Distributed teams and remote teams are increasingly common. By tearing down the cubicle walls, (metaphorically — not Office Space style), companies reap several benefits. There’s more opportunity to hire the right individual, regardless of location. Additionally, distributed and remote teams often experience greater efficiency and enhanced transparency. This derives from a need to over communicate. Still, as TechBeacon explains in its writeup on eight hacks to make distributed agile teams work, it’s best to invest in self-organizing teams as well as collaboration technology. AI bot Alice from The Mad Botter is a means to allow distributed teams to automate and communicate with ease.

How Businesses Should Be Using AI

Although artificial intelligence (AI) might connote the likes of Skynet or Hal 9000, sci-fi doesn’t quite present the most accurate portrait of AI in its current state. As Tom’s IT Pro reports, artificial intelligence is best used by businesses for automation. Real-world applications range from self-driving cars to speech recognition and image processing.

A major area where AI aids in businesses is automation. Although there are concerns over replacing jobs, often AI simply augments humans. It’s like the Ghost in the Shell universe where the Major is part human but augmented with artificial parts. Similarly, most artificial intelligence in the business world concentrates on automating and augmenting tasks.

AI Bot Alice From The Mad Botter

The Mad Botter logo

Enter Alice, an AI bot from The Mad Botter. As an artificial intelligence bot, Alice is engineered to act as an extension of your existing project manager. It functions along with your team to improve communication, track projects, and ensure greater transparency.

So how does Alice by The Mad Botter achieve this? Primarily through automation and integration. Digital agencies using Alice benefit from reporting and daily reminders which boost productivity.

The Problem

As Michael Dominick, Founder of The Mad Botter explains, the concept for Alice arose from real-world challenges.

“A real-world problem I kept seeing over and over — companies and digital agencies, in particular, have embraced working in distributed teams,” Dominick explains. “However, almost every organization I’ve worked with, managed, or contracted for that had remote workers ended up having the same set of issues crop up.”

Namely, internal communications suffered. Lack of clarity left tons of information lost in translation. Team members became tangled in the why and the what, unclear on what the team was expected to achieve.

Furthermore, Dominick notes that remote teams often exhibit disconnected services. Many employ five or more software as a service (SaaS) products which fail to communicate with one another. Coupled with a breakdown in communication on the human front, it’s easy to tumble down the rabbit hole.

The Solution

The Mad Botter’s AI bot Alice, however, addresses these issues through integration and automation. Whereas many SaaS offerings that digital agencies utilize don’t talk with one another, Alice integrates these services together, bringing it all into Slack. Alice from The Mad Botter boasts integrations with popular services such as GitHub, Slack, Trello, Gmail, and Google Calendar.

Plus, Alice is able to automate many routine tasks. For instance, she can offer reminders to clients about deliverables. “A design agency could have Alice reach out to clients to get a sign off on comps,” Dominick suggests as just one of the countless ways Alice can automate tasks. This then frees up human capital to concentrate on meaningful areas.

Alice the Mad Botter calendar

Since Alice integrates and automates, she’s capable of automating tasks between services. “With out Harvest and GitHub integration, a development-focused agency could easily generate project status reports and send them to the client that includes not only the time spent as tracked in Harvest, but also the issues worked on and the overall project progress from GitHub,” Dominick elaborates.

The Nitty Gritty

Alice the Mad Botter quiz

Although digital agencies will absolutely care about what Alice can do, let’s explore how Alice works. For its natural language processing, Alice employs Luis AI. Luis stands for Language Understanding Intelligent Service and boasts the ability to lend conversational intelligence to apps. Therefore, users may drop phrases such as “Order me a pizza,” or “Remind me to call mom tomorrow,” and Luis AI understands. Alice specifically is a mix of JavaScript with Typescript over top of the Microsoft Bot Framework which is in fact open-source.

Alice by The Mad Botter is a balance of natural language processing (NLP) and task-oriented AI. “I view NLP as a means to provide value rather than an end in itself,” Dominick explains.

The Challenges

But while the end result is an awesome AI bot that automates and integrates, Dominick overcame several challenges in the development process. Namely, Dominick allows that on the technical side, the bot space is pretty young. As such, there’s not yet a go-to technology for bot creation.

“I spent a lot of time developing what I call proto-Alice in a bunch of different technologies before going with Luis and MS Bot,” Dominick elucidates.

However, the product was even more challenging than the technical side. From the onset, Dominick sought, like many techies, to create a product to do everything. Yet, it’s easier to focus on one problem space rather than a broad category.

As for where Alice runs, it’s not quite down the rabbit hole: it’s the wonderland of a Docker container on Linux, currently Ubuntu 17.04.

Go Ask Alice…

The Mad Botter has a neat offering in its AI bot Alice. As an artificial intelligence bot, Alice sports both automation and integration, and seeks to revolutionize the way distributed teams function. As a member and manager of several remote teams, I can vouch for both the advantages and pitfalls of remote work. Alice exhibits perfectly where AI can augment business, and specifically distributed teams: through integration and automation. Additionally, Alice’s development shows the weaknesses in the AI space — the fairly new bot space. As with any new technology, there’s still a ton to figure out. Machine learning expert at Google Alex Davies explains of the AI space, “[Today] if we can get a robot to open a door, we’re super excited.” But bots like Alice provide useful AI tools that digital agencies can benefit from.

Give The Mad Botter a follow on Twitter, and stay tuned for more Alice updates! Your turn: How do you see AI and bots taking hold in the business world?