AI and Automation: Reshaping Your IT Service Operations

Thursday 07 February, 2019

What is AI anyway?

Technology is changing, and the user experience is changing with it. Terms like ‘digital’, ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘automation’ are thrown around at will these days, but what do they really mean?

For me, the new digital age signifies the interconnectedness of not only devices and seemingly unremarkable objects, such as lightbulbs, washing machines and wearables; but also, the integration of various systems, tools and technologies to ultimately support the end goal of improving the user or customer experience.

The one theme that ties ‘digital’ technologies together is ultimately data. AI, automation and cognitive learning are simply ways of processing, mining and displaying data to achieve a desired outcome, whether that be a product recommendation on Amazon, or a General Electric industrial machine that can schedule its own maintenance activities via the Internet of Things.


So, what does this have to do with IT Service Management?

AI isn’t an entirely new concept when it comes to IT Service Management. For years now, companies have been experimenting with chat bots that can replace the human workforce to act as a level 0/1 triage for incidents, faults and service requests. IPsoft are one such company doing this with their ‘Amelia’ offering, a virtual service desk agent based on web chat technology that can, when correctly configured, log all of a company’s service requests without any human intervention.

What’s the business benefit? Well, bot technologies such as Amelia shift the resolution towards the user, driving call volumes and traffic away from the service desk where a human touch is required. This has a financial benefit, as the number of service desk contacts are reduced, which should in theory, also have a positive impact on the user experience as issues, requests and orders are dealt with in a timelier manner. Assuming of course, that such technologies work as they should, and the bots don’t forward every incident and request to a human anyway.

But the service desk is just the beginning. AI and cognitive learning has the potential to completely automate most, if not all, of tradition ITSM processes, removing the need for human intervention entirely. So, what’s next?


Disrupting Tradition


I recently attended a DevOps simulation day, hearing how traditional ITSM processes can interact with development teams to more effectively and efficiently resolve incidents, deploy releases and most importantly, respond to business demand.

During the session, one group decided to display incoming incidents on a Kanban board, in order of desired business prioritisation. This simple visual cue allowed the service desk group to quickly absorb and act on information that was displayed in a pragmatic yet visually pleasing way. I couldn’t help but think at the time, that there is an argument for developing such an incident management platform that challenges traditional ITSM tools and integrates with those tools used by developers and agile teams.

With regards to Incident Management, I think we will eventually get to a point where incidents are automatically categorised, triaged and allocated based on the data within the ticket and the number of similar incidents occurring at the same time, eventually removing the need for a human service desk. Alerting and monitoring tools will be so integrated and effective that they should spot and contain incidents before they get worse.

Imagine a world where SLA’s are based on the number of incidents prevented, rather than incidents resolved? Where service credits are awarded, and not paid, for maintaining service continuity. The same can be said for other traditional processes too, there is no reason why Change Management, SRM and Capacity Management cannot be automated either partially or in their entirety.


Summary

In summary, technology and operating models are changing, and traditional ITSM processes must adapt and embrace these changes for what they are; improvements in the end user experience.

These changes won’t occur overnight, but organisations are already starting to experiment, implement and integrate new technologies into their service organisations.

It is only a matter of time before these innovations become the norm, and traditional service management process such as Incident, Problem, Change, SRM and Capacity Management are fully automated.



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