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Streamline the Procurement Process With Custom Chatbot Development

Tony Scherba
January 8, 2019

To truly understand what a pain procurement can be, it can help to work in government for a while.

The difficulties associated with procurement are a necessary evil because the process is designed to stop corruption while ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately. Still, navigating the rules and red tape has become such an unruly obstacle that there are entire groups dedicated to answering questions solely about the procurement process. Fortunately, there's light at the end of the tunnel.

In a survey by the Hackett Group, 95 percent of respondents expect digital transformations to fundamentally change how organizations cope with procurement. Thirty percent expected that disruption to begin in 2018, and the number of organizations actively following a digital transformation strategy increased from 32 percent to 66 percent from 2017 to 2018.

It's an exciting time, and estimates show that AI could free up as much as 30 percent of the government's time in as little as five years. Of course, a smaller investment will yield smaller results, so a minimal investment might result in a 2 to 4 percent time savings. In spite of the fact that 63 percent of public sector respondents surveyed believe AI will impact their workforce by 2020, just 31 percent of government agencies are currently relying on the technology.

At Yeti, we aim to use our experience in chatbot development to change that.

One of the keys to chatbot development is having specific end goals. When we set out to create PAIGE (Procurement Answers and Information Guided Experience) for the City and County of San Francisco, our goals were to:

Provide clarity and consistency.

The procurement process has historically been painful and frustrating, and our first goal was to turn that experience around. With the right chatbot UX design, these technologies excel at providing step-by-step solutions, and they’re always accessible. They can be reached on virtually any device, and they’ll never forget that you’re on hold and then go take a lunch break. In short, chatbots are the perfect solution to help government employees deal with procurement.

Standardize guidance with a clear process.

When government workers fill out procurement forms incorrectly or fill out the wrong forms, the process becomes even more time-intensive. Busy staffers must then go through and correct mistakes or send out new forms. Chatbots provide guided walkthroughs that are easy to follow, and equally important is the fact that they provide the same walkthroughs to each individual, ensuring a high degree of consistency. Chatbots can also provide only the most up-to-date forms, eliminating the common issue of people using outdated procurement documents.

Reduce the volume of phone calls.

In an article for GovTech, Robert Henning of the Office of Contract Administration jokingly explained: “We get inundated with questions from city employees about procurement, and a lot of them are very repetitive. Every time someone ask me about RFPs, a small part of my soul dies.”

Our final goal for PAIGE was to significantly reduce the volume of phone calls and allow staff members to focus their attention on the most complex procurements. It’s important for chatbot development companies to aim for the 80/20 rule, which dictates that the technology should be able to answer 80 percent of queries received. Chatbots aren't there to answer everything, of course, but they should be able to answer the bulk of the questions and let your human experts take care of more challenging queries.

PAIGE is just the beginning of an exciting transformation in government based on the capabilities of AI and the growing field of chatbot development. With time, these tools will become staples in offices around the country, reducing waste and increasing efficiency. With chatbots providing support, governments will be able to tackle the big issues that require human involvement to address.

Yeti wants to partner with local governments to advance the human edge of technology with conversational interfaces. To learn more about building a chatbot, download our e-book.

Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

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