During Quest Forum Digital Event: PeopleSoft Week, a team from Oracle presented a look at chatbots for PeopleSoft HCM. The presenters included:
- Robbin Velayedam, Senior Director, PeopleSoft HCM Strategy
- David Bain, Senior Director, PeopleTools Strategy
- Samidha Rege, Product Manager, PeopleSoft HCM
- Joe Huang, Product Management, Oracle Digital Assistant
Chatbots are important for several reasons. The top benefits include an instant response time, easy communication, 24-hour service, precise and accurate responses, and friendly approachability. In today’s landscape, chatbots are becoming better and better. Some are rule-based, and others utilize artificial intelligence to simulate a personal conversation between the user and the bot. As chatbots are enhanced, it becomes more difficult for users to identify if they are chatting with a human or a machine. Additionally, the statistics show incredible advantages for both the user and the organization:
- 70% of millennials report positive chatbot experiences
- 57% of businesses agree chatbots deliver large ROI with minimal effort
- 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human agents by 2020
- 90% of businesses report faster complaint resolution with bots
- 30% reduction in operational costs reported by businesses
The question becomes, “How do we bring that Chatbot user experience to the enterprise?”
Employees are accustomed to interacting with chatbots as consumers. Ideally, they will have a similar opportunity to efficiently communicate within their organization.
Bots have already emerged in the HR space, especially regarding recruiting and candidacy experiences. Onboarding support, request management, learning & development, and employee engagement are also opportunities to leverage chatbots for the greater good. Both parties (organization + employee) benefit from a multifaceted chatbot.
Chatbots for PeopleSoft HCM
PeopleSoft, in particular, has incorporated chatbots into a major area of roadmapped features. They expect chatbots to help administrative staff to offload common questions and up-front intake of a case. This information will be available in the system, without interfacing with the employee at each juncture. The employee enjoys quick, easy access to the answers to their questions.
There are two chatbots currently available for PeopleSoft customers. The first is the Absence Assistant was delivered on Image 31. It is web-based. Employees have the ability to do the following through the Absence Assistant:
- Request absence
- Current absence balance
- Future dated absence balance
- Absence requests using status, absence type, or time period
- Cancel absence
The second is the Employee Directory Assistant that was released in Image 33. It is also web-based. Through the Employee Directory Assistant, employees can access:
- General profile information
- Job title
- Business address
- Email address
- Direct Reports
The two chatbots initially delivered by PeopleSoft were intended to meet a high volume of inquiries to free HR admins up for other tasks. The focus moving forward will fall on self-service options.
There are three prerequisites for chatbots. From the application standpoint, HCM Update Image 9.0.31 or higher is required. In PeopleTools 8.57.07, the Chatbot Integration Framework allows the integration between Oracle Digital Assistant and the application.
To illustrate how this works, consider PeopleSoft on one side and the ODA on the other. It runs as a platform that is subscribed to as a service in the cloud. The PeopleSoft application can be running on OCI or hosted on-premises. As long as there is connectivity, either option is effective.
There are a few things that must be figured out between PeopleSoft and ODA in order for everything to work. First, you must use the interface, which is provided by ODA. Second, communication must occur between PeopleSoft and ODA. This is achieved through a channel. Third, the user must have authorization or security. The credential must be known through ODA and back into the PeopleSoft application. Finally, there has to be a way for ODA to get into PeopleSoft through integration or REST services.
While these requirements could be achieved through a customer’s manual approach to PeopleSoft, PeopleSoft created a package that would make the entire process easier. This is called the Chatbot Integration Framework. It does user interface within the application, manages authorization behind the scenes, provides a means for ODA to integrate with PeopleSoft, and has the ability to build services based on the REST interface, which is lightweight and easy to build.
The table below displays the minimum image required to run the Chatbot Integration Framework on each pillar:
Oracle Digital Assistant
At a high level, the Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) is a cloud service that sits in front of the PeopleSoft SaaS applications and delivers data, operations, and services to a variety of messaging channels such as Microsoft Team, Slack, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS, and Voice Assistant. Essentially, the ODA’s role is to take that which is typed by the user and turn it into an API. The API calls the backend services, the data is processed by the backend application, and it goes back to the ODA. At this point, the ODA turns it into text or voice output and delivers it to the user.
The digital assistant is composed of multiple skills. A skill is a modular, limited focus group of functionalities that exposes a specific aspect of backend data. For example, HCM may have one skill that sets employee goals, another for employee management, and additional skills from other backend applications. Each skill is surfaced through the skills store in the digital system platform. The Digital Assistant user can select the skill(s) they desire from the store and compose their own digital assistant. The end user can access multiple skills through a single conversational interface.
ODA is not just used for PeopleSoft or HCM. It can be used for multiple industries, multiple pillars, and multiple applications. Through a single conversational user interface, you can access HCM functionalities on PeopleSoft, ERP on PSFT, third-party applications, or other cloud apps.
Digging deeper into the Oracle Digital Assistant reveals four key components:
- Channel Configurator: Abstracts the differences between messaging channels and allows the messaging channel to connect to the Digital Assistant Platform.
- Dialog Flow Execution: State machine that executes context and memory-driven conversations.
- Enterprise Data Integration: Connectivity to backend systems.
- Conversational AI Engine: Machine learning, cognitive services, and content management.
Previously mentioned was the concept of a skill within the digital assistant. The ODA operates through skill routing. Essentially, the digital assistant routes implicit and explicit requests to the skill bot required.
Explicit routing occurs when the user types a request like this – “Ask banking bot my savings balance.”
Implicit routing looks like this – “What’s my savings balance?”
Skill benefits include:
- Modularize functions
- Enable incremental development
- simplify code management
- improve non-sequitur handling
- simplify versioning and LCM
- Enable segmented authorization
DA Insights & Extensions
For a digital assistant to understand what the user is saying, the DA must be trained. DA Insights captures conversations and shows the customer information about the interaction. These insights display graphics of completed vs abandoned conversations, top intents completed and abandoned, top channels, bot performance, and more. Furthermore, the user enjoys the ability to drill down into the conversation to learn more, in order to better train the digital assistant.
Another feature for the digital assistant includes the ability for skills to be extended. Additionally, the Extensibility Tool offers the ability to preserve customer customizations at upgrade. The user can pick and merge the customizations to the updated version of the skill, and any conflicts can be easily resolved.
The digital assistant can be extended to:
- Add or modify the functionality of the skill (Intents)
- Add or modify examples of how a user may say (Utterances)
- Add or modify the keywords extracted from a user utterance (Entities)
- Modify the dialog flow
- Add resource bundle and translation services to support multiple languages
How to Deploy Chatbots for PeopleSoft
Instead of utilizing traditional deployment methods, PeopleSoft determined that the customer would be best served by providing skills through the PeopleSoft Skill Store. This store will allow for better deployment, skill versioning, ODA Extensibility Toolkit for customizations and rebase, and consistency with Oracle Cloud Applications than other approaches.
The platform as a service is required as a license. The skills in the Skill Store will be licensed along with it. This means that any customer running PeopleSoft will have full access to the Oracle Digital Assistant and can use the ODA for anything they would like to. Features of the Skill Store are displayed in the slide below:
There are three steps to deploying PeopleSoft chatbots:
- License ODA Platform
- License HCM and/or ERP skills from the Skill Store
- Configure ODA to PeopleSoft Connectivity
It is possible to bring the chatbot user experience to your enterprise. With the Oracle Digital Assistant, you can select skills that will greatly enhance employee’s chatbot experiences while saving the organization’s time and resources. Current chatbots available encourage the employee to utilize an absence assistant and an employee directory assistant for quick and easy solutions. Chatbot availability to come will focus on self-service.
As mentioned, the Chatbot Integration Framework runs on prerequisites of HCM Update Image 9.0.31 and PeopleTools 8.57.07. In order to deploy PeopleSoft Chatbots, visit the ODA Skill Store to purchase skills. These skills can be extended with the Extensibility Tool to leverage your investment for the long haul.
Leverage the abilities of PeopleSoft Chatbots to enhance your employee’s experience and to run a more efficient, intuitive enterprise.
To learn more about chatbots for PeopleSoft HCM and the skills license cost, check out the Quest Forum Digital Event presentation and additional resources below.