Will Zia Skills grow as strong as Dialogflow?

I got this question from a reader:

do you think that zia skills will growing so strong as dialogflow… what is the best option for the future in my case knowing that I also work with Zoho CRM and other app of Zoho?

My answer is: probably Zia Skills will never match Dialogflow.

But that isn’t the same as saying you shouldn’t use it.

I will first list a few things Zia Skills is lacking right now compared to Dialogflow ES.

(Remember, Dialogflow ES is not even the most current version of Dialogflow. Dialogflow CX is already much more powerful than Dialogflow ES, and over time has the potential to become the best chatbot framework.)

It is fair to say Zia Skills has a looong way to go if it wants to compete.

Zia Skills Vs Dialogflow: Feature comparison

Let us first do a simple head-to-head feature comparison.

(Warning: if you aren’t interested in the mechanics of how bot frameworks work, you will find the following sections somewhat theoretical and boring)

Fewer types of entities

For example, Dialogflow has “regular expression” based entities, which are extremely powerful. Also, Dialogflow seems to be doing a better job at extracting entities from your text phrase compared to Zia Skills, although I only did limited testing.

No way to specify explicit contexts

Explicit contexts are a fairly unique feature in Dialogflow ES.

Using explicit contexts helps you in three different ways when it comes to constructing complex conversations.

  • it minimizes the candidate intents (which improves intent mapping)
  • gives higher weight for intent with an active input context compares to identical intent with no input context (this helps you to stay in the conversation flow)
  • helps you keep track of your conversation state and can be used to chain intents into a specific logical flow

No primitives via API

Previously, I discussed how you can compare different bot frameworks based on the primitives exposed by their respective APIs.

Unfortunately, in the case of Zia Skills, they don’t even provide API access to Zia primitives. In other words, there is no programmatic way to construct a Zia Skill.

API access might not be necessary for a fairly closed ecosystem such as Zoho, but it can also slow down your bot development.

No built in Knowledge Base feature

Dialogflow ES has a knowledge base feature which I personally do not recommend. But I do know that many people use it for its ease of use even if it means losing out on some flexibility.

Zia Skills doesn’t have an equivalent feature.

There are also other features in Dialogflow ES which aren’t found in Zia Skills, but these are the important ones in my view.

Should you use Zia Skills?

But you might find that Zia Skills is “good enough”.

For example, if you have a fairly well defined set of training phrases which you expect people will use then you probably don’t need something as powerful as Dialogflow.

If you aren’t trying to build complex conversational logic you may not need Dialogflow. A good example is the list of “click bots” in my Dialogflow Messenger Example bots course.

Also, if you don’t see much reason to use complex entities (such as regular expression entities), Zia Skills might be able to do the job.

My recommendation

Try building your bot using Zia Skills first.

If you find that it gets too complex, then migrating over to Dialogflow ES will not be very hard since ES features are mostly a superset of Zia Skills features. Note: It will be tedious to migrate since Zia Skills cannot be exported, but it will not be very hard.