESN Ready to Go Cognitive?

You will agree that so far collaboration has been mostly about process.

The standard answer to many of the enterprise social networking challenges has been… let’s set up a community, invite colleagues to join and hope their getting together digitally will do the trick.

Very little emphasis has been placed on the employee experience associated with sharing information and interacting with colleagues on an ESN.

This approach has produced a number of issues I am sure will sound familiar:

  • Too many posts and blogs to scan every day… on top of checking your inbox and… of that WhatsApp group that is driving you mad with notifications… but that you absolutely have to be on, because your line manager is so proud of it
  • Being overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do if you are managing an ESN community. It’s not just the fact that you have to constantly populated it with content… It’s engaging with colleagues and answering their questions that takes a lot out of you.
  • Let’s imagine an onboading community. Your company has an ESN and HR is asking you to set up a community to help new recruits navigate the organisation. You create the online space, you give it a nice look & fell and then what…? You are getting swamped by the new recruits’ posts, all asking the same questions… over and over again (those they are too shy to ask their manager like… “do I have to pay for parking when working from a client’s office?”). You can hardly cope.

Enter the cognitive assistant.

Cognitive systems are the closest thing we have to the human brain. Unlike computers of the past, they learn and you don’t need to program them.  They understand unstructured data like human language, images, video, sound, tweets, etc. They can reason though it and create a connection between a pattern and an outcome. Cognitive computers learn constantly, becoming more and more knowledgeable and able to interact with humans using colloquial language.

You could add a cognitive assistant in the form of a bot to your onboading community and train it to answer your onboarders’ questions. By interacting with each one of them regularly, the cognitive system learns their preferences, priorities, likes and dislikes and is able to create a very personalised experience for them. For example, when answering a question about the route to take to the venue of an induction day (asked by a recruit who loves to ride his/her bike to work), the bot will not waste time with public transport details but will provide a map with the best bike lanes.

Georgia Tech has done something similar. Its online forum used to get inundated with something like 10,000 messages posted by students which professors had to spend time addressing. The university “hired” Jill Watson, a cognitive bot, which is helping them manage the forum, answer questions and remind students of their assignment due dates.

Cognitive is transforming enterprise social beyond recognition.

I will discuss this topic and more this week on an #ESNchat I will co-lead with @andyjankowski. Join us on Thursday, 25 May 7-8pm UK at @ESNchat.


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