By: Gibu Mathew, Vice President of Product Management at ManageEngine
Machine Learning is transforming the world of work, not only in such areas as manufacturing and logistics but also in the office. It has been possible for some time to automate various routine, repetitive tasks, but the future lies in the application of ArtificiaI Intelligence (AI) technologies that learn and iterate from past data and experience, and continuously maximise accuracy in response to a wide variety of queries.
Singapore recognises that AI will shape the future of what has always been termed white-collar work. Last year the country’s National Research Foundation launched AI.SG, a national programme in Artificial Intelligence designed to catalyse, synergise and boost Singapore’s AI capabilities to power the digital economy of the future.
The programme aims to accelerate the development and adoption of AI and machine learning solutions, starting with such areas as finance, healthcare and city management. Research shows that such initiatives have positioned Singapore strongly to integrate innovation and technologies into the wider economy ahead of other larger economies, complementing its vision to be a smart nation.
Global consultancy company Accenture has reported that by 2035, AI is projected to help double the country’s economic growth rates and increase productivity by 41 per cent, adding up to US$215 billion (S$180 billion) in gross value-add.
The AI revolution must take many small steps before its promise is fully realised. One ubiquitous, labour-intensive office task that is ripe for transformation through machine learning is the IT service desk.
Currently, service desk tools’ automation is static, has very little built-in intelligence, and requires periodic human intervention to recalibrate over time. However, this will change as machine learning applications enable smart automation.
Empowered with fluid smart automation, IT service desk tools will be able to categorise incoming requests, assign them to the appropriate technicians, and suggest solutions without the need for any human support. They will accomplish this by learning from the historical IT service desk data.
Also AI technologies, particularly machine learning, can look out for timeline patterns and ticket parameters to predict potential anomalies and failures such as tickets that might violate SLAs.
Machine learning will replace legacy automation systems
Today, it is IT administrators who set up and maintain the automated processes in IT service desks. For example, categorisation of incoming requests is currently automated through rules that carry out this task, based on set parameters. In very dynamic IT environments these automation rules might not hold good all of the time, since they lack the intelligence to adapt and improve.
But with the application of machine learning, a categorisation algorithm can be trained based on requests from a particular period or ‘n’ number of historic requests. This trained algorithm will be able to perform categorisation more effectively than human-defined rules, and it will continuously learn and fine tune over time.
This could save hundreds of man hours that are either spent on manual categorisation of requests, or in creating, maintaining and updating the automation rules.
Similar machine learning-based algorithms can be created to replace various automation rules like prioritisation of tickets and assignment to the right technician. The application can also be extended to other tasks like flagging requests that could potentially violate SLAs, thus proactively avoiding any escalations.
Chatbots will improve IT team productivity and enhance end-user experience
Help desks are usually flooded with Level 1 incidents like password resets and printer configuration requests that end users can resolve by themselves with the help of proper knowledge base articles. However, IT administrators often deploy technicians to handle these incidents, which can bring down the productivity level of the whole team.
AI-based chatbots and virtual assistants can help IT administrators overcome the challenge of resolving the incident flood without taking a major hit to productivity.
Chatbots have already become intelligent enough to understand conversational instructions from end users, thanks to natural language processing. This intelligence can be applied to the benefit of IT administrators. Chatbots can become the end users’ first touch point with the IT service desk team, allowing the users to report their issues. And with the application of machine learning, chatbots can be trained to suggest the top solutions that have worked previously for a given issue.
For example, a chatbot can be trained to help users with printer issues. So when a user pings the chatbot with a printer issue, the chatbot would respond with the knowledge base article – for example resetting the printer configuration on the workstation – that has worked most of the time for similar issues reported by users. If the end user is not satisfied with a solution or when the chatbot runs out of solutions to recommend, it would automatically tag a technician to help.
Chatbots give IT administrators a way to filter out tickets, thereby reducing the number of tickets flowing into their IT service desk system. And chat bots give end users a way to have their issues resolved almost immediately.
With such applications of AI on IT Service Management (ITSM) processes and IT service desks, IT administrators will be relieved of trivial ITSM chores that eat up a lot of their productive time. In turn, admins will be able to contribute more towards the digital transformation of business.
The smart-automated IT help desk is just one example of the changes AI is bringing to the office. Work will never be the same.