What Are Digital Employees?
Digital Employees provide many benefits to any enterprise workforce
The heart of the SKAEL platform is what we call Digital Employees, virtual workers that can be deployed by any business to make their human employees more effective and happier. I’d like to explain this concept in detail.
Maximize the value of your data, and you’ll be what Accenture calls a data-driven enterprise. It’s a smart goal since data is the lifeblood of any business. And it seems like it should be a basic and easily attainable goal. But it’s not. And that’s where Digital Employees come into play.
A Digital Employee performs the same tasks as a human employee: proactively entering data into systems based on enterprise events, and collating and producing analytics on demand. In essence, Digital Employees emulate and augment your human employees so they can use their time and talents more effectively.
Here’s why Digital Employees are an important addition to every enterprise workforce.
Your Employees Get Lost in Black Holes of Data
Every day, enterprise employees toggle between multiple applications to answer questions and do their work. In fact, data workers spend about 36 hours per work week (90% of their week) on data-related activities such as searching, preparation and analytics. Along the way, they call upon more than six data sources, 40 million rows of data and seven different outputs on average. And they do this repeatedly, to answer every question – even ones they’ve previously asked, such as:
- What are the steps for onboarding my new employee?
- What is the latest sales forecast?
- How do I add new vendors to our procurement system?
- What is our departmental budget vs. actual spend for the last two years?
As data builds up over time, the applications your employees rely upon are essentially reaching into a black hole. This creates “dark data,” which Gartner defines as: “The information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (for example, analytics, business relationships and direct monetizing).”
When they can’t get needed answers from data, employees either turn to the people within the organization responsible for managing all the applications housing that data – or they take their best guesses. Neither option is ideal. In the first scenario, specialists such as finance administrators, marketing managers, and sales operations members are distracted from their core jobs. In the second scenario, employees are making uninformed decisions without the benefit of all the data your enterprise has collected.
Automation That Falls Short
Knowing how important their data is to best serving customers, streamlining operations, and driving strategy, enterprises have called upon various tools to address their data-access and inquiry challenges. Unfortunately, the following options have fallen short in one way or another.
Chatbots are software programs designed to simulate human conversations. Behind the scenes, a chatbot is a static tree map representing potential questions someone might ask and the corresponding answers the chatbot should serve up.
By design, the tree map presumes to know what someone will ask. As a result, a chatbot can only handle simple, routine queries and respond to frequently asked questions. If someone doesn’t ask questions in a hierarchical manner – or if the tree-map programmers failed to anticipate a certain question – the chatbot can’t handle the inquiry.
2) Intelligent assistants
These solutions upon technologies that enable them to understand the context of an inquiry and carry out a range of tasks on behalf of someone.
Intelligent assistants are better than chatbots because they can:
- Adapt to the context of a situation
- Access multiple systems and more flexibly serve users
Challenges with intelligent assistants:
- To function as designed, they must call upon a centralized store of relatively clean data. In a survey conducted by O’Reilly, over 60% of respondents indicated that too many data sources and inconsistent data was their top data quality worry.
- Only a few modern, cloud-based systems such as Salesforce and ServiceNow work well with intelligent assistants. In other words, enterprises can’t power their intelligent assistants with on-premise or custom-built systems and data spread across applications and documents.
3) Process optimization
As it sounds, process optimization is focused on improving processes. Examples include using a tool for better dashboarding, offshoring a help desk, digitizing help desk workflows, and deploying ERP to integrate multiple processes.
The pitfalls of process optimization:
- Most enterprises hire expensive consulting firms for assessments and recommendations
- Projects can take months – even years – to implement
- Simply shifts the burden instead of addressing the underlying operational inefficiencies – for example, by outsourcing the work to a help desk
4) Workflow automation
Ideally, a workflow occurs seamlessly from end to end as applications talk to each other and share data in the background. Examples of this:
- After a sales rep closes a deal in CRM, the ERP system automatically sends the invoice
- During new-hire onboarding, the HR system triggers role-based accounts to be created automatically in relevant systems
Workflow automation is better than process optimization, but here are the drawbacks:
- People need to be involved at both ends of the process to interact with the tool while the automation software handles the middle portion of the process
- Enterprises see no change to the quality of data entering or leaving their tools and processes
- Enterprises must stitch together their backend systems to make this work – no small undertaking
5) Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Some compare Robotic Process Automation to advanced macros. Unlike macros that excel at simplistic tasks, RPAs can handle a high volume of complex processes. But RPA is similar to macros in two key ways:
- It’s intended to mimic and automate mundane, repetitive tasks
- It can only carry out the steps it’s programmed to handle
RPAs don’t require much technical knowledge and can stitch together data in the background. Users simply record what they’re doing and the software learns and repeats this.
Here are the key shortcomings of RPA:
- Each user must install RPA software on their computers, and all users working together must be on the same software version
- RPAs must process each request separately
- An RPA must spin up and shut down a virtual environment for every process it executes
- RPAs call out to third-party sources (namely Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services) to process each request, leaving the enterprise at risk that sensitive information and systems will be exposed.
The Ideal Solution: Digital Employees
The future of work isn’t figuring out the best application to store and show data, or relying on specialists to mine the data your company owns for insights. Everyone in your company should be empowered to easily and quickly make use of data. When they can work this way, employees will make more timely decisions in objective ways and more quickly innovate, close business and generate revenues.
We can easily access intelligence as consumers, using tools like Google Search and Alexa. You can enable the same experience at work with Digital Employees.
Do not mistake digital employees with digital workers. The latter refers to simply empowering employees with the digital tools they need to be productive. As we’ve shown above, such efforts often fall short.
Digital Employees, on the other hand, are an automated addition to your existing workforce. You can easily train them to handle a business process that any employee would handle. But digital employees can handle more of these processes and faster and without making mistakes. They simply work side by side with your human employees to automate repetitive processes, and enhance the capabilities of – and free up – people.
Powered by a combination of advanced technologies – including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – Digital Employees learns and improves over time so it can dynamically adapt to different scenarios.
SKAEL Digital Employees: Superpower Your Workforce
Unlike automation efforts that require heavy user or technical effort, perform a narrow set of tasks, and easily break on tasks outside of defined parameters, SKAEL Digital Employees are easy to use and scale.
SKAEL Digital Employees correctly interpret the request your employees make via typical communication channels such as Slack and email; verify the requester is authorized; and connect to the relevant on-premise or cloud application(s) to provide immediate answers. Simply put, a Digital Employee streamlines the process of answering employee information requests.
Here are the other ways SKAEL Digital Employees are superior to other automation approaches:
- Eliminates the need for a central data store by reading both structured and unstructured data from chats, phone calls, and other data repositories
- Can stitch together multiple information sets, and return answers in as little as two minutes
- Does not make any calls to a third-party outside the enterprise environment
- Learns on the fly, updating, adding and deleting information as needed
- Includes key abilities like Natural Language Processing (NLP) – no need to add modules
SKAEL Digital Employees aren’t just a concept. Many enterprises are already putting them to use to improve key processes across the business:
- Streamline accounts payable. Alex automates many of your mundane, repeatable finance tasks. Alex can run reports, generate forecasts, analyze data, and pay invoices quickly, efficiently and accurately. You can even ask Alex questions about the financial state of your business and get answers in seconds. Understand how you’re trending, build and export custom reports and share with teammates straight from Slack, Microsoft Teams or email. Alex already helped a global manufacturing company processing 7,500 finance-related requests each month save $1.5 million per year. By handling these requests 97% faster, Alex enabled the company to also reduce supplier attrition by 34%.
- Offload sales operations. June automates many of your mundane, repeatable sales tasks. June can run reports, generate forecasts, analyze data, create quotes, and more. Quickly, efficiently and accurately. June already helped a large technology company with 500 sales professionals save $1.4 million per year by offloading repetitive tasks, driving 69% better forecast accuracy, and enabling 86% faster quote to cash.
- Quickly resolve routine service desk requests. Drew proactively helps you with ticket and issue resolution. Drew ties into all your favorite ITSM tools – ServiceNow, Zendesk and Jira – and quickly learns from your existing tickets and knowledge base to help your users self-service in seconds. Drew can immediately offload 60% of common ticket volume by resetting passwords; ordering new equipment based on spend approval thresholds; notifying affected users about an outage; resolving software access issues; and tracking progress and notifying relevant team members. Drew already helped an automotive company save $1.2 million per year in IT costs by enabling it to proactively evolve customer and employee support. With Drew available 24x7 and learning from resolved tickets, the company has achieved average 2-minute response times to help requests and a 73% increase in employee satisfaction.
- Streamline new hire onboarding. Polly can change the way HR works while improving your onboarding experience. She can procure equipment; automate approvals; grant access to pre-approved applications, locations, networks and learning tools; and update relevant employees throughout the process. Polly already helped a major insurance company with 19,000 employees transform employee onboarding and save $416,000 per year by offloading repetitive tasks and reducing human errors by 92%. In turn, the company saw a nearly 73% increase in employee satisfaction scores.
With SKAEL, all this is enabled by a highly sophisticated platform that calls upon the latest technologies. Enterprises can get started in as little as one week, and within a week of deployment, see 92% accuracy. Within a month of monitoring and training their Digital Employee, enterprises can achieve 97% accuracy.* Moreover, most realize full ROI on a single Digital Employee in 45-60 days.
Additional advantages of automating with SKAEL Digital Employees:
- You can elect to process data requests on premise or in your own cloud
- You can easily get started in a phased approach by enabling one or more Digital Employees in a single department
- It’s easy to connect any of your data sources to our platform because we just need you to provide the URL and right type of authentication
- The SKAEL platform never stores the data it processes
“When COVID-19 hit, we realized our tools weren’t adequate to move at the speed we desired. SKAEL is enabling us to execute on at a much faster and successful rate. With SKAEL, we can more efficiently deploy automated integrations and self-service portals, and provide a better user experience for our staff and constituents.” – Beto Juarez, CIO of San Diego Housing Commission
Schedule a demo for a more in depth look at the benefits of employing a Digital Employee.
*Note accuracy refers to correctly identifying the request in terms of intent, context, and classification and delivering better responses as a result.
SKAEL's mission is to deliver better user-centric outcomes through intelligent cognitive automation, empowering a synergistic human digital workforce. The company's unique Digital Employee technology maps to any organization's existing processes, onboarding and completing tasks in minutes. The company has been headquartered in San Francisco since its founding in 2016 and is backed by leading firms including Bonfire Ventures, Daher Capital, Backend Capital, RIDE Ventures, StratMinds VC and Buffalo Ventures.