In part 1 “Shift left: empowerment as-a-service”, we looked at the ability of shift left to bring IT services closer to employees via lower touch, lower cost delivery channels. Deciding to implement shift left is only the first step. So, what’s the next step in creating an empowered IT service organization? Incorporating AI-based automation into a more data driven, business value focused service desk.
In a recent survey conducted by ITSM.tools only 26% of ITSM practitioners feel their efforts and value are sufficiently recognized by management and only 24% of respondents think existing ITSM best practice have kept up with the changing IT and business landscapes.
Helping every team member take ownership of the business’ growth objectives fosters an environment where everyone embraces the value of ITSM.
Automation has long held the promise of reducing IT staff’s reliance on repetitive “keeping the lights on” tasks and freeing the IT department up to work on higher-value initiatives. However, IT staff have lacked the resources, ability and trust required to automate complex IT processes.
Over the years, IT has discovered that a tremendous amount of effort can be required to design, build and maintain the code and scripts required for implementing and maintaining task and workflow automations, let alone determining that they properly align to business objectives/KPIs.
Adding to this challenge is the cultural impact of new work styles which impact the devices, applications and systems they want to utilize. Today, automations can become outdated within days, if not hours. Additionally, IT service desks tend to have high turnover rates that can cost IT precious time and resources in terms of keeping workflow automations and knowledge current.
All of this complexity often results in IT organizations discovering that traditional approaches to automation cause more harm than good – slowing them down versus speeding them up.
What is AI-based automation?
AI-based automation offers the benefits of traditional automation, minus the cost and efforts of manual maintenance and human error.
A key benefit of AI is that it adds cognitive capabilities (algorithms) on top of large sets of structured and unstructured data across multiple systems of record. When coupled with AI and machine learning, human-driven automation allows IT organizations to make faster, more accurate decisions on when, where, and how services are delivered.
In terms of shift left, the knowledge and insights gained from AI systems can be correlated and disseminated in real time to IT support staff, end users and systems. Being assisted by AI enables IT staff to move beyond lower level tasks (i.e, unlocking accounts & password resets) to those with greater business impact.
When it comes to self-service (level 0), AI is advancing to the stage in which autonomous, virtual agents can sustain increasingly interactive conversations and perform sentiment analysis to understand how a user is feeling (i.e., dissatisfied, frustrated, and happy) and make recommendations, execute processes, and/or open/route tickets accordingly. This eliminates the need to have IT personnel dedicated to mundane tasks.
How does AI-based automation accelerate shift left?
Today, employees don’t find IT services to be nearly as easy to access and use as consumer services. Convoluted SLAs and procedures, designed with IT in mind, mean long wait times and red tape for users. An inflexible model of ITSM will not accommodate the diversity of when, where and how employees want to work, particularly with the next generation of workers that grew up with smartphones, tablets, social media and instant access to information being the norm.
In fact, according to a PwC survey, millennials tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and turned off by information silos. The survey highlighted that 59% of millennials say that an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job and 41% said they prefer to communicate electronically at work than face to face or even over the telephone.
Just as voice-activated AI assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are increasingly being used to better understand and optimize consumer experiences based on buyer behavior, purchase decisions, and post-sales customer service interactions, AI-based automation offers similar benefits to IT. IT organizations can leverage such technologies to build stronger relationships with business stakeholders and gain insights into how to create more compelling service experiences.
AI-based automation accelerates shift left by enabling IT to identify and predict:
- Best channels, times, and practices for delivering and servicing workplace technologies
- Manual and repetitive processes that can be handled via lower touch, lower cost delivery channels
- What services are generating the most inquiries and how they can be proactively remediated
In a future blog I’ll discuss the media hype around AI eliminating the need for humans in IT. However, for now I’ll simply say that it is not practical or beneficial to try and automate IT pros out of the customer experience, nor can all IT tasks be fully automated.
The purpose of shifting left with AI based automation is to better utilize and align IT resources, organizational data, and service delivery channels. This increases the value of ITSM for both those that consume and deliver business services.