Bots have got themselves a bit of a bad reputation over the years, and not without good reason. They’ve been used by many malicious people online to perform many underhand or even illegal actions. But bots can also be a force for good and help within many different areas of businesses, saving both time and money.
We’ve spent the last few months experimenting with using bots for recurring meetings, and this post will detail what’s been going on. But first…
What Is A Bot?
A bot in and of itself is neither good nor bad, and is certainly nothing to be concerned about. They are simply software programs created to automate tasks, most often repetitive ones. As they have become more advanced, they are able to behave in a more human-like way. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how they are used.
What Are Bots Used For?
Bots are often used to “scrape” data online (a good example is Google’s crawler bot), which helps with indexing sites on a search engine. They can also be set up to gather and return information in a chat-style setup, which you see used for customer support on many retail websites such as Amazon.
Of course, the automated nature and flexibility of these programs means they are also used by cybercriminals. They can steal information, crash servers, impersonate people and skew trends on social media, amongst many possibilities. Thankfully, governments and the biggest tech companies in the world have entire teams and departments devoted to spotting and neutralising these issues.
How We Use Our Bot
As we said earlier, they can be used to automate repetitive tasks and behave in a human-like way. Which started us thinking:
In our daily meeting each morning (which should last 15 minutes at most), we spend most of our time gathering information. What would it be like if we used a bot to automate the gathering?
So we ran a test with our team for a few weeks.
Our morning meetings ask our team members 3 questions as standard.
- What work did you do yesterday?
- What work are you going to do today?
- Do you have any blockers or problems which will hold you up?
Even with a well-led meeting, each person talking in turn can eat up the entire allotted time or overrun, especially now that our team has grown. We assumed that by gathering this recurring information with a bot and automatically disseminating it to our team beforehand, we would free up more time to address any problems or blockers we were experiencing.
We set up a bot called DailyBot in Microsoft Teams to gather the information each morning, with each member of the team being sent the questions at 9am. They have 30 minutes before the meeting to input their replies, and the results are published into the Teams channel as soon as it is complete. At 9.30, a collated report is also sent to everybody as a quickly digestible summary.
The trial was a success, and the feedback from our team was overwhelmingly positive. The meetings often became shorter, and more time was spent on finding solutions and helping each other. We have now permanently integrated the bot into our working methods and find it to be incredibly useful.
In our opinion, the positives of using bots for recurring meetings are numerous, and the downsides are few. We should mention that many are free (though limited) and ample for trialling, which was what we did. Once we saw the benefits, we decided to pay for more extensive features, including customising the questions asked by the bot.
This can be harnessed by businesses in any industry, from IT to education or healthcare. Try it for yourselves and send us a message to let us know how you get on!