Wherever you are on your digital transformation journey, you’ve probably spent a lot of money on digital solutions across your housing organisation, or plan to do so; housing management, asset management, customer service, repairs and maintenance… the list goes on.
But how do you know you’re getting the most from your investments, and are you confident that your staff are following your processes and using those systems as you intended? It can be a minefield and it only gets harder over time.
At TechLabs London we’ve recently been talking a lot about ‘digital assistance’ and how it can help in this area. But what is digital assistance and how could it help you?
There are already many forms of digital assistants in our personal lives, such as voice-enabled consumer products like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. But we’re not talking about ‘assistants’ here, rather the principle of getting ‘assistance’ when and where you need it in the process of your work and within your existing software investments.
We’re going to explore two key topics which are both readily available in the market – AI copilots and digital adoption solutions.
AI copilots are all about providing you and your teams with support, rather than taking over your role (think less Skynet and more the advent of the web). They’re intended to make your life easier, more efficient and provide you with new ways to use your data and other information to add value. They are focused on changing the way we interact with technology, rather than trying to replace it (or us).
ChatGPT is an example of what’s known as a ‘large language model’ (LLM) with a chat user interface on top of it to allow you to interact with it through natural language.
It’s great if you want to write a nice poem or generate content from an enormous, pre-trained pool of information, but how does it help you in your day-to-day work life?
This is where I believe Microsoft has cornered the market. It has focused its attention on creating and launching ‘AI copilots’ which focus on tangible outcomes. Through well-worded ‘prompts’ to such AI copilots within your existing line-of-business applications, you can start to harness the power of those LLMs to generate useful insights, draft well-written emails, summarise transcripts of recorded calls and otherwise make your life easier.
As an example of where AI copilots can help you to leverage your existing investments, let’s look at our websites, SharePoint libraries and knowledge bases. It used to take weeks to program a new customer or staff chatbot (what we in the Microsoft world used to call Power Virtual Agents). We needed to map out the various pathways a user might go down to avoid those horrible experiences of the product not knowing how to respond. Then you’d have to integrate it with your website, Sharepoint or other sites and spend a lot of time fine-tuning the experience.
Now, with ChatGPT-enabled AI copilots, you can ‘prompt’ a new AI copilot to look at your published website content, SharePoint library, knowledge base or other data source, and it can be up and running, providing accurate and grounded responses within minutes.
TechLabs London was involved in helping to shape the AI copilot functionality for Microsoft Dynamics Field Services to generate Work Orders, schedule them and confirm the outcome to customers, all within an existing Outlook or Teams experience.
These AI copilots are a way of fundamentally changing how you interact with your existing technology. They can be set up relatively easily and can break down the digital barriers many of your staff or customers may have when transacting with your existing technologies.
Making the most of your technology isn’t just about embracing advancements in AI. The other topic we want to explore is digital adoption solutions, an area that we think is massively under-valued in the housing sector.
Digital adoption solutions
A digital adoption solution (DAS) empowers individuals and organisations to embrace and make the most out of their technology. It allows you to create in-app onboarding and training content, interactive walk-throughs, tool tips, task lists, embedded knowledge content and more, to improve the adoption of your digital applications and processes. In short, it’s all about fostering a knowledge-sharing culture.
While you might embark on a transformation to change the type of software you use or look to consolidate your solutions into a platform-based approach, end-user adoption still won’t happen if there are underlying problems with your training tactics and support once you’ve gone live with a new product.
This is where digital adoption solutions can help. They work by walking a user through necessary business processes across your technology, providing an interactive and contextual overlay on top of those applications.
This real-time training leads end-users through tasks and workflows at the exact time of their need. With ongoing support inside the product(s) your users are accessing every day, digital adoption solutions eliminate the need for those users to learn and remember individual functions for each programme on their own. Instead, they can use self-help tools to remind them of what to do, when they need it.
Digital adoption solutions can provide you with the digital assistance your teams need, when and where they need it most. With the right solution, you can massively help with the onboarding of new staff to understand how to use your products, provide them with real-time, in-app, task-based training and knowledge to reduce the need for support and ensure service consistency, not to mention helping to manage the release of new technologies within your business.
If these are areas of interest for your organisation, our iProperty Cloud housing platform could help. We’ve partnered with a world-class digital adoption solution provider that we’ll be sharing more news about at the Housing Technology 2024 conference (05-07 March, Nottingham). We’re also right at the heart of the latest AI copilot innovations, working closely with Microsoft’s product engineering teams to influence their new offerings to work for the housing sector.
Matthew Hedges is the products director at TechLabs London.