When a chatbot is better than an intranet—and when it’s not

by Kerry Michel | Jun 20, 2018

Would you ask your communications manager to tackle year-end accounting processes? Or maybe require the newest software developer to write blog posts for your company website? Not likely. Why? Because you know the strengths of the individuals in your organization, and how using each person for the right job will get you the best results.

Like people, different types of enterprise software also have their strengths. A key to the success of new software in your digital workplace is ensuring that you use a technology that actually meets your business objectives. Chatbots and intranets are optimized for different uses, so read on to make sure you’re choosing the technology best suited to your use cases.

What is a chatbot?

What is a chatbot? A chatbot is software that communicates with you via messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Skype, or SMS. When you message a chatbot, a computer responds. Chatbot content is provided by a human or obtained from another system that already contains the content.

What is a chatbot anyway?

When a chatbot is better than an intranet

Consider seven instances where a chatbot beats an intranet:

1. You have a question, and you want an answer

When you want a quick answer to a question, a chatbot can provide it without requiring you to open an app or website, or traverse any navigation. Type a question to your chatbot in your messaging app, and get an immediate answer without hassle.

When international healthcare company Bupa decided to relocate their London offices, they created a chatbot that would quickly and easily answer employees questions about the move. Read more about their story here.

Read how Bupa’s Move Chatbot answered questions employees needed to know

2. Your messaging app is always open

In companies where everyone already has a messaging app open to communicate with colleagues, it’s simple to start a conversation with a chatbot. Whether it’s Skype for Business, Slack or Facebook Work Chat, a chatbot is right in there with all the other people you touch base with regularly.

Companies with no desk phones mean messaging apps are universal, and chatbots can be too

3. Your internet connection is slow or unstable

Poor internet is no obstacle for a chatbot. The text-based UIs of messaging apps consume very little bandwidth, and chatbots delivered by SMS don’t require internet at all.

4. You don’t know which system has the information you need

Your business may use dozens of systems to keep track of information—intranet, file sharing, ticketing, helpdesk, timesheets, expense reports, CRM, and so on. It can be difficult to keep track of what system contains what information. A chatbot can be integrated to pull the information you need from a variety of systems and deliver it to you within your messaging app.

Chatbots can connect to multiple systems and deliver info you need in one channel.

5. You need push notifications

Push notifications make sure employees get information fast. One study reports that 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes. Chatbots use messaging apps your employees already have, so there’s no struggle to try to get people to download, upgrade and use a specific intranet app just so you can communicate with them.

Reach 90% within 3 minutes with your info in their messaging app

6. Your hands aren’t available

Have you ever tried to use your intranet without your hands? Chances are, it didn’t work very well. With voice messaging capability, chatbots can also be voicebots—invaluable for getting information to someone busy operating machinery, helping a patient, or working in a cleanroom.

Workers can obtain information by voice request when unable to use their hands to chat or navigate an intranet

7. You think intranets are hard to use

To find a specific piece of information among a vast network of intranet pages might be more of a challenge than your average user can handle. Nielsen Norman Group analyzed a study that indicated that almost 70% of people in 33 rich countries have poor to non-existent computer skills. As strong computer users, we tend to overestimate people’s computer skills. The majority may not be able to navigate a complex intranet, but everyone understands the conversational UI of a chatbot. If you know how to talk and how to type, you know how to use a chatbot.

The vast majority of workers don’t have strong computer skills…

…but everyone understands the conversational messaging interface

When an intranet is better than a chatbot

Intranets have their strengths in the following situations:

1. You’re not sure what you’re looking for

If you’re browsing for something and you don’t know exactly what it is, but you think you’ll know it when you see it, an intranet is a better medium for your search than a chatbot.

2. You need long-form content

Chatbots force brevity. Some content, however, just isn’t meant to be short. Policies, procedures and contracts can be tens and hundreds of pages long, and that quantity just can’t be communicated via chatbot.

Some content is too long to be communicated effectively using a chatbot

3. You want to “see what’s happening”

If you want to browse around to find out what’s happening in your company, see what other people are working on or being recognized for, and serendipitously discover new things, head to the intranet. Chatbots are high on answers, but low on serendipity. (That said, the more personality you give your chatbot, the more serendipitous it can feel.)

An intranet allows you to serendipitously discover what’s going on

4. You need a full graphical user interface

The text interface of a chatbot is limited; it doesn’t allow you to do things like edit spreadsheets or videos. Many actions will continue to require a full GUI, so some tasks are best kept on the intranet.

Certain tasks require a full graphical UI

Intranet or chatbot? It’s not either/or

When examining which is better, a chatbot or an intranet, it becomes clear that both technologies have their strengths. The good news is that it isn’t an either/or scenario, the strengths can be leveraged by using both mediums. A chatbot can complement and even strengthen an intranet by making intranet search results available within the chatbot. Workers already in the messaging app can use it to access valuable intranet content.

Intranet search results can be made available with a chatbot—see how

Chatbots are the future

Intranets are already widely used in enterprise and chatbot use is expanding rapidly. Easy, useful, intuitive chatbots will be a major factor in everyone’s digital workplace in the near future. Investigate now how to leverage the strengths of chatbots in your organization.