How Smart Bots will simplify your life as a business owner

Meet Pegg, the personal trainer for your business. Pegg will log your expenses and file your receipts for you, with no fuss at all. Pegg can tell you what you’ve spent or earned for the month and remind you instantly who owes you money.

The most remarkable thing about Pegg isn’t the financial skills and super-sharp memory, but the fact that it is a smart bot that lives on your smartphone or computer. The chat bot is the first in the accounting industry and allows you track expenses and manage finances through messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Slack.

“The arrival of bots like Pegg, machine learning and ever-more sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence is all about ways to make technology more approachable, fun and powerful for the entrepreneurs and business builders of today and tomorrow,” says Anton van Heerden, Executive VP, Africa & Middle East at Sage, speaking ahead of Africa’s first-ever BotCon, held in Johannesburg on November 18, 2016.

Pegg hides the complexities of accounting and lets entrepreneurs manage finances through conversation, making the process as simple as writing a text. By digitising information at the point of capture, it takes away the pain of filing receipts and expenses, eradicating the need for paper and data entry.

Says Van Heerden: “Smart bots, alongside the affordability of cloud-based business applications, is one of the trends that we can expect to dramatically change how business builders work in the future. These bots are not about replacing human beings like accountants or bookkeepers, but rather about making it easier for them to get the most from technology.”

In South Africa and across the rest of the continent, we can expect to see bots pop up in applications such as education, healthcare, customer support and personal financial management, adds Van Heerden. For example, a mathematics tutor bot could provide schoolchildren with after-hours help when they’re struggling with their homework.

A South African support network for pregnant women, MomConnect, uses Facebook’s Messenger bot to answer specific questions relating to maternal healthcare.

Says Kriti Sharma, Sage’s 27-year-old VP of Bots and Artificial Intelligence, and the mastermind behind Pegg: “Users can say ‘spent R50 on post-it notes at Game’ to enter expenses and can ask questions like ‘how much money did I make last year in October?’ or ‘who is my best customer?’. Some of the most dull, unexciting administrative functions can be the best use cases for bots.”

Van Heerden concludes: “There are more than 50 million active Facebook users in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is an exciting time for entrepreneurs and their accountants. Smart technologies are simplifying business applications and they make it possible for organisations to focus on the things that truly add value to the business.”

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