Unit4

Wanda is the world’s first true enterprise Digital Assistant. She was the brainchild of Thomas Staven, Unit4’s Global Pre-sales Head.

Customers can add her as a contact and access all their business applications through a conversational interface. Wanda is always there for you – pervasive, but not intrusive. She automates routine operations across the business and learns preferences to become even more useful over time.

Since her launch, Wanda has received a lot of attention from the press, Unit4 competitors and customers. While we all love Wanda, Thomas has built a special relationship with her, as he describes in this short interview…


Digital assistants like Wanda promise a completely new way of working with business applications.

When was Wanda conceived?

I’m still astounded by the potential this technology offers. It’s changed the way we look at business applications and how customers work with them.

I should say that, initially, Wanda wasn’t called that and wasn’t a woman – so her persona has developed over time.

 

The initial proposal for Wanda came in Sept/Oct 2015 when intelligent agents in procurement first caught my attention.

My first idea was for a kind of digital twin – a digital clone of the user in the system. Following discussions with the Unit4 People Platform team, we decided that it could be quite annoying and intrusive. At the same time, digital assistants like Siri/Cortana/Alexa were becoming more prevalent, so we agreed on the direction we wanted to take.

How far has Wanda come since then?

Everyone in the business could see the potential of this technology in customer scenarios and so we started developing Wanda in earnest.

First we developed a proof of concept and quickly knew she would go far. We were pretty early to start developing something like this by enterprise standards.

 

Wanda was a name we just started using.

Actually it was named after the first resource that was added to the Unit4 test database back in 1987. That user was called Wanda, so it seemed fitting.

She hasn’t aged a bit, of course, unlike me...!

 

Why do you believe in Wanda so much?

Organizations can create work environments, in which a highly diverse workforce can effectively and efficiently collaborate.

We want to support customers by releasing their people from non-added-value tasks that only remove their focus from work where they can really make a difference.

 

Wanda is designed to automate processes. People can talk to Wanda and chat with her through their favourite messaging apps.

Wanda can, for example, work with students and universities to radically change the customer experience students get when enrolling to university programs and courses.

Has Wanda ever let you down?

She has her moments.

There has been a number of demo opportunities where the internet connection has failed. Then there have been occasions where Wanda decides to take on a life of her own.

For example, at our UK user conference in Manchester, she refused to answer my carefully prepared questions. Someone, somewhere had changed the planned scenario, so of course I was asking the wrong questions. Wanda responded in unexpected ways or not at all – quite disconcerting when you’re on stage with an audience.

 

When I told her that she wasn’t being very helpful, she responded that she was merely a student, working in a mint factory.

Much hilarity ensued.

While it’s easy to create humorous scenarios for effect, we’ve had to reign Wanda in. She’s not as funny as she used to be – I guess you could say we’ve taught her some manners.

While we believe this is the future, so we’ll always forgive her, customers may be less understanding in a real situation.


Wanda is due for general release in early 2017. An early customer engagement program is underway, particularly focused on employing Wanda for self-service, management tasks and vertical-specific scenarios. Unit4 showcased Wanda for students, Higher Education’s first student information system Chatbot, at EDUCAUSE 2016.