'So, what happens now?'
This is what 99.9% of the people we talk to think every step of the way. The reason is simple: the chatbot industry is new. Very few people out there know what the chatbot development process looks like.
You know what, though? We know. And boy do I have a surprise for you. I'm going to give you a sneak peek into our process.
A little bit of background
I feel like I need to share a little bit about ubisend before we dive in. It should give you some confidence into the rest of the article.
ubisend is an enterprise-focused AI solution company. We build conversational interfaces (aka chatbots) that solve real business problems. We tend to work with large enterprise companies that have tens of thousands of employees.
You can read some of our case studies here.
Ok so, how does the process of getting us to build your project work?
Our chatbot development process
Phase one - Discovery
The first phase of our process starts when you get in contact with us.
Most of our clients get in touch with us by filling out one of the chatbot forms on our website. This form flings an alert to our sales team who pick up the phone and get in touch with you as soon as possible.
The goal of their first call with you is to answer a simple question: are we a fit?
AWAF (Are We A Fit) calls were popularised by Aaron Ross. It is a simple call that helps us define if both companies are right for each other. As you've seen, we tend to work with customers with more than 100 employees. This means, if you are a one man startup, we may not be your best bet. We are probably too bespoke and you could find a mass-market alternative.
If we are a fit, great! We move on to discovery.
The discovery phase allows us to understand what problem you are trying to solve. We let you talk. We let you explain in layman's terms. We take notes. All the information discussed during this call will help us build the scope of the work we will do for you.
The sales person you are talking to will take these notes to our dev team. Our dev team will evaluate the amount of work they will have to do, the stuff they will need from you (APIs, documents, etc.), and send the sales person back to you.
Phase one of our chatbot development process is over once we know what you want and you have an idea of timeframe and functionality.
Phase two - Scoping
The second phase is all about getting the project down on paper.
On our end, we try to write the scope of your idea in plain English (but still geeky). On your end, you need to amend or agree with this scope. This is the time to ask all your questions. We've made a neat document for you to use, don't forget to ask these!
After the usual back and forth of amends, we get to a final document. This document presents the entire project. In it, you will find an introduction to who we are, an executive summary, a run down of the work we will do, and investment/timeframes.
It's an all encompassing document. It will define the future of our relationship. It is very important you ask all the questions you need to ask.
Phase two of our chatbot development process is over when both our companies sign at the bottom of the scoping document.
Phase three - Development
The third phase announces the start of the development of your chatbot.
One of our team leaders will take your project and build the team she needs to get it to the finish line. It is common this team is put together even before the scoping document is signed as we tend to present all the potential projects during our team meetings. The people who show an interest in your project early tend to end up working on it.
This team is usually composed of three to six engineers, one UX designer, and one language professional. The engineers build the chatbot (i.e. code), the language professional builds the language matrixes along with the UX designer to make sure the conversational UX makes sense.
PS: Some builds involve a whole lot more people. For example, working with large financial institutions involve an entire legal department. Working with international businesses involve two or three translation teams. Above is our most basic team structure.
The development phase follows the timeframe we defined in the scoping document. Your team knows what needs to be delivered at which specific dates, and their goal is to keep that schedule.
The development phase also brings something completely new: your involvement.
All the chatbots we have built have required some sort of involvement from our client. Sometimes we need API access to their databases. Sometimes we need their entire HR documentation. Sometimes we need an admin login to their website.
Whatever it is, the speed of this phase is somewhat dependant on your company.
Phase four - Testing
Phase three and phase four sort of get mixed up depending on the build. During the testing phase, we make sure your chatbot does what it needs to do by, well, testing it.
The reason three and four get mixed up is we tend to run two types of testing phases.
The first involves our internal teams. The team that works on your solution will test their build along the way, but they will also often request another team to test their build. A fresh set of (trained) eyes helps a lot.
The second involves you. You will be asked to test your own solution and give us feedback.
Each of these testing phases, of course, leads to more development.
Phase four is extremely important. It is incredibly fun to finally get your hands on your solution and start playing with it. It is also the right time to give us your most valuable feedback on the work we're doing. Once we get to that stage, please oh please, test your chatbot! We need you to. You need to. It is beneficial to everyone involved.
Phase five - Delivery
We're getting to the finish line.
In the delivery phase, we hand over the "final" product. I put final in quotation marks because a chatbot is never perfect.
The truth is we don't really deliver your solution. We pride ourselves in offering a transformational service. This means we don't just build something, give it to you, and move on. We work with you to build something that will help you solve whatever business problem you are having. We become a team.
Still, we need a delivery phase to define the end of our initial build. At this point, we implement the solution into your business. This whole process could be a book by itself, not the right place to go through it now though!
We also immediately switch gear into the maintenance phase.
Phase six - Maintenance
The maintenance phase, basically lasts forever.
As I said earlier, we are in the transformation business. We aim to make your company more efficient. We also aim to keep the solution we built for you at the top of its game, forever. This means we need to keep it up to date and in check 24/7.
Part of the maintenance process is hardware infrastructure. We make sure your chatbot is running smoothly. We have very strict SLAs we stick to, and that takes a lot of work.
Another big part of the maintenance is to make sure your AI solution is constantly improved. We review the input/output with you to make sure intents found the right match, and fix them if they didn't.
Finally, the maintenance phase also tends to be the phase when you come back to us asking for more. This is not a brag, by the way. We are very clear that any business looking into chatbots should start small. Fix one issue, then expand. The maintenance phase is when our clients expand the capabilities of their solution. For examples, this could mean expanding your HR chatbot into a sales chatbot.
This concludes our chatbot development process. As you can see, I held nothing back. You have all the information you need to understand how a real, top-of-the-line chatbot building company works. I may be mistaken, but I believe this is a first of its kind.
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If you have found this article REALLY useful, get in touch with us. After all, phase one is just a click away.