You bet your bottom dollar we can! Keep reading to learn how our implementation team prepped and coached the client to get results in 48 hours.
We’re not strangers to tight deadlines or mission-impossible requests, but we had to hustle when we got this particular phone call the last week of March.
Moet Ik Naar De Dokter (MINDD) is a Dutch self-triage system that helps citizens figure out in less than a minute whether they should go to a doctor (general practitioner). Their digital communication team spent the last three months working on a proof of concept (POC) voicebot, but they kept hitting roadblocks that jeopardized their June deadline.
Before getting in touch with us, MINDD already prepped the project and decided to use Chatlayer as their bot-building platform. So going into this challenge, the objective, tech stack and deadline were crystal clear.
With such a tight deadline, planning was crucial. Here’s how we organized our team to ensure that MINDD left with a working POC at the end of the second day.
We organized a two-hour video call to align on everything prior to our in-person sprint. This is when we met the client, discussed their pain points and received the official briefing.
Since we had four parties involved, we also clarified the roles and responsibilities of each party as follows:
We then shared all the technical documentation via email so that we could read through it before the Sprint.
After quickly shaking hands in person, we sat down and got straight to work. We began with our “What does success look like?“ exercise, where we asked five crucial questions that ensure the entire project team is aligned and working towards the same goal.
MINDD shared their high-level conversational flows with the whole team, and then we split off into smaller groups to divide and conquer. Our implementation expert opened Chatlayer and explained to MINDD how to build the bot as they moved through the flows. In the meantime, our developer started working on the API setup to connect Chatlayer with MINDD’s backend.
Before taking a well-deserved lunch break, the Sprint Team called V Care (telephony partner) and Chatlayer (bot-building platform) to discuss the specifics of the phone line integration.
In the afternoon, we focused on building the scoped conversational flows. These are the designed user-bot interactions that follow an ideal script. As we made the flows in Chatlayer, we simultaneously trained the NLP model. We immediately added any obstacles or ideas we uncovered during the building process to a backlog to tackle on Day 2.
Working with AI means that the user-bot interactions are infinite. To accommodate this, we work with fallbacks to handle deviations from the scoped flows. These fallbacks are in-between responses that attempt to move the conversation forward before the bot replies with a not understood message. Fallbacks can take many forms, such as providing a menu with options related to a recognized keyword, a database search, an offload proposal, etc.
We then tackled all the obstacles and ideas we noted down on Day 1, which included all types of tasks, such as choosing a voice for the bot, using SSML to optimize the speed, creating a summary, etc.
We tested until we had a working demo! Because all key stakeholders were in the room, we could quickly identify blockers, resolve them and try again. We repeated this process until we could pass through the different flows multiple times while activating the fallbacks.
We close every sprint with a short retrospective and define the next steps. This allows us to learn from what we just experienced and ensure that the project doesn’t “die” once we close the door on the sprint.
We scheduled a 1-hour weekly status call for the next four weeks following the sprint. This allowed us to align with MINDD, ensure their testing was still running smoothly, and answer any questions they had about their implementation.
“Thinking about our planned 2-day POC hackathon, a lot of challenges came to mind. But, after preparing with Chatlayer and The Campfire team, all thoughts and doubts melted away. We went to Antwerp and had an incredibly productive 2-day hackathon. At the end of the first day, it was already possible to call our Digital Assistant! The second day was all about fine-tuning and establishing POC. The Campfire team is very agile; they think ahead and have extensive knowledge of the bot-building platform.”
- Geertina Hamstra, Voice Project Manager at Moet Ik Naar De Dokter
Because MINDD was already working on the voicebot before contacting us, they already had a clear scope, their technical framework documented and their key flows mapped. They also knew who needed to be part of the sprint team to get the POC off the ground.
Meeting before the in-person sprint allowed us to get to know each other, understand their pain points and frustrations, pinpoint their priorities and learn how the team worked. All this information was crucial in prepping the two days of intense collaboration.
We love the flexibility of remote working and embrace the technology that connects us, but when we want to get things done fast, there’s no substitute for in-person collaboration. Booking a large conference room allowed us to bring the entire sprint team around one table and force everyone to give their undivided attention to this POC. We could pause for five minutes to take a key decision, divide and conquer on different parts of the implementation, reconvene to gather feedback, walk across the room to ask a question… You get the picture. It was a hands-on, intense 48 hours, where everything else was on hold.
This might seem like a logical one, but it’s a crucial one. We got all the right people in the room to progress quickly.
The Dream Team, what we refer to as our core sprint team, included:
V Care was “on-call” during the sprint and joined video meetings when needed. By having all parties focus & allocate resources during these two days, we could immediately tackle any (technical) roadblocks.
According to Sophie, our Head of Implementation, you need four things to run a successful POC bot-building sprint.
This is the main reason most POCs fail. A clear scope for your POC ensures that your entire team knows what they’re working on, when the deadline is and what the end result should be. Your team’s purpose during a sprint is to validate a leap-of-faith hypothesis, learn fast and make informed long-term decisions. If you’ve ever taken an agile management course, then you know all about scope creep and how it can derail an entire project.
If you’re unfamiliar with scope creep, here’s an example of how it applies to Thanksgiving dinner. Scope creep is when your crazy Aunt Jackie comes into the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning and asks you to make a regular version AND a dairy-free version of mashed potatoes because Uncle Tommy has digestive issues. An hour later, she returns and informs you that Cousin Chloe just texted her that she’s now gluten-free, so you need to find an alternative side dish for her to replace the stuffing. At lunchtime, Aunt Jackie walks in and shares the wonderful news that her son Jackson changed his mind and is bringing his new girlfriend Rachel to dinner… so you need to squeeze in two extra place settings in the already overpacked dining room.
Sounds fun right? Not only is it annoying and inconsiderate, you went from having to make a traditional dairy and gluten-filled Thanksgiving feast for 12 to a Thanksgiving feast with dairy and gluten-free options for 14 in less than five hours. This drastic change in last-minute to-dos is what we call scope creep. It transforms a clear task into an impossible mission by adding extra requirements after you agree on the initial plan.
Gather, read and organize your information and documentation beforehand so you don’t waste valuable sprint time looking for things, asking so and so to mail something over, etc. Know which questions, conversations or processes you want to automate and have them listed or organized in one place. Understand how your tech stack is structured, which things connect where and what APIs you use.
It’s hard to find the right balance when building a sprint team. You need the correct profiles to get the work done, but you don’t want too many people, which will slow the process down. One person can serve multiple roles! The ideal sprint team is 3-6 people. Here’s what Sophie always recommends to her clients when assembling a team for a bot-building sprint:
Book a large space that can accommodate the entire sprint team. Arrange all the practical stuff ahead of time: refill your workshop box, foresee lots of coffee and water, and order lunch and snacks. Remove all the additional to-dos and choices, so your team can funnel all their brain power into the sprint.
Also, make sure to manage expectations about focus and dedication before the sprint kicks off. Encourage your team to set an out-of-office, close their Slack, Teams, mail, etc., and keep their phones on silent in their bag. By eliminating distractions from the outside world, you’ll be shocked by how much you can achieve in such a short time.
If you want to discuss chatbots in more detail, don't be afraid to message Alexis and arrange a chat. He might be tall and a bit intimidating, but he's actually a big teddy bear at heart 🐻
Alexis is available in: 🇫🇷, 🇺🇸, 🇬🇷