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Four key considerations on AI enabled IT service management

Artificial intelligence (AI) is disrupting how IT service management is performed. As AI becomes a more common ITSM offering, CIOs need clarity about what AI is and is not, as well as some of its many possibilities for the IT service desk industry.

AI and automation: Not synonymous

Whenever a new technology arrives on the scene, there’s bound to be some initial confusion. Case in point: Though AI and automation are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same and it’s essential to understand how they are different. With automation, you’re trying to offload technology tasks that are typically done manually and are repetitive and prone to error. Essentially, automation is about following a specific set of instructions, usually set by a person. The technology is bound by the instructions or rules, with it simply “following orders.”

In contrast, the purpose of AI is to imitate human behaviour in terms of language, forms, concepts and abstractions. AI requires a much higher level of complexity and “thinking” in terms of how to replicate a human’s behaviour. And experience-based machine learning technology learns new patterns and outcomes to improve, rather than relying on a person to give it new instructions.

Automation, then, takes over manual technology processes, whereas AI does some of that work but primarily focuses on emulating human thinking. AI and automation can work together such that the AI technology invokes automated actions.

CIOs should be on the lookout, then, for products and services billed as AI when they’re really only automation. An example is scripted chatbots with pre-programmed logic and flows – this is automation rather than true AI. This kind of automation can be helpful to a degree, but buyers need to be clear about what they’re getting so as to avoid confusion and disappointing results.

How IT Service Management is using AI

The purpose of adopting AI is to help with and improve tasks that humans do today based on continuous learning and reasoning. But it’s also about being able to go beyond human capabilities – at least in terms of how long a task takes.

Hollywood has done nothing to quell society’s fears about super-intelligent machines taking over the earth, but that’s far from current reality. AI is already being implemented into many service management tools. There are many opportunities for the use of AI in the world of service management and support, including the service desk experience and process and application automation.

Chatbots and/or digital agents are just one example of how AI can free people from the repetitive, time-consuming tasks of having to call or email the service desk multiple times to determine how to fix the IT issue they’re having.  And from the service desk perspective, identifying and determining details of end-user issues requires intent recognition” and classification. This can then be coupled with automation to resolve user issues in minutes.

AI can also take on tasks like the classification of tickets and dispatch to workgroups and to actual agents for faster resolution based on continuous learning of ticket data. AI can provide self-service resolution for end users whereby they’re given pertinent knowledge articles to resolve their issues. Other examples of how AI is already being built into ITSM tools include operational intelligence for analysts to determine the context of incidents and for providing past incident data and pertinent knowledge articles.

How CIOs can prepare for this transition

CIOs must grasp how AI and automation differ, as well as how they converge. This helps create insight into how these technologies will best serve your IT service desk needs and the wider organisation as a whole. Ensure that business needs are being put first and that your organisation is not just adopting technology for the “cool” factor or “because we can.” And don’t just look to replicate manual processes, but instead start to evaluate how AI can truly be transformative, applied to long-standing or industry-wide challenges.

The adoption of any new technology solution requires certain “checks.” Ensuring that your AI adoption does not descend into a disjointed or siloed approach, as so many technology investments have in the past, is one check. Making sure in advance that the right people and skills are available – from those who can get the most out of AI solutions to those who will use it on a daily basis – is another.

A new day for ITSM

AI, especially when coupled with automation, has the capability to transform the IT service desk. It has already been built into ITSM tools, and more AI-enabled capabilities are on their way. But beware that some automation solutions are being marketed as AI when that’s not actually the case.

With a clear understanding of the difference between automation and AI, and with a clear use case for how AI will benefit your organisation, your employees and customers are sure to benefit from this versatile technology.

Dr. Akhil Sahai, chief product officer, Symphony SummitAIImage source: Shutterstock/Tashatuvango

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