23 April 2018

Decoding the future: TOPdesk’s AI hackathon



Artificial Intelligence is rapidly gaining ground in our everyday lives. We use it to avoid traffic on our way to work, or we let virtual home assistants keep track of what music we like and which ingredients we need to buy for a new recipe. But what does the rise of AI mean for the future of service management? TOPdesk’s development teams from all over the world joined a hackathon to find new AI solutions for TOPdesk.


Why are we interested in AI?

Why do we organize a hackathon focusing specifically on AI? At TOPdesk, we see a lot of potential for AI in service management. A vision that is shared by analysts like Gartner and Forrester. AI will help you provide better service through trend analysis and predictions, and take over simple tasks from your operators. But it’s not just that AI can solve simple issues more efficiently than humans can. An AI operator may also be able to assist human operators by suggesting the right knowledge items or follow-up questions. Plus, every time your AI agent solves a call, a human operator remains available for more complex issues.

 So, why this hackathon? Why not jump on the bandwagon once this future with AI is a little bit clearer? Because we want to help you offer better services. And if you want to keep improving, you have to keep innovating. That’s why several developers around the globe got together to discover what AI can do for service management. TOPdesk is already experimenting with machine learning and predictions. But AI has broad applications. For example, it makes it possible to interact with software using natural language via a so-called Conversational Interface. In this hackathon we wanted to investigate the possibilities of that in TOPdesk. For example, can you do a service request using speech or chat?


The big reveal

 What did the teams come up with? The developers set to work after an inspiring kick-off. Two days later, our brave pioneers emerged mostly victorious. Each team had a solution to show and a story to tell, and each story included some bumps in the road.

 For instance, a team that called itself Veggie Mouse experimented with a chat interface where customers could register visitors for a specific date and time. It worked with both a chat interface and speech recognition. The team connected existing speech recognition solutions to TOPdesk, but those solutions aren’t always fit for any purpose. Getting started was surprisingly easy, but context was an issue. For instance, if you’d tell the AI you have a visitor next week, it would ask you to specify the day. If you’d then answer ‘Friday’, the AI would register your visitor for this Friday rather than Friday next week.

In spite of the issues, the team sees potential. After all, speech recognition and chat interfaces can be tweaked. And they found out an important feature that would have to be added to a future conversational interface: letting the AI repeat the registered data back to the customer for confirmation would prevent misunderstandings about exactly which date and time a visitor should arrive.

 Another team focused more on submitting calls and solving problems in general. They created the concept of Toppie, a self-service wizard inspired by Microsoft office’s Clippy. The idea is that if you ask Toppie your question, Toppie is the first one to provide advice. For PC-related issues, Toppie may ask your customer whether they’ve turned their PC off and on again, and propose the next step if restarting doesn’t fix the problem. Toppie would also be able to provide knowledge items. If the customer can’t fix the problem on their own, Toppie will offer to create an incident and will then proceed to ask relevant questions, so that the operator that works on the issue will have all the information they need. Pretty neat, right?


What’s next?

 The examples above aren’t the only ideas the teams came up with, and one of the teams’ conclusions was that there’s still room for improvement when it comes to AI technology in general. Not all of the ideas that came out of the hackathon will make it into our software, but the teams worked with interesting technologies and learned a lot. What does that mean for you as a TOPdesk customer? Well, your TOPdesk environment won’t turn into Marvin the Paranoid Android overnight, but in the not-so-distant future, AI will play a significant role in our mission: helping you achieve service excellence.

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