Mobile messaging is growing. It has surpassed the popularity of social networking apps. For consumers, mobile messaging has quickly become their communication preference for personal and even business communication. A study found that many employees are using consumer-facing messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp throughout the workday to communicate with colleagues, external partners, stakeholders, and clients. Unfortunately, these consumer-facing apps aren’t created with the enterprise in mind, and they lack key capabilities vital to use in the enterprise — especially security.

In light of this, many enterprise-specific mobile messaging platforms, from Google and Microsoft in particular, have emerged, and a few consumer-facing services have made significant changes to become more appropriate for enterprise use. Chatbots are beginning to experience a similar lifecycle. Chatbots like Microsoft’s Cortana and the Google Assistant and even Amazon Alexa have had great success with consumer adoption. Just like messaging apps, enterprises are now looking for ways they too can embrace chatbots. However, enterprise chatbots require a higher guarantee of the integrity of the information exchanged, as well as increased security commitments.

Implementation for the enterprise

Chatbots in the enterprise are a brand new phenomenon and are largely being introduced by service providers already accommodating the enterprise market with solutions such as enterprise-grade mobile messaging platforms. Enterprise chatbots, unlike their consumer counterparts, need to be more custom, relevant, and pertinent to the enterprise user in order for employees to embrace and use them. For example, they might need to tie into a backend like Oracle or SAP, which makes the configuration much more complex than WhatsApp. Within the enterprise, chatbots should function as an all-encompassing resource and tool for employees, one that is also confidential and secure.

Prior to implementation, enterprise chatbots should have a few key capabilities. First, enterprise-grade chatbots should leverage an artificial intelligence engine that is trainable by the enterprise. This way, the organization can easily teach the chatbot enterprise-specific information. Secondly, a chatbot with an A.I. engine that includes a natural language set of APIs pertinent to the enterprise is critical. Chatbots also need to provide a level of security and assurance with regards to the information exchanged, requested, and delivered via the chatbot. This includes measures that take into consideration how the information is delivered, as well as how it is saved during and following transport. All of this needs to be done while allowing the bot the ability to learn and engage with the new information.

This is the largest similarity between chatbots and mobile messaging platforms for the enterprise versus consumer use. Information shared in the enterprise likely requires a higher level of security than information shared via a consumer platform. In particular, information that is highly sensitive, such as in health care or finance that’s protected by HIPAA or SOX regulations, needs more security. Safeguards such as end-to-end encryption are vital to ensuring the safety of such applications within the enterprise.

Capabilities of enterprise chatbots

The positioning of enterprise chatbots and their capabilities is still being refined for the enterprise, but the opportunities in the future are absolutely limitless. Today, chatbots are largely being used as a knowledgeable resource and convenient mechanism for employees to ask questions specific to their organization. This is particularly effective when a chatbot is introduced as a part of an existing internal, enterprise-grade mobile messaging solution. Mobile messaging platforms can serve as a good point of entry for chatbots, as there is less of a learning curve for employees and the likelihood for adoption is much higher because it’s a platform they already use.

Once the decision is made to implement a chatbot, the deployment should be wide. At least initially, the bot should be able to answer general queries related to HR benefits, internal processes, travel policies, expense policies, etc. The wider this deployment and implementation, the more the chatbot can provide answers that are relevant to the organization.

Down the road, chatbots may be able to serve as more personalized assistants by answering department-specific — or even employee-specific — information. For the time being, though, it’s likely that employees will initially see a more general implementation that will include the ability to answer simple questions related to policy, compliance, or even IT support.

Just as mobile messaging faced initial doubt from enterprise implementers, chatbots may experience the same hesitation from organization heads and IT departments. However, growth among consumers will likely press upon organizations to implement an enterprise chatbot that mimics the functionality of their consumer counterparts. Chatbots are certainly in their infancy, but can be seen as a new “employee” who will of course mature and gain knowledge over time.

Early adopters looking to embrace them, though, should be wary of the same challenges associated with adopting a mobile messaging platform traditionally for consumers. A secure, customized experience is necessary in order to meet the unique needs of the enterprise.