Items filtered by date: January 2017
Wednesday, 18 January 2017 15:30

Augmenting the Workforce with Chatbots

I’m an accidental HR professional. I started my government career as a paralegal and then moved into business management and project management. However, I have been an IT developer ever since I received a Commodore 64 for my fourteenth birthday. I have worked in two dotcoms and present at developer conferences on my latest prototypes in open source applications. I tell you this because I have come into HR through a non-traditional career path.

However, I believe the HR IT world is the most exciting and impactful place for technology developers. This is why I have stayed in HR (specializing in training and development) and even gained a certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and the Human Resources Information Professionals. I am a great believer in the potential for technology to revolutionize HR, to increase employee engagement, and to unleash even more potential from the workforce. I am especially optimistic about the increasing use of chatbots in HR.

For those who are new to chatbots, these are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to answer questions in everyday language. You may have heard of Siri or Cortana. You probably used a chatbot when you phoned a company and was asked a series of questions or you interacted with a chatbot when you texted a restaurant for a reservation. Thanks to cloud computing, incredible advances in machine learning, and the ability for computers to better understand spoken speech, new chatbots are being launched every day.

It is even easier to build chatbots. Recently, I played with two online services that allow you to build chatbots with almost no programming knowledge. The first service is [] where you can visually build chatbots through linking together modules that you can configure by dragging and dropping onto a canvas. has a free account and tutorials if you want to experiment with building bots. Pandorabots has a similar service in that it offers a free sandbox and extensive tutorials for building free chatbots. Once you start experimenting with chatbots, I believe you will find many uses for chatbots in HR.

For example, think of how you can enhance the onboarding experience through a chatbot. Once you have selected an applicant, but before he or she is onboard, you can send the welcome package along with a link to the chatbot. The chatbot can send reminders and tips to the applicant while answering any questions about material in the welcome package. Once the applicant has officially come on board and been through orientation, the chatbot will be available for follow-up questions. The chatbot can also send helpful workplace tips and HR reminders. The chatbot will collect statistics on the questions asked by the new employee and will do pulse surveys to measure employee engagement. All of these measures can be displayed in a dashboard to the manager so that he or she can provide additional support when needed.
Start building a chatbot today to determine how a chatbot can improve your HR processes.

Blog author: Bill Brantley
Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the University of Louisville. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of his employers. You can reach him at

Published in General
Thursday, 05 January 2017 15:53

Communication Tips for HRIT Projects

It is a well-known observation in project management that 90% of the project manager’s work is communication. As projects have grown in complexity and value, organizations can no longer tolerate having only 30% of projects be fully successful (as reported in the Standish Group’s 2015 CHAOS report []).

In the past three years, I have examined the concept of project management communication in both business management research and communication research. There are many definitions for project management communication but, these definitions can be placed into one of two general models. The first model is the “transmission model” which you may know as the “sender-message-receiver” model. I create a message and then transmit this message through a channel (written, verbal, email, etc.) to you. Depending on the amount of noise in the channel, the message may not be completely transmitted to you. The major assumption in the transmission model is that if you receive the full message, you will fully comprehend the message.

In contrast, the second model of project management communication argues that understanding emerges because of the relationships and interactions between the project team and stakeholders. This is the emergent model of project management communication. The emergent model incorporates the transmission model but adds the dimension of “understanding” to the sending and receiving of information. Under the emergent model, project managers test that his or her message was understood and not only received.

Understanding is especially important in HRIT projects because of the diversity of stakeholders and customers of the project results. HRIT projects have their set of concepts and jargon that can impede understanding between the project team and stakeholders. In my experience, there can often be the illusion of understanding at the beginning of the project but, this illusion is quickly discovered midway through the project. At that point, correcting the miscommunication can be expensive.

So, how do HRIT project managers and project team ensure understanding among stakeholders? In my work, I have used human-centered design (HCD) techniques to create and reinforce understanding. Although some HCD techniques can take days or even weeks, there are several quick methods that can be instantly used to create and test understanding. My first technique, “Rose, Bud, Thorn,” only requires a stack of sticky notes and a few pens. During a meeting with stakeholders and the project team, I will ask the group to write down (one thought per a sticky note) the current benefits of the project – the “Rose.” Then, the projected benefits of the project result – the “Bud.” Finally, the participants will write down the current and future challenges to achieving project success – “Thorns.” I have the participants post their roses to three separate areas on the walls and then the group examines the sticky notes for common themes and concerns.
Creating and testing for understanding in project management communication can only take a few minutes but will aid greatly in ensuring that the project manager is communicating effectively for project management success.

Blog author: Bill Brantley
Bill Brantley teaches at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the University of Louisville. He also works as a Federal employee for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of his employers. You can reach him at

Published in General