Sage bot heralds new text interface
“It’s the biggest story at Sage Summit,” said Beerup Sheth of Pegg, the new accounting bot that lets you send commands and expense reports by text to Sage Live.
As the CEO of Gupshup, the bot platform on which Pegg is based, he would say that. But to give him some credence, the Pegg demo was the “one last thing” delegates saw at Sage CEO Stephen Kelly’s keynote speech on Tuesday.
Another factor driving Sage’s sudden enthusiasm for bots is market data indicating that messaging platform traffic has overtaken social media for the first time.
To hear Sheth tell it, Pegg is a harbinger of the next wave of human-computer interaction. In the 1980s we saw the PC desktop revolution with windows and mice, followed by the web era in the 1990s and now the smartphone app. In the next shift, bots are poised to take over as the interface of choice for the WhatsApp, Slash and Facebook Messenger generations.
Sage’s implementation, available at hellopegg.io, allows users to issue instructions to Sage Live from common messenger systems.
“A bot is just another interface,” said Sage head of mobile Kriti Sharma, who demonstrated Pegg at the Sage Summit keynote. Bots do away with the need to open and log into applications.
“I’m doing it through the conversation,” said Sharma. “I talk to the app and use the messenger platform to text the accounts in Sage.”
In front of around 10,000 delegates, she took a photo of a receipt and sent it via Facebook Messenger. After a short wait, she got a text back reading, “Got it.”
“Pegg takes the info and does all the boring/exciting accounting back end stuff. And then you can ask all these regular questions: How much money have I made? Does anyone owe me money? It’s really about bringing the information about your business to where you are, which is on your smartphone.”
Expense claims and financial management reports are not the sort of thing you would expect to thrive in the free-for-all messaging world. How, for example, does the bot ensure that only allowable expenses are claimed and that they are categorised correctly?
Sharma’s response is that the bot is just another input tool, and that the underlying rules, processes and workflows are all configured within the accounting system. For a freelancer who effectively authorises their own expenses, the bot might be set up to suggest allowable expense categories. The way it does so is part of the bot’s personality, which has been the focus of a lot of her work in recent months.
“The bot personalises the conversation and is customised the way you want to use it,” she said. It “It comes back with a very well defined pre-calculated response - even if you swear at it. We’re a financial services company, so we’ve got to follow some protocol. But we also have to create an engaging experience.”
You might also be interested in
AccountingWEB’s interim Editor in Chief has been with the site since 1999 and returned to the editorial hot seat in March 2020 to lead the hunt for a long-term successor... Send a DM if you're interested! When not tending to the needs of AccountingWEB members and geeking out on their technology habits, he devotes much of his time to his oddball...