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5 roadblocks that can leave your conversational AI project in limbo

July 8, 2020

Without proper planning and foresight any large-scale project can quickly derail. Here are five of the most common pitfalls to avoid to ensure your virtual agent launches on-time and on-scope.

As the number of conversational AI success stories continue to rise, it makes it difficult to not be enticed by the business case for launching an AI-powered virtual agent. Thanks to advancements in natural language technologies and self-learning AI, conversational AI has reached a level of sophistication that enables everything from SMEs to the largest enterprises to interact with their employees and customers with a level of efficiency and dynamism that has simply not been possible in the past. Any inquiry can be responded to quickly and efficiently 24/7 and even complex tasks can be fully-automated - all with a minimal transactional cost.

A conversational AI project can, however, still present a significant investment for any organization looking to begin streamlining its digital customer support and service strategies by automating interactions with AI. Despite numerous vendors attempting to convince you otherwise, launching a virtual agent that is a bespoke build for your business is far from a plug-and-play experience. To make room for conversational AI, you need to be willing to transform the way your organization works and be aware that when you are introducing a technology that will likely become an integral part of daily operations, things can quickly become complicated without appropriate planning and foresight.

In this article, we outline the five most common mistakes that project managers (official and unofficial) are susceptible to when either launching their first virtual agent or upgrading an existing conversational AI system.

1) Insufficient planning

When starting out with a conversational AI solution, no one plans to fail. What many companies often do, however, is fail to plan. Establishing a detailed roadmap for where you want to see your virtual agent in 12, 18 or 24 months might not be the most glamorous part of embarking on the conversational AI journey, but it is by far the most crucial in reducing overall risk and failure rates.

2) Scope creep

Sudden, unplanned changes in features and functionality are common obstacles that plague project management. It’s understandable that as you delve deeper into what conversational AI can do, the temptation to expand your virtual agent to do more than what was initially planned becomes greater. However, it’s important to keep in mind that if the project keeps growing, you are more likely to exceed your budget and blow past deadlines. Keeping your eye on the prize, and scope under tight control, is critical for efficient delivery - there will always be time later to add in additional features to your new virtual agent.

3) Not anticipating hiccups

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Wise words from the legendary boxer, Mike Tyson, that apply just as much to project management as they do to professional boxing. Even the most carefully planned project can run into trouble - team members fall ill or leave entirely, resources that you were depending on turn out to be unavailable or conflicts arise that bring productivity to a screeching halt. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, but it helps to acknowledge that they can happen, and to try and have a contingency plan in place in case they do.

4) Undefined or misaligned expectations

Your project will never succeed if you don’t clearly define the criteria you expect to make it a success. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised how often this is ignored. Remember, the c-suite my define success as something totally different than your front-line support team, so it’s important to make sure your Critical Success Factors are easily measurable. For a conversational AI project, some useful examples include a 20% reduction in calls to the call center, usage of 10,000 monthly conversations, etc.

5) Not thinking about the ‘ever after’

Successful or not, a conversational AI project (or any project, for that matter) does not exist in a vacuum. You need to be thinking ahead to after the project is completed - how will the solution be operated, built upon and continue to grow? Taking the time to consider these important factors ahead of time means that you are ready to tackle them head-on when they occur.