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Prepare now for an AI-assisted ITSM strategy

What does it mean to have an AI-assisted ITSM strategy? Pink Elephant's Jennifer Wels outlines seven areas where AI can be applied to ITSM.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is again in the spotlight -- but don't think "Big Brother" or "world ruled by robots!"...

AI, if designed correctly -- with your internal and external customers in mind -- will make our lives easier in both the working world and the home world.

Many pundits have weighed in on how certain industries will benefit most from AI in the near future, notably healthcare, transportation and finance. But I believe no industry or service provider can afford to ignore AI's potential impact on business as usual.

That includes the IT service management (ITSM) sector. Working with many ITSM-focused organizations, I don't see a lot of focus on AI, which I believe will prove to be a serious miss for them. One of the challenges is knowing where to start.

AI researchers, including AI pioneer Erik Sandewall, Swedish professor in the chair of computer science at Linköping University, have described an array of AI capabilities that include: reasoning and problem-solving, knowledge representation, planning, learning, language processing, perception, motion and manipulation.

Here's the rub for IT groups: Many are struggling to show that ITSM -- even without AI -- can provide value to the business.

Researchers have emphasized that to get the most out of these AI capabilities, they must be relevant and applicable to a given situation. But here's the rub for IT groups: Many are struggling to show that ITSM -- even without AI -- can provide value to the business. So, developing an AI-assisted ITSM strategy that is relevant and applicable to the business will not be easy and it will take time.

Looking at the seven capabilities of AI listed above, let's explore how ITSM shops can utilize them.

Seven AI traits applied to ITSM

AI-assisted diagnostics
Reasoning and problem-solving refers to the application of algorithms that problem-solve within uncertain situations. While many issues that come up in ITSM are cut-and-dried, others are problems we've not seen before. Adding AI to our human attempts to make IT judgments based on our own experience can help us resolve incidents faster. AI can assist us in deducing the problem, bring us closer to the potential root causes of problems, highlight potential change impacts and anticipate availability and capacity issues -- all before any negative impacts are felt by our customers. Imagine self-service diagnostics on the self-service portion of your service catalog. Better yet, run those diagnostics on a regular basis and do away with incidents all together . Then imagine a shop with an ITSM strategy where the focus is on service requests and increasing customer satisfaction.

AI-assisted CSI
Knowledge representation deals in large part with "teaching" computers common sense -- a large undertaking! Although not fully baked at this time, this is a major focus area for many researchers of AI. This common-sense knowledge will not only assist with reasoning and problem-solving -- moving beyond specified deductions -- it will also assist ITSM organizations in application of continual service improvement (CSI), thus enabling the correct prioritization of improvements throughout the lifecycle. This means it impacts every ITSM process.

AI-assisted "what-if" analysis
Planning involves setting goals and developing the roadmap to achieve them, and the actual achievement of these goals. Many ITSM organizations have a lot of process goals, but the roadmap and achievement areas lag far behind in some cases. This is about understanding what we want the future to look like. Planning will allow us to use AI to help us with "what if" scenarios and suggest paths to success as well as the potential risks of choosing one path over another. With this information, ITSM processes will be able to select options that demonstrate the greatest value to our customers and assist us in building that elusive business case.

AI-assisted agility
Learning refers to the ability of AI to provide us with information regarding changing business patterns and requirements. Different responses, questions and issues are stored and "learned from," allowing updated and more accurate planning options for our visualized future. This ability will strengthen all of ITSM and effectively allow us to focus much more on strategy and design rather than the current operation and transition tedium.

AI-assisted communication
Language processing refers to the ability to not only read and understand language, but also the abilities to translate and retrieve information as well as mine it, extending to the ability to answer natural language questions. And with better translation software, global single point of contact (SPOC) service desks might finally become a reality. Combine language processing with the ability to handle perceptions and learn, and you have both a global SPOC and proactive communications with our customers that are based on their actual usage patterns and needs. Passive survey-taking must be replaced with real-time questions using an interface that enables not only IT assistance with what is occurring today, but suggestions and recommendations about the future needs of our customers.

AI-assisted voice and image ITSM
Perception is about the new visual and voice interfaces that AI can provide. Human interfaces with computers are going to be a huge future state within ITSM. Customers filling out tickets? I don't think so. Customers getting advanced information and being able to talk to an AI interface about issues is where we are going. Security is already very focused on biometrics and the ability to recognize facial patterns and fingerprints. Bring this into the actual first-time interface with IT services and you have a customer profile that is intelligent and responsive in all the right ways.

AI-assisted ITSM robotics
OK, so maybe the motion and manipulation aspect of AI might not play a big role in your ITSM strategy -- although having a coffee delivered to me is never a bad idea! Deskside support will most likely not be a big area of focus in the future with most customers being able to use self-service support if required. However, predictive robotics can greatly assist with understanding human emotion and enable better decision provision when coupled with AI's machine learning capabilities.

Call to action

So, is AI going to totally disrupt ITSM? In the end, some things will stay the same. With or without AI, we need to focus on our customer needs and provide the services that enable them to be excellent at their role and tasks. The more proactive we can be as business partners, the more value we will have. The challenge will be to get our customers to the table to discuss these needs. To do that, we have to eliminate the daily outages and frustrations with technology that are prevalent today. AI can help with that -- today!

This was last published in January 2018

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How do you envision AI will change IT service management?
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Our customers are leveraging AI today, and using what I believe is a combination of different areas you have listed above, have achieved call deflection rates of up to 45%. That means 45% of tickets are automatically handled and closed. 

That is a huge reduction in tickets that frees up the help desk to work on more strategic projects, but also provides employees with immediate response to their question -- and even in some cases, automated resolution to their problem. This has changed our customer's employee's perception of IT in a very positive way.
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Hello Jennifer -- a timely topic of discussion! 

I agree that AI could have a tremendous impact on the ITSM focused solutions in the market, as we strive to focus on customers needs and provide the services that enable them to be excellent at their roles and tasks. The more proactive we can be as business partners, the more value we will provide.  

My experience has found the various ITSM focused solutions ARE making headway into the AI realm of assisted "what-if" analysis, AI-assisted communication, AI-assisted image areas.  These solutions might even be "PinkVerifed."  ;-) 

I have three ITSM AI automated examples:

In particular, utilizing Chat-Bots as the first point of contact and leveraging knowledge management to provide suggested solutions based on word choices & common solutions. All while opening an interaction and closing when successful based on end-user satisfaction. 

The second example, using Big data analytics to review prior Change Managment events to help predict if future Changes will be successful based on a series of simple algorithms of previous successful & unsuccessful changes. 

The third example, sharing a Microsoft "Blue Screen" JPG or GIF during a Chat-Bot discussion and have OCR read the error message, review against KM and provide a suggested solution, based on prior events.  

These are just three straightforward examples; I bet the ITSM focused vendors would be glad to share more in-depth examples.

Keep up the great work! 

Thanks,
-Mark
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