With nearly half of respondents of PWC's 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey having already purchased or planning to purchase an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled device like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, Martin Linstrom thinks it’s clear that there is a growing acceptance and even approval of human-bot interaction.
The acceptance of AI enabled devices is a trend which is only set to continue, with more and more companies adopting a hybrid workforce model, made up of human workers assisted by digital colleagues who can perform some of the everyday, rote tasks that humans don’t want to do.
The IT service desk is one area posed for great transformation by digital colleagues, promising a future with no more tickets. IT teams play a crucial role in maintaining an organisation’s security and finding new ways to innovate processes and operations by leveraging new technologies. AI and automation present an immense opportunity to eliminate these teams’ mundane, repetitive tasks and reduce the number of handoffs between customer service agents by giving employees access to self-service portals, through which they can resolve their own IT issues.
In fact, according to Forrester’s 2019 predictions, over the coming year more than 40% of firms will create digital workers powered by AI and robotic process automation (RPA). What’s more, analysts predict that automation will eliminate 20% of all service desk interactions through the integration of cognitive systems, chatbot technologies and RPA.
Many enterprises are already looking at investing in AI technologies to provide better internal IT support for their staff. Large businesses are looking to automated ticketing systems, such as Jira, to provide a quick and easy service for basic admin tasks, like password resets and WiFi access codes. Basic chatbots can answer many of these simple support queries and have proven effective in speeding up IT ticket resolution. However, their inability to solve more complex tasks, address multiple problems at the same time, or help those that don’t known the correct terminology means that human IT service consultants must still remain on-hand for handoffs, via the phone or a messaging app, adding further delays and complications to the resolution process.
Indeed, implementing automation or basic chatbots tactically can in the short-term reduce long user wait times, as well as release some of the burden from overworked IT staff. However, these solutions do not have the ability to effectively transform a company’s internal operations nor can they always respond to every request.
The problem is that most employees outside of the IT team have no clue how IT service desk management works, in particular they don’t speak the language of backend operating systems. Rather, end users speak in unstructured natural language, while backend systems can only process structured data and inputs, limiting the ability of non-IT savvy staff to solve a complex problem themselves.
So how can we bridge the gap between an end users’ IT issue and a speedy resolution, without a human middleman (IT support teams) and ticketing systems? By using natural language programming, unlike basic Q&A chatbots, autonomic systems can quickly take an end user’s natural language request and translate it into a structured form that the backend systems can understand and execute against automatically.
Every organisation needs an end-to-end automation backbone that unifies its existing IT systems, a sort of one-stop shop platform for all employees’ needs. Just like the central nervous system in the human body, which manages vital organs subconsciously, organisations need an autonomic system to take on complex business tasks with limited human oversight (everything from HR to IT to virtual infrastructure management). Enabling an end-to-end automation backbone could help businesses increase productivity while limiting overhead. These savings can then be reinvested elsewhere in the business.
Consider what companies could achieve if we eliminated that gap between front and back offices altogether. Through the layering of cognitive intelligence on top of an automated backend, which translates the user’s natural language requests into structured IT service management tasks, IT problems could be solved in an instant. The need for an intermediary queueing system, such as ticketing, is removed and replaced with an AI-powered system that is designed to automatically scale to volume of demand.
Rather than filing yet another IT support ticket, when experiencing technical issues, a frustrated employee would interact directly with a digital agent via their preferred means of communication: through text or voice. IT service desk management is moving from a convoluted multi-channel process to a more simplified two-channel process that involves no intermediaries unless truly necessary, so that IT tickets can be resolved more quickly or removed altogether. In effect, what we’re describing here is on-demand IT services, utilising the power of RPA and cognitive technology.
Enterprises should resolve to phase out ticketing support systems that are a time-waster and barrier to productivity. Think of intelligent automation as a self-improving technology: it doesn’t need to be replaced as it ages, and it doesn’t rely on a vendor to make constant upgrades in order to improve. What’s more, the same system can be implemented across multi-national organisations thanks to the instantaneous translation capabilities inherent in AI-powered digital colleagues. These characteristics are what separate intelligent automation from standard applications of AI, and indeed a strategy that encompasses uses of both can deliver powerful results.
When considering future investments, IT teams should pledge to serve their end users with the greatest efficiency by taking a simple phrase and making it a reality: no more tickets.
Martin Linstrom is managing director UK&I for IPsoft