AI Chatbot at University of Memphis

Photo Credit: Ryan Daws / AI NEWS

The University of Memphis initiated a digital transformational program to evolve user experience considering the organizational principles and the cultural drivers. The primary goal was to strategically promote a creative learning environment within the University, emphasizing a gradual adoption and clear roadmap (Johnson, 2019). Robert Jackson (CIO) launched a quick-win project of implementing an AI Chatbot that would generate a general perspective within the University for evaluation and assessment purposes, avoiding solving a particular problem. The initiative was aligned with the strategy identified the technology key areas in educational development presented in the NMC Horizon Project’s collaborative effort and the EDUCAUSE (Becker et al., 2017). The initiative recognized the importance of adopting emerging technologies to promote digital transformation and the identified key trends that impact higher education.

Despite the project took a gradual implementation to explore the results and deliver a learning process through the adoption. The assembled team recognized the challenge due to the constant shift in the targeted users due to the domain’s nature that frequently involves new batches. The concern elevated due to the assumption of understanding customer behavior and use experience that was continually changing. Accordingly, new measures have been set to measure the project’s success by focusing on its implementation rather than the targeted population. The project deliverables emphasized the longtime achievements and the digital transformation rather than the short-term goals.

The project considered a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach for the lean startup to ensure flexibility, agility, and adaption to swift changes when required.  The process reduced the risks of failure, minimized the involved resources, and simultaneously offered a learning process through feedback and assessment (Eisenmann, Ries, & Dillard, 2012). The approach is cost-effective and efficient, particularly in the digital transformational strategy that involved the entire organization’s culture and adaption to new perspectives. A considerate concentration on the assumption of failure being an enabler to learn and move forward, quoting Eric Ries, “If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.” (GoodReads, n.d.). Ultimately, executing small batches allowed for quick revision to perceive the determined hypothesis and do the necessary amendments as learned.

Notably, the project team realized that the digital transformation initiated with the AI Chatbot exceeded technological factors that may impose challenges and threaten the initiative. Consequently, the team warned from an early celebration of the project success and should be keen to evaluate the initial success referred to as “Success Theater.” Johnson (2019) emphasized that digital transformation with cultural influence inevitably involve messy and failure at specific points within the project before recognizing the outcomes and the delivered results. Accordingly, the applied strategy focused on the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, allowing to gather and analyze the feedback to minimize the time of the project (Rogers, 2019). Eventually, the University of Memphis Chatbot was used to help students navigate through various processes regarding the registration, admission, and other services delivered on the university website as AskTom.


Becker, S. A., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall, C. G., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC horizon report: 2017 higher education edition (pp. 1-60). The New Media Consortium.

Eisenmann, T. R., Ries, E., & Dillard, S. (2012). Hypothesis-driven entrepreneurship: The lean startup. Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Case, (812-095).

Goodreads (n.d.) Eric Ries: Quotable Quote. Retrieved from

Johnson, B. (2019, April 22). Promoting the Process of Digital Transformation at the University of Memphis, EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from

Rogers, D. (2019, November 11). Build, Measure, Learn cycle, Medium. Retrieved from

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