Interacting with computers and robots using normal, everyday language has been a mainstay of sci-fi moves since the 1950s. However it’s only been in the last five years or so that it has become an everyday reality, thanks to innovations such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the widespread rollout of web-based instant messaging ‘chat’ platforms.
These platforms connect people to chatbots – computer programs that can mimic human conversations using artificial intelligence – to handle a range of interactions between people and software, from following simple instructions to maintaining a quasi-conversation. Chatbots have been widely deployed in consumer-facing business sectors such as retail, insurance and financial services, providing additional support to call centre staff to reduce enquiry resolution times and deliver cost savings. Indeed, recent research from analyst Juniper estimates that in some business sectors, chatbots can deliver average time savings of around 4 minutes per enquiry.
The potential of chatbots
In addition to this successful implementation, I believe that there’s also tremendous potential using chatbots in enterprise applications. Enterprises could utilize chatbots to accelerate and automate information-sharing across areas of the business in which data has traditionally been siloed and hard to get access to – such as between IT and security teams, and business application owners.
For example, getting an answer to the simple question “Is network traffic currently allowed from this specific server to another specific server?” can be complicated. If the enterprise does not have a Network Security Policy Management (NSPM) solution that can automatically discover and map network flows, getting a definitive response would be a laborious process, involving several different stakeholders and using multiple firewall and device management consoles.
Furthermore even if the organization uses a NSPM solution, a user might not get an immediate answer. They would have to either access the NSPM system and know how to use it, or request the information from a member of the IT or security team – which may take time and interrupt more pressing tasks.
Making network security accessible
So, imagine if it was possible to have access to expert security knowledge about the enterprise network – such as the status of a business application’s connectivity, which firewalls protect that application, or whether traffic is being allowed to certain servers – without needing to have expertise in using security management tools, or distracting busy networking or security staff?
A chatbot can make this a reality across the organization, enabling users outside the network and security teams – such as application owners, developers or other roles who may not have access to, or permissions, to use an NSPM system – to obtain the answers they need about network and application flows. This will help break down siloes of information, and democratizes access to critical network and security data to non-specialist users, in non-technical language (based on access rights of course).
Accelerating the business
By making important network and security information accessible to a wide range of internal stakeholders, chatbots enable faster decision-making and speed up processes. This in turn will accelerate business productivity, by helping to ensure that security processes don’t unnecessarily delay new initiatives and innovations.