Need Scalability? Intelligent Automation is the Answer

Imagine how much your company could accomplish if you had a veritable army of employees at your disposal. More importantly, what if these employees were perfectly happy waiting in the background for the next time you needed them? Believe it or not, that’s precisely what you’ll get with intelligent automation. Let’s take a look at the surprising way artificial intelligence can provide your business with the scalability you need to stay on top of your game.

Instant Access

With human workers, it’s not feasible to dramatically increase your workforce whenever the need arises, nor is it easy to decrease your numbers when things get slow. There’s a complicated process behind all of this and time is not on your side. With intelligent automation, however, you have a team of robots who are ready, willing and able to get the job done at any given moment.

Consistency

Bringing different employees up to speed via on-boarding and training can be challenging and time-consuming, especially in today’s fast-paced, digital age. Not to mention the fact that you have to initiate the entire process over again every time someone new joins the team. Robots, on the other hand, can be “trained” in groups of any size with the outcome being routine and perfect consistency across the board.

Cost Savings

Recruiting, hiring, training and retaining talented employees costs money. In addition to intelligent automation providing the ability to scale up or scale down instantly as well as train and deploy thousands of bots while maintaining complete consistency, all of this can be done at a reduced cost to the business.

Now, let’s take a look at a few real-world applications of these benefits.

Scenario 1

Your business is launching a new product and, as a result, will incur a substantial increase in transactions. Your current workforce is already maxed out and you don’t have the time or the ability to hire any additional employees. Intelligent automation can step in and bridge the gap, handling the influx of work at any capacity necessary without the major hassle and expense of staffing. Then, once things settle down, you can scale back down to normal as needed.

Scenario 2

Business has been particularly lucrative as of late and you’ve had to increase output significantly to meet the increased demands of your customers. Suddenly, the market takes a turn for the worse and your numbers start to rapidly decline. With intelligent automation in place, you won’t have to face the possibility of laying employees off. Rather, you could just scale back the number of robots.

Scenario 3

One of your biggest competitors has launched a new product or service and you’re scrambling to develop and implement something similar. Chances are you can’t afford to hire a slew of new employees to help bring your comparable product or service to market and doing so would take too long. Conversely, putting too much pressure on existing team members could result in costly mistakes and QA issues. AI, on the other hand, is available at the ready to take on whatever is necessary for you to remain competitive.

Without question, intelligent automation has the potential to bring your business to the next level. Are you ready? Give us a call today or download your free 30 trial now to get started.

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5 Things to Avoid for a Successful Intelligent Automation Rollout

For all the talk we do here at Ayehu about how to make intelligent automation work for your organization, one area we don’t usually cover is how and why these types of projects often fail. Sometimes even though the reason for adopting automation is on target, the outcome isn’t quite what one had hoped for. This can lead to costly double-work and the frustration of having to start over again. To improve the chances of your automation project going off without a hitch, here are the 5 most common mistakes so you’ll know exactly what to avoid.

Focusing on tools and tasks instead of people.

It may seem ironic, particularly given the widespread opinion that artificial intelligence is somehow out to replace humans, but one of the biggest reasons an automation project fails is because it was designed around a task or tool instead of the people who it was ultimately designed to help. The fact is, intelligent automation is meant to streamline operations and make the lives of your IT team better, not worse. Focus on how the project will benefit your human workers and the results will be much greater.

Failing to adequately calculate and communicate ROI.

For an automation project to be carried out successfully, the projected benefits and long-term gains must be determined and demonstrated upfront. This includes taking into account the early costs associated with adopting a platform and helping decision makers understand the time-frame for seeing positive returns. Without this, you risk upper management pulling the plug too early due to lack of results. (If you’re not sure how to calculate ROI on an IT automation project, here’s a helpful guideline.)

Not setting appropriate expectations.

Sometimes an intelligent automation project is deemed a “failure” simply because it did not meet the (often unrealistic) expectations of certain stakeholders. That’s why it’s so important that those in charge of planning, testing and implementing any AI project include communication of the expected time-frame as well as the potential for issues and delays that may inevitably arise. When “the powers-that-be” know what to expect ahead of time, there are no surprises to have to deal with during the process.

Automating broken processes.

Another common cause of an automation project failure occurs when those in charge attempt to automate a process that isn’t working properly in the first place. Not only is this a huge waste of time and resources, but it simply won’t work, which means backtracking, adjustments and a whole host of other delays will ultimately occur. Before starting any automation project, be certain everything you’re planning to automate is relevant and ready.

Not using the right platform.

Just like most things in IT, not every automation platform is created equal. Some organizations fall into the trap of purchasing the cheapest tool they can find only to learn that, as usual, you get what you pay for. Others make the mistake of investing in a product that they think is top-of-the-line, only to discover that it has way more features than they really need, making it a complex waste of money. The key to successfully carrying out an intelligent automation project is to do your research and select a platform that is robust but easy to use and scalable to fit your specific needs.

Thinking about trying automation but not sure where to begin?

Check out these common tasks and processes that can and should be automated and then download your free 30 day trial of Ayehu NG to experience it for yourself.

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

The Future of MSPs: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Author: Guy Nadivi, Sr. Marketing Director, Ayehu

Leading analyst firms are forecasting a lot of turmoil ahead for MSPs, so I thought it would be well worth exploring not only the ramifications of this expected market upheaval, but also how smart MSPs can actually take advantage of it.

Are any of you fans of old westerns?  I’m personally a big fan of movies about the old west, an interesting time in American history.  Western cinema, as many of you already know, often depicts harsh wilderness landscapes where people end up in a shootout, fighting over something that’s important to them.

One of the best examples of Western cinema is a classic movie called “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”.  Maybe some of you have seen it.  Back when I still purchased DVDs, this was actually the first DVD I ever bought. 

This movie title, “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is an apt metaphor I’m going to use to help me describe the current situation in the MSP market, where much like the old west, many MSPs find themselves in a shootout over something very important – market share.

Let’s start with ‘The Good.’  According to MarketsAndMarkets, a research and advisory firm focused on B2B markets, “The managed services market is expected to grow from over $180 billion in 2018 to $282.0 billion by 2023, a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 9.3%.”  That’s a pretty good market to be in.

Here’s the ‘The Bad,’ though. According to Gartner, “…as competition heightens, service providers will be forced to aggressively roll automation out across their client base and service lines because, if an existing provider is slow in implementing automation, this will leave that account quite vulnerable to competition, proposing a strong artificial intelligence proposition with the possibility of a vendor switch.”  In other words, Gartner’s saying that MSPs who don’t start introducing automation & AI to their customers, are now at risk of being left by that customer for another MSP that does.

And here’s ‘The Ugly.’ Again this is from Gartner and please note, this is advice they’re giving to sourcing executives at enterprises that hire MSPs.  “Understand the provider’s service capabilities, product development plans and AI roadmap to be able to negotiate effective reductions associated with new technology. Otherwise, consider moving away from the service provider if investments are lacking, lagging, or the service provider is not actively sharing the benefits with the client.” 

That last part might require a bit of explanation. Gartner is telling customers that they should EXPECT their MSP vendor to start automating their service offerings, and begin sharing the benefits of automation back to the client in the form of reduced charges. If an MSP doesn’t do that, they’re explicitly telling sourcing executives to go find another MSP that does!

Some of you might now be realizing seeing why I’m using the old west as a metaphor for the MSP market.  There’s a big shootout coming among MSPs that don’t start rolling out effective automation for their clients.

Here’s another one. The Good – according to Gartner, “Many of the large players in the Gartner Magic Quadrants that address IT infrastructure have rolled out intelligent automation that provides for effective management of the data center, end user, service desk and applications. The rollouts have been in the operations area and have reported improvements of 30% cost savings with 30% gain in service quality.”  So the organizations that have started automating are seeing significant benefits, meaning that automation is working really well.

But, also according to Gartner, here’s the The Bad – “Reconcile with the fact that revenue cannibalization is bound to happen in the near term because of automation. Instead, prepare to divert cost savings into fueling new projects. This is the best way to protect your turf.”  Interpretation: Gartner is telling MSPs that automation will cause unavoidable revenue losses in the immediate future, but your best bet for safeguarding market share is to invest in new automation projects now.

Finally, here’s The Ugly, and this too is from Gartner, “Use forward pricing to reap the benefits of artificial intelligence in your infrastructure outsourcing deal.” BTW – this is another Gartner recommendation specifically addressed to sourcing executives.  They’re advising them to incorporate the expected savings of artificial intelligence, and by inference automation, into their outsourcing deals REGARDLESS of whether or not their infrastructure provider offers it.  Meaning that whether or not automation and AI are part of an MSP’s strategy, the market will be expecting it to be, and that will put further downward pricing pressure on a business with already thinning margins.

Let’s do just one more of these.

The Good.  Gartner says, “Those providers that invest early will see their business flourish for a few years, and then will land in a position where the business around those services is underpinned by a positive and sustainable margin performance. Yes, it will be transactional and maybe per quantity in nature, but it will be nevertheless sustainable.”  So if you make the investment in automation now, you will reap the profitable benefits down the road in a SUSTAINABLE way.

Here’s The Bad.  “Those that fail to invest will see quick revenue erosion, followed by margin erosion, because they will be forced to lower prices without being able to enjoy the reduction in delivery costs that automation can offer.”  So again, they’re saying the market is expecting MSPs to provide automation, and will also expect lower pricing going forward, regardless of whether or not the MSP even offers automation.

And here’s the last Ugly.  “It will not be a question of getting to ‘smaller but sustainable,’ but a case of exiting with a strong focus on damage limitation.”  This advice from Gartner basically boils down to a warning that if you’re not going to start using and offering automation soon, you should consider getting out now while you can still get some value for your business.  Pretty dire warning!

Now that you’ve heard what the experts think, if you’re an MSP is it time to hit the panic button? 

NO!  Don’t panic.  Not yet anyways.

Let’s return again to our old west theme.  Back in those days when people went to the local saloon to enjoy some recreational fun, everybody played the same card game just like they always did. 

In modern times, up until recently, the game was always the same for MSPs too.  Now though, the MSP game is changing.

In fact, thanks to automation and other technologies, the MSP game is changing dramatically and everybody is being dealt a new hand. If you’re an MSP, your new hand in this new game means a new opportunity to increase market share!

Just to be absolutely clear about the changing game for MSPs, let me illustrate what exactly is changing.

Traditionally, the MSP game was about filling up massive cubicle farms to provide services with inexpensive labor.  Unfortunately, that’s just not sustainable anymore. Even if you’ve got a supply of the absolute cheapest labor and you can double up people in each cubicle, there’s one inconvenient fact that can’t be escaped – people don’t scale very well.

That includes even your very best data center workers, who can only handle so much. Today, analysts and thought leaders are telling companies to walk away from these kinds of outsourced deals, no matter how cheap your labor is.

And why are they recommending that?

Because the new reality is that digital labor is MUCH cheaper.  Not only that, but digital labor takes no vacations, or coffee breaks, or sick time, and it never has mood swings.  It’s always available, 24/7/365 and unlike people, it is extremely scalable.

The new game for MSPs is Automation-as-a-Service.  Leveraging digital labor to provide a much better offering, and doing it for even less than before.

Remember, in this new game MSPs are expected to play, Gartner and others are telling your customers that what they should demand from you is more quality, increased speed, and better results, all at a lower cost.  The only practical way an MSP can do that is with automation.

Back once more to the old west.  One of the really great stories in the history of that time period was the gold rush.  The gold rush of the 1800’s made a lot of MSPs very rich.  Yes, you read that right – MSPs.  Except back then, M.S.P. stood for Mineral Searching Prospectors.  (Alright, maybe I’m the only one who thought that was kind of funny.)

Today’s gold rush doesn’t involve any shovels or pick axes or specialized pans for sifting gold nuggets out of rivers.  That’s because today’s gold rush is in automation powered by AI.  Ayehu predicts that between now and about the middle of this century, a lot of MSP’s are going to get very rich by using an enterprise automation platform to provide Automation-as-a-Service for their customers.

Before diving into that though, I’d like to talk just a little bit about open source automation.

If there’s one character from the old west that best epitomizes the idea of working with open source software, it’s undoubtedly the blacksmith.  Everybody knows what blacksmiths did back then, right?  They took a piece of metal, and forged it into something like a horseshoe.  And by forging I mean they did a lot of hammering and a lot of sweating.

That’s exactly what you’re going to do with open source software.  Except instead of hammering, you’re going to be doing a lot of coding, but you’ll still probably do a lot of sweating too, just like the blacksmith. 

Maybe that’s appealing on some level.  Build it yourself and take full pride in forging an automation tool that does exactly what you want.  Except the problem there is that while you’re hammering away on your keyboard just to build the automation tool itself, your competitors are using commercial-grade automation software like Ayehu that works right out-of-the-box and is fully supported by the publisher.  That means your competitors are orchestrating actual workflows for their customers that are up & running quickly and in production to start earning those customers an ROI.  The best way to stay competitive as an MSP is to go with the tool that’s already proven itself and can earn a fast ROI for your customers.

Remember – generally speaking, your customers aren’t worrying about the plumbing.  They just want you to give them hot water.

Let’s discuss a couple of use case examples.

The first use case is a major international financial services firm, with what can only be described as a colossal environment:

  • They have over 60,000 servers
  • They also have over 10,000 database instances
  • And they have nearly 500 supported applications!

Their challenge was the high cost of monitoring and maintaining this massive infrastructure.

Using Ayehu’s automation platform, they realized:

  • A 40% improvement in MTTR
  • A 90% improvement in response times
  • And together, those two yielded a 15% cost savings in year one!

Not a bad return on investment, and a huge win for our MSP partner that delivered these results to this customer.

The second use case involves one of the largest department stores in America.  Not quite as big as the previous company, but pretty big nonetheless.  Their infrastructure included:

  • About 20,000 servers
  • Nearly 6,500 database instances
  • And all this was spread out between 2 different datacenters!

Their staff was spending a lot of time and effort on manual, repetitive tasks that were impacting their resolution times.

After Ayehu was deployed, they experienced:

  • a 95% improvement in MTTR
  • a 1,500 man-hour reduction of effort in Year 1
  • and a savings of nearly half-a-million dollars!

Quite an impact.

The final case study I want to share with you shows the power of automation in reducing the cost of operations for the MSP.  This case study comes from a global MSP partner of ours who’s among the largest $ multi-billion MSPs.

They were looking to reduce operations costs and improve their margins at one particular client where they had a multi-year contract with a project value of $11.6 Million per year.

After implementing Ayehu at that customer to automate numerous repetitive manual processes, their operational costs steadily dropped each year until by the 3rd year of their engagement, they were saving 35% in costs using Ayehu automation, all of which dropped straight to their bottom line.

And thanks to Ayehu, they were able to deliver a 30% FTE optimization while increasing their SLA performance by 98%.

As you can imagine, now that this MSP has mastered our automation platform with such success, they’re going to be aggressively competitive in the market place.

Speaking of SLAs, I should also point out that incorporating automation into your managed service practice will allow you to say goodbye to SLA penalties and missed targets. As previously mentioned, automation never takes a break, and it also remediates incidents much faster.  That more than anything will give your MSP practice its best shot at hitting its KPI goals. Typically with automation, you can reduce ticket-handling time for incidents down to seconds.

BTW – Since offering automation will alter your cost structure as it did for the MSP above, it will open up many more opportunities for you that were not previously economically profitable.  Automation will also enable you to generate more business opportunities from your existing customer base.  On average, our partners tell us Ayehu has increased their MSP wins by about 10x.

Q:          What’s your onboarding program like & how long does it take?

A:           Onboarding generally takes 6 weeks.  During that time we’ll put your team through training, help you get your own Ayehu environment up & running, and hold your hands helping you build your first workflows.  We’ll also help you build POC’s with your clients, and enable your success however we can.

Q:          What’s the difference between your solution and a freebie Open Source Software download?

A:           It depends on what open source software you’re referring to.  In general though, open source software means you’re doing all the heavy lifting of building out your own tool.  So be prepared to do a LOT of coding.  We’ve invested over a decade of man hours building out the Ayehu automation platform and it’s ready to go out-of-the-box right now without any coding.  The first question you should ask yourself then is, would you rather invest your time & effort reinventing the wheel, or using the wheel that’s been on the market for over 10 years to start adding value to your clients from day one?

Q:          How should an MSP determine when to use Ayehu versus some other automation tool?

A:           That depends on what it is you want to automate.  There’s a lot of different automation tools out there with a lot of different specialties.  Ayehu has a very specific focus on automating IT & Security operations.  We’ve been doing it a long time, we’re very good at it, and we’d be a great choice for any MSP looking for that kind of solution.

Q:          What is the minimum time to learn Ayehu?

A:           Very minimal.  Usually hours, but no more than a couple days.  We like to tell people all the time – take your lowest-level SysAdmin (even an intern), preferably someone who’s never written a single line of code in their lives, and let us train them for just one day.  Afterwards, they’ll probably end up being the most productive person on your IT staff.  Ayehu is very easy to learn.  If you’ve ever used a tool like Visio to build something like an org chart, then you’re already pretty well qualified to build automated workflows with Ayehu.

Q:          What makes Ayehu a platform that MSPs should use, compared to other automation tools?

A:           The Ayehu automation platform is actually designed with MSPs in mind.  So that means features like:

  • Being SaaS-ready which allows an MSP to create their own automation cloud, and since it’s also multi-tenant that means you can partition the same automation cloud out to different customers while managing it all centrally from one instance.  We deliberately made Ayehu an enabler for MSPs that makes it easy for them to offer Automation-as-a-Service.
  • Providing white labeling, so you can rebrand Ayehu as your own tool, which is a great way to reinforce brand loyalty with your customers.

•            Offering a strong partner enablement service that gets you up & running quickly so you can start delivering value to your clients ASAP & begin conquering more market share with automation.

Q:          You mentioned that Ayehu includes AI, but you didn’t give much detail.  Can you please elaborate on what Ayehu’s AI capabilities are?

A:           Ayehu is partnered with SRI International, formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute.  SRI holds something like 4,000 patents worldwide including for things like the original mouse & SIRI, Apple’s conversational AI.  SRI is Ayehu’s design partner, and they’ve designed a lot of the really cool stuff like Machine Learning-driven Dynamic Activity Suggestions.  That means that based on the workflow you’re building, our system provides a real-time recommendation on the next best activity to incorporate into your workflow, based on what we know has worked best for other customers building similar workflows.  That’s been available since last year.

              Another cool AI/ML feature is Dynamic Rule Suggestions, to augment the current static rules we have for triggering workflows. What that means is that when an incident comes into Ayehu, if we have a static rule that matches its profile, then that rule will kick off a workflow to remediate that incident.  Dynamic Rule Suggestions will allow us to suggest rules for incidents that don’t match any rules so they don’t just fall through the cracks.

              By next year, we’ll be offering Dynamic Workflow Suggestions. This is exactly what it sounds like, namely we’re going to be offering real-time suggestions of best practice workflows and workflows that are industry-specific, based on a little understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish.

              So there’s a lot of very cool AI & machine learning features baked into the product and we believe it’s all going to give our customers an insurmountable market advantage.

To see this information in action, click the image below to watch the on-demand webinar.

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Episode #19: Why Embracing Consumerization is Key To Delivering Enterprise-Scale Automation – Broadcom’s Andy Nallappan

June 15 2019    Episodes

Episode #19: Why Embracing Consumerization is Key To Delivering Enterprise-Scale Automation

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast we interview Andy Nallappan – Vice President and CIO of the Global Information Services Division at Broadcom.


Increasing value while driving down costs can be an elusive objective for many IT executives, but not for Andy Nallappan.  As VP & CIO of Broadcom, he’s delivered disruptive innovation to his company’s 18,000 employees at over 80 locations worldwide, and he’s done it with an IT spend that’s just 1% of revenue, while his industry’s standard is as high as 3.5%.

Utilizing automation, AI, & other technologies, Andy has focused relentlessly on a delivery model of faster, cheaper, better.  In the process, he’s “liberated” his 800 IT employees from doing mundane tasks so they could contribute to Broadcom at a higher level.  On this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio, Andy shares with us the challenges of IT keeping the lights on while integrating newly acquired companies, the most important skills needed to effectively automate IT operations, and why automation needs to be treated like a journey rather than a one-time thing.



Guy Nadivi: Welcome everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation Radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Andy Nallappan, Vice President and CIO of the Global Information Services Division at Broadcom. And for those of you not familiar with Broadcom, they’re primarily known as a chip maker with about $21 billion in annual revenue. Broadcom is one of those companies whose products you almost certainly use, even if you don’t know about them personally. For instance, they are Apple’s sole provider of chips for wireless charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS capabilities. And they have been in all new iPhones sold since 2018. One analyst estimated that for every iPhone Apple sells, Broadcom earns $10.

But of course Broadcom sells its products to a lot more companies than Apple, and they use automation extensively to achieve some extraordinary efficiencies in their internal operations. And that intrigued us. So we invited Andy to come on our show and talk with us and share his insights. Andy, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Andy Nallappan: Thank you, thank you, Guy. Glad to be here with you.

stating that the next generation of IT will be, “More nimble, flexible, mobility-based, and consumer oriented.” What did you mean by that, particularly the consumer oriented part?

Andy Nallappan: Sure, sure. You know, Guy, we live in a time where the consumers are dictating the technology trend. Which is way different than what it used to be when enterprises drove that technology trend. The major traits of that consumerization is, is simple, scale, and secure. With a faster, better, and cheaper delivery model. So my point is, it’s time for enterprises to embrace those traits and delivery model of the consumerization in enterprises. With the simple, scale, and secure, with faster and better and cheaper delivery model to make ideas more nimble and flexible and mobility-based. That is what I mean by consumer oriented.

Guy Nadivi: I read in that same Wharton Business School article, that the average IT spend in the hi-tech electronic components industry is 2.5% to 3.5% of revenues, but you’ve kept Broadcom’s costs close to 1%, and you’ve just hit a target of less than 1% in two years. What are some of the ways automation in technologies like AI and machine learning enabled you to do that?

Andy Nallappan: Yeah, that’s a good point, Guy. I take a lot pride in driving down the IT cost while delivering more. While there are so many strategies and culture and initiatives with the, drive the cost down. And there is automation and technologies like AI and machine learning, also one of the critical component of that. This automation technology, it helps to deliver and manage the repeatable tasks. Whether it is a help desk support call, IT service or infrastructure monitoring, completing a service request, like provisioning or de-provisioning, and the business process tasks at the lowest possible costs with the highest quality, and also it scales quickly and seamlessly there. These things, it helps to control our IT operational cost in two ways, I would say. One is eliminating the task itself. We call this a work avoidance or a reduction of the work. The second one is the cost of delivery. Because of this consistency in high quality and in automation, the cost of delivery is lower than even you were outsourcing and offshoring them.

The automation really adds value when you have the scale and those standard offerings, and it has provided great synergies in economy of scale when we started acquiring companies and integrating them into our main enterprise over there. So M&A synergy was much higher due to these technologies.

Guy Nadivi: You’ve been outspoken in liberating your 800 IT employees from performing mundane tasks like monitoring. Can you please tell us about some of the things your employees used to do, versus the ways they’re contributing at a higher level to Broadcom now, thanks to automation?

Andy Nallappan: Sure. This is one of my very favorite taglines, I always say, “Liberate IT from their day-to-day mundane tasks and firefighting, so that they can focus on more value-add stuff for the corporations.” In IT, right, it’s a thankless job. Every day you get so many alerts, and so many P1 tickets, and you’re fighting day in, day out to keep the lights on all the time.

If an organization wants to be an innovative organization, then there needs to be focus. You can’t have it constantly not innovate while doing M&A integrations year after year, and fighting fire all the time to keep the lights on and bright. Unless otherwise you find ways to liberate them there. So what we did is we found ways to liberate my team from those stuff of monitoring, P1 tickets, escalations, and all the stuff, so that they can focus on the critical and more meaningful and business-impacting initiatives.

There’s a few of them. One is the… Like you said earlier, how to keep the IT spend lower than the 1%, while providing more capabilities, enhancing employee experience, empowering employees by exploring the new technologies and solutions available in the market, and being frontier in adapting those technologies and solutions there.

The second one is also, spend more time with the partners in the functions and divisions to understand their pain points, and focus on simply find their processes and also find cost-effective solutions for them.

The third one is, since we’ve been doing a lot of M&A integrations year after year, find ways to speed up that integration to deliver it faster and faster.

And also, we are venturing into a software business now, which is a different business than the hardware chip design business. So we enable our business to embrace that software business by adding more capabilities over there.

So these are the things, my team is able to focus, by liberating them from their mundane tasks of monitoring and firefighting escalations on those things, moving to either automations or offshoring and outsourcing it so that I can have this… My team cannot day in, day out, focus on these stuff there.

Guy Nadivi: From a psychological and cultural perspective, how difficult was it to persuade resistant staff to let go of the old way of doing things, so automation could take on a bigger role, and so could they?

Andy Nallappan: It all depends, right? It’s mostly, it’s a mindset and culture there, you know. First of all, the organization and the leadership should believe in that before we get into the individuals. And also we would educate the individuals the need and the benefits of automation, not only for the corporation, but also for the individuals.

Automation is not new to the human being. Automation keeps evolving and extends itself into the areas as the need arises over the years there. In my perspective, we can’t avoid automation, as it does eventually help the human race to move up in their life and in the quality of life too. Human race has dealt with many automations for decades and decades and decades, like in farming, transportations, constructions, manufacturings. It’s not new. And just it has come to the technology now, in IT and other business classes.

So what we have done the right way is, we go and educate and convince the resisting individuals, and we use all this to influence them. And since everyone is talking about these automations and we are a high-tech company, and we have a lot of presence in Silicon Valley and big cities there. You know, people are really aware of these automations, and AI and ML and chatbots, you know. So it’s much easier to go and convince now than a few years back. So, we try to educate them and enable them, and make them understand the need. And this is something you can’t avoid. You can’t run away there, you need to embrace it there.

And so, once they start doing it… And we also help them, to retrain them, and their skill levels, their value-add goes up, so they become much more happier there. So it’s just that you have to break that ice initially there, by doing all this, showing how important to the corporation and how it can help them to maintain things up. And focus on it.

Guy Nadivi: Chatbots, or virtual support agents are playing an increasingly important role in the automation of IT operations by enabling end-user self-service. What do you envision will be the role of virtual support agents in IT operations by, let’s say, the end of 2020?

Andy Nallappan: You see, my vision is that every corporate employee will have their own, personal IT assistant. Of course, it should be virtual, you know. You can name it any way what you want to name it. But the important thing is, it will know more about the employee than the employee, himself or herself, knows about now. The IT assistant will become very smarter and smarter, and will start resolving issues before even the employee notices it. The thing is, employees won’t even have to read the tons and tons of emails that comes up about ITs, about outages, or downtimes or trainings, et cetera there. It will provide, the assistant, you know, the informations when the employee need it. And it will train you when the employee needs it there.

It also… It will give you the right help, directing to the right resources, whether it is a human being or other resources, without having to wait, or to call, or go through the menus after menus and selecting or filling out forms there. It will not only improve their productivity, but also will help to secure the enterprise better and also it will make the work more enjoyable. They will also be more collaborative also. It will improve the productivity at the same time too.

I call these the smart assistants in the future. Will be really at your fingertip all the time, whenever or wherever you are, and whenever you need it. And it will be very proactive as well as predictive.

Guy Nadivi: Andy, what skills have you found are most needed to effectively automate IT operations?

Andy Nallappan: In my perspective, the most important skill to effectively automate IT operation is process knowledge. It is whether it is business or IT there. I would say that techno-functional is the best skills to have. Apart from that, the ability to identify the use case and simplify that, and use that right technology to automate that particular use case over there.

Also, the ability to drive the automation towards the desired business outcome, which is very important. The desired business as well as the end-user outcome there. It is my opinion the skills are not the typical or traditional IT skills. It’s more of a process… Business process skills, end user-specific skills there, and also more focused on the outcome-driven skills.

Guy Nadivi: You’ve had a lot of success with automation at Broadcom and that leaves me curious. What kind of organizational changes are needed in order for automation and AI to succeed in the enterprise?

Andy Nallappan: There are many ways we can… Many skills we needed there. So, obviously, it’s all based on the business outcome, on the process there. You need to identify… Have the right leaders to really drive this. And, like I said earlier, automation is not just technology, it is a culture change too. So, we need to decide what’s the right staff setup. Now, one of the things you need to make a decision is to have either, there is a horizontal function, or a group of people which drive this whole automation, or you have embed it into each functional divisions, whether they are IT organizations or not. Or you have the horizontal team work with each one and then work will now gain that process knowledge and automate it. So, based on the size and culture of your company there.

And also, the automation requires lots of marketing and training. Adoption is very critical. If there’s no adoption, there will be big failure there. So, it’s good to have those kind of skills to market this and train and improve that adoption is there.

And automation is not a one-time thing. It’s incremental and it’s a journey. So, it’s important to have that strength and agile methodology so that the benefits come in incrementals. And so to have the skills to follow that strength and agile processes and methodology there. And also to have the skills to… Familiar with the data, and the knowledge of the data or the patterns. And the ability to think outside of this IT technology framework, which all this is critical skills.

Apart from all of this, what’s an important thing in the organization is to have a trustworthy leadership. And a partnership with your functions and the divisional stakeholders, so that they can go and influence them and they can drive the adoption and make the automation more successful.

Guy Nadivi: So, once automation and AI are implemented in the enterprise for IT, what is the best way to persuade other enterprise leaders to implement it in their domain?

Andy Nallappan: See, once you’re successful, and meaningful automation is delivered, with a clear business outcome, then obviously you have earned the trust to have a discussion with your peers in the organization there. So, that’s the basics. Then you need to approach them with a proposal to solve their business problems. You know, you need to be perceived as a helper first.

Also be respected for the knowledge you have on their problem, and that’s how the automation’s there. So, it is better to develop the relationship with the movers and shakers in that organization. And go with them as a joint proposal to enable them to either improve their SLAs, if there’s a customer-facing organization there, or even internal. And also help them to improve their bottom line or top line or productivity there.

So, it’s basically… You need to go and have a seat with them there and influencing and talking in their language. And giving hope that, “I’m going to impact positively your outcome, your SLAs, your top-line.” And that’s how, you know… That’s the important way to go and extend this automation, expand to the other parts of your organization there.

Guy Nadivi: We’ve discussed how to succeed in the enterprise with automation and AI, but I’m curious, what kinds of setbacks and failures are you likely to experience when implementing automation and AI?

Andy Nallappan: Some of the things are the adoption rate… If it is not done right, the adoption rates and effectiveness could be one of the setbacks. And also, to get the support within and also outside of the organizations there. And also the time it takes to have a meaningful… Very explicit, meaningful ROI of the automations there. And sometimes the complication of the process… Make a wrong choice of the use case, which is not the right candidate or suitable for the automation, ends up in that not delivering the desired outcome. And also, sometimes you have competing initiatives. Either something, the same thing as somebody else is doing, in other organizations, if it’s a big organization there. And that might also be a setback. So, those are a few things there. And also, last but not least, is the wrong choice of tools and technology and the use case.

Guy Nadivi: Speaking of ROI, is there a single metric, other than ROI, that best captures the effectiveness of automating IT operations?

Andy Nallappan: Yes, there is. In my opinion the single metric is the business, or end-user outcome. That is the metric there. But what is that? So, for each use case or process could be different. It could be a service up-time, or it could be a service completion time, or the quality of the tasks, or work reduction, or work avoidance, or cost savings. So, it depends on the business process. But it’s all has to be an end user or a business focused ROI there, not an IT-focused or a technology focused.

And it has to be a hard cost. That is better than, more than the soft cost there. You should be able to quantify it and be able to come up with a convincing hard dollars. And that is possible with automation.

Guy Nadivi: Andy, what should enterprise executives who have never dealt with AI and automation, know before deploying it?

Andy Nallappan: I think, the first thing is define the purpose. “Why should I automate, or should I? And what is in it for the corporation?” That is the very first thing. Next is, go and identify the right use case. You want to start with the right foot. The right process, whether it is business or IT, to automate, so that the outcome is meaningful, easily explainable there, so that it can gain some traction and trust and credibility there.

And third is, to get the sponsorship. The sponsorship and leadership for the automation, which is very critical, so that everybody [inaudible 00:19:31] to you.

And last but not least is… Like we talked about this metric. Having a metric on the outcome and status of the automation there, and measure it continuously there. It’s a journey and it’s not a one-time thing there. Many automations don’t deliver the desired outcome, and not every automation is the right one for every corporation. So, it’s very important to have that metric and continuously monitor and make sure that it is delivering what it’s supposed to.

Guy Nadivi: For the CIOs, CTOs and other IT executives listening in, what is the one, big, must-have piece of advice you would like them to take away from our discussion with regards to implementing automation and AI for IT operations?

Andy Nallappan: Okay, I think what I would say is automation is real and beneficial. Because automation has been there for a long time. A lot of people say it is expensive, it’s costly, it’s not going to be easy to do, no benefits there. We have passed all that. Now, automation is not that cumbersome, it’s not that hard. It is easy. It’s real. It’s beneficial.

And it is not really that capex-intensive, you know. You can do a lot of automations inexpensively. There are many choices too. There’s not one thing, there are a lot of choices and technologies available. But one has to be very careful about what use case you choose to automate, and what technologies and solutions you choose. Everyone nowadays calls everything as AI, ML or data science or automation there. So, be smart and figure out the right automation for your corporation and culture.

Guy Nadivi: Excellent advice. All right. Looks like that’s all the time we have for, on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio.

Andy, thank you very much for joining us today and providing some fascinating insights about what AI and automation are doing for Broadcom. It’s been a pleasure having you as our guest.

Andy Nallappan: Thank you, it’s been great talking to you. I enjoyed the conversation with you, thank you. I hope it has been useful for everyone who is listening to this conversation.

Guy Nadivi: Andy Nallappan, Vice President and CIO of the global information services division at Broadcom.

Thank you for listening everyone. And remember, don’t hesitate, automate.



Andy Nallappan

Vice President and CIO of the Global Information Services Division at Broadcom

Andy Nallappan is Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the Global Information Services Division at Broadcom, responsible for the continuous improvement of business processes through cost-effective utilization of information technology. Throughout Mr. Nallappan's long career with H-P/Agilent/Avago, he has held a variety of key management positions overseeing Enterprise Applications, Enterprise Infrastructure, and R&D Computing. He has been a pioneer in deploying cloud solutions and instrumental in evolving the Avago, now Broadcom, IT function into the industry leader it is today

Andy has successfully completed many Oracle ERP upgrades, SAP to Oracle migrations, and Datacenter and site consolidations. Andy uses cutting edge technologies and newer service delivery models to disrupt the IT landscape to drive cost down and value up.

Andy has led multiple M&A integrations over the last three years enabling Avago's growth from $2.5B to $6.9B. Most recent is the acquisition of Broadcom that takes company revenue to $16.4B with 18K employees over 70+ sites across the globe. Andy is known for running a very lean and effective IT organization with IT spend target as 1% of revenue. Andy has transformed Avago's IT culture to a faster, better, and cheaper model driving efficiency.

Andy Nallappan can be found at:

LinkedIn:     https://www.linkedin.com/in/nallappan/

Quotes

“…we live in a time where the consumers are dictating the technology trend. Which is way different than what it used to be when enterprises drove that technology trend.”

"This is one of my very favorite taglines, I always say, ‘Liberate IT from their day-to-day mundane tasks and firefighting, so that they can focus on more value-add stuff for the corporations’.”

“In IT, right, it's a thankless job. Every day you get so many alerts, and so many P1 tickets, and you're fighting day in, day out to keep the lights on all the time.”

“If an organization wants to be an innovative organization, then there needs to be focus. You can't have it constantly not innovate while doing M&A integrations year after year, and fighting fire all the time to keep the lights on and bright.”

“…my vision is that every corporate employee will have their own, personal IT assistant. Of course, it should be virtual, you know. You can name it any way what you want to name it. But the important thing is, it will know more about the employee than the employee, himself or herself, knows about now.”

“…automation is not just technology, it is a culture change too.”

“…I think what I would say is automation is real and beneficial. Because automation has been there for a long time. A lot of people say it is expensive, it's costly, it's not going to be easy to do, no benefits there. We have passed all that. Now, automation is not that cumbersome, it's not that hard. It is easy. It's real. It's beneficial.”

“You can do a lot of automations inexpensively. There are many choices too. There's not one thing, there are a lot of choices and technologies available. But one has to be very careful about what use case you choose to automate, and what technologies and solutions you choose.”

About Ayehu

Ayehu’s IT automation and orchestration platform powered by AI is a force multiplier for IT and security operations, helping enterprises save time on manual and repetitive tasks, accelerate mean time to resolution, and maintain greater control over IT infrastructure. Trusted by hundreds of major enterprises and leading technology solution and service partners, Ayehu supports thousands of automated processes across the globe.

GET STARTED WITH AYEHU INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION & ORCHESTRATION  PLATFORM:

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Links

Episode #1: Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #2: Applying Agility to an Entire Enterprise
Episode #3: Enabling Positive Disruption with AI, Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #4: How to Manage the Increasingly Complicated Nature of IT Operations
Episode #5: Why your organization should aim to become a Digital Master (DTI) report
Episode #6: Insights from IBM: Digital Workforce and a Software-Based Labor Model
Episode #7: Developments Influencing the Automation Standards of the Future
Episode #8: A Critical Analysis of AI’s Future Potential & Current Breakthroughs
Episode #9: How Automation and AI are Disrupting Healthcare Information Technology
Episode #10: Key Findings From Researching the AI Market & How They Impact IT
Episode #11: Key Metrics that Justify Automation Projects & Win Budget Approvals
Episode #12: How Cognitive Digital Twins May Soon Impact Everything
Episode #13: The Gold Rush Being Created By Conversational AI
Episode #14: How Automation Can Reduce the Risks of Cyber Security Threats
Episode #15: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Transform IT from Reactive to Proactive
Episode #16: How the Coming Tsunami of AI & Automation Will Impact Every Aspect of Enterprise Operations
Episode #17: Back to the Future of AI & Machine Learning – SRI International’s Manish Kothari
Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective – IVM’s Andy Dalton

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LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/ayehu-software-technologies-ltd-/

Facebook: facebook.com/ayehu

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ayehusoftware

Disclaimer Note

Neither the Intelligent Automation Radio Podcast, Ayehu, nor the guest interviewed on the podcast are making any recommendations as to investing in this or any other automation technology. The information in this podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Please do you own due diligence and consult with a professional adviser before making any investment

And the Employee of the Year Award goes to: A robot?

Imagine: you’re in the annual company meeting and the CEO announces who has been the busiest, most productive employee over the past 12 months. Now, imagine if he completes that statement not with the name of you or any of your co-workers, but instead points to your intelligent automation platform. In other words, a robot.

Can a robot really take the place as employee of the year? The answer is an emphatic yes. Here’s why.

It’s no secret that the IT department is continually being asked to do more with less. In other words, be as productive and efficient as possible while simultaneously limiting the amount of resources being used to do so. As a result, IT leaders have to find a way to maximize output while also minimizing the time and costs associated with producing that output. With humans, this simply isn’t possible without either extending the hours worked or hiring additional staff, neither of which will achieve the goal of keeping expenditures down.

Another area of pressure IT leaders experience is that of user satisfaction. Internal service levels and external customer expectations are increasing at a rapid rate, and if you can’t meet those demands effectively, you will lose your competitive advantage. In other words, your bottom line will suffer. Yet again, in order for human agents to achieve these goals is to either work more or hire additional team members.

Enter intelligent automation, or a team of artificially intelligent robots who can basically take on all the time consuming day to day tasks that the help desk currently handles. Whether it’s password resets, system monitoring, incident management or some other complex workflow, intelligent automation can be leveraged for it all. As a result, the work will be completed faster, with fewer mistakes, driving productivity and efficiency up while also bringing costs down.

Many IT professionals erroneously view these robots as a threat to their very livelihood. After all, if a machine can be used to do all these tasks, what’s the point of keeping humans on staff? Why not automate the entire operation? Well, for starters, many automated processes still require some type of human input.

Secondly, while intelligent automation may take some of the work away from humans, it will inevitably free those humans up to apply their skills to more complex and important business matters. So, it’s not a replacement, but rather a shift in responsibility. Furthermore, experts predict that AI will actually create 58 million new jobs by 2020. As such, it should be embraced rather than feared.

So, when the big boss stands up and hails automation as the company’s busiest employee, that doesn’t necessarily mean bad news for the people who work there. As long as the technology is leveraged properly and viewed as the powerful and innovative tool it truly is, its role as employee of the year is something that will drive the ongoing success of the organization and make the lives of human workers easier and/or more meaningful.

Give the employee of the year a test drive in your own company and experience the power and impact of intelligent automation for yourself by starting your free 30-day trial of Ayehu.

How to Automate Incident Response for Splunk Alerts in Minutes

Author: Guy Nadivi, Sr. Director of Marketing, Ayehu

Let’s talk about Splunk, a market leader in the Security Event Information Management (SEIM) market. BTW – You can always tell who the market leader is in any category when its competition starts touting itself as the ones who will eradicate that company. Recently, one of Splunk’s competitors described themselves as “Splunk Killers”, reaffirming that Splunk is indeed at the head of its class in that segment.

In Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for the SIEM market, Splunk appears higher than everyone else and further to the right than anybody but IBM. What this means is they excel above all other competitors on the y-axis of the Magic Quadrant, which is a measurement of “Ability to Execute.” On the x-axis of the Magic Quadrant, which measures “Completeness of Vision,” they exceed almost everyone except IBM.

Score highly on those two measurements, and Gartner considers you a Market Leader.

Market share is another key indicator of market leadership, and here Splunk is ranked No. 2 with 13.7% market share. Only IBM has a larger market share when it comes to SEIM’s.

Thanks to Splunk’s January 31, 2019 Form 10-K filing with the SEC, we also know they have 17,500 customers in more than 130 countries, including 90% of the Fortune 100. Another clear indication that they are a leader in this market.

With a market position like that, it seems worthwhile to talk about how to quickly and easily automate incident remediation for Splunk alerts in minutes.

As many people know, Splunk produces software for capturing, indexing, correlating, searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine-generated big data.

Some sources of that data include logs for Windows events, Web servers, and live applications, as well as network feeds, metrics, change monitoring, message queues, archive files, and so on.

Generally, these data sources can be categorized as:

  • Files and directories
  • Network events
  • Windows sources
  • And the catch-all category of “other sources”

There are a number of outputs and outcomes Splunk generates from this data, including:

  • Analyzing system performance
  • Troubleshooting failure conditions
  • Monitoring business metrics
  • Creating dashboards to visualize and analyze results
  • And of course storing and retrieving data for later use

That’s A LOT of data, and the more systems Splunk monitors, and the more those systems grow, the greater the volume of machine data that gets generated. This is becoming a problem because IT and security operations are getting inundated by all this data, and not just from Splunk, but other systems as well, though Splunk generates a big chunk of this.

Every time there’s an incident, an event, a threshold being crossed, etc. new data is generated, adding to the surge already flooding over IT and Security Operations. And it’s only getting worse.

Ultimately, it’s people who have to deal with all this data, and the problem is, (as we often say) people don’t scale very well.

Even the very best data center workers in NOCs and SOCs can only handle so much. At some point – and that point is pretty much right now – automation has to take on a greater share of the task burden all this growth in data is necessitating.

Why automation? Because people may not scale very well, but automation DOES! And if you’re in one of these overwhelmed data centers, that should be music to your ears.

Here are just a few of the ways automation can bring relief to NOCs and SOCs drowning in Splunk data:

Triggering Workflows

Let’s say there’s been an event detected of a corporate website being hacked and defaced. This event can trigger an automatic workflow that quickly restores a website to its pre-defacement state. In fact, an automation platform like Ayehu can do this MUCH quicker than humans could do manually once they got the alert. Restoring the website automatically and almost instantaneously minimizes the damage to corporate reputation, not to mention the threat to job security because the defacement happened in the first place.

Remediating Incidents

In addition to the example of remediating a website defacement incident, let’s consider a situation where Splunk generates an alert about a specific machine due to some observed suspicious activity. Ayehu can remotely lock it either automatically or at the SOC analyst’s manual command, to mitigate any damage until a hands-on inspection can take place. Furthermore, this automated incident remediation workflow could also include doing things like deactivating that user’s Active Directory credentials, turning off their card key’s ability to swipe in or out of a building, etc.

Data Enrichment

This task is well known to anyone who’s ever had to perform cybersecurity forensics during and after an incident. It involves aggregating all the information a SOC analyst needs to make an informed decision about what’s happening in real-time, or what happened as part of an after-incident evaluation. This can be a laborious manual task, and certainly one that’s difficult to script out.

If your automation platform easily integrates with just about anything in a typical, heterogeneous IT environment, however, then it can gather this critical information very rapidly as well as add more precise context to it about the nature of the incident. This will greatly reduce time-to-decision-making for SOC analysts, which is vital when, for example, you’re watching a ransomware virus swiftly encrypt your enterprise data and you need to decide on a course of action fast.

Opening Tickets

Just about every data center uses an ITSM platform like ServiceNow, JIRA, BMC Remedy, or one of many others. It’s very important to document what steps were taken to remediate an incident or conduct a cybersecurity forensics investigation. SOC analysts are pretty overwhelmed these days, and often don’t have the time to do that. When they do have time, they often don’t document as thoroughly as necessary in order to provide a complete picture of what transpired.

An automation tool like Ayehu can do this much quicker, and in real-time during workflow execution, so everything is properly documented, and nothing slips through the cracks.

Now let’s walk through the flow of events that uses Splunk data and alerts as triggers for actions.

We call this flow a closed-loop, automated incident management process. It starts out with Ayehu NG creating an integration between Splunk and whatever IT Service Management or help desk platform you’re using, be it ServiceNow, JIRA, BMC Remedy, etc.

When Splunk generates an alert or any kind of data you want to act upon, Ayehu intercepts it via the integration point. It will then parse it to determine the underlying incident, and launch the appropriate workflow for that situation, whether it be remediating that specific underlying incident, gathering information for forensic analysis, or whatever.

While this is taking place, Ayehu also automatically creates a ticket in your ITSM, and updates it in real-time by documenting every step of the workflow. Once the workflow is done executing, Ayehu automatically closes the ticket. All of this can occur without any human intervention, or you can choose to keep humans in the loop.

This closed-loop illustration also reveals why we think of Ayehu as a virtual operator, which we sometimes refer to as “Level 0 Tech Support”. Many incidents can simply be resolved automatically by Ayehu without human intervention, and without the need for attention from a Level 1 technician.

Imagine automating manual processes like Capture, Triage, Enrich, Respond, and Communicate. Automating resolution and remediation can result in a pretty significant savings of time, which can be particularly critical for data centers feeling overwhelmed.

Customers tell us over and over that automating the manual, tedious, time-intensive stuff accelerated their incident resolution by 90% or more.

We can also say with confidence that you can automate incident response for Splunk alerts in minutes, because Ayehu’s automation platform is agentless. Being agentless also makes us non-intrusive since we leverage API’s, SSH, and HTTPS behind enterprise firewalls under that organization’s security policy to perform automation. The only software to install is on a server, either physical or virtual, which centralizes management and greatly simplifies maintenance and upgrades.

Another reason it only takes minutes to automate incident response for Splunk alerts is because the Ayehu automation platform is codeless. This is something really important to consider because while there are many vendors out there touting their platforms as “automation”, the fact remains that they’re really just frameworks for scripting, and we steadfastly believe that scripting IS NOT automation.

For starters, in order to script you need to have programming expertise. With a true automation tool, however, you shouldn’t need to have any programming expertise. In fact, the automation platform should be so easy to use, even a junior SysAdmin with zero programming expertise should be able to master it in less than a day. Why is that so important? Because one of the promises of true automation is that you don’t have to rely on specialized talent to orchestrate activities in your environment. Requiring specialized programmers would be a bottle-neck to that goal.

Finally, the Ayehu automation platform includes AI and Machine Learning built into the product.

The first thing you should know about Ayehu’s AI and Machine Learning efforts is that we’re partnered with SRI International (SRI), formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute. For those not familiar, SRI does high-level research for government agencies, commercial organizations, and private foundations. They also license their technologies, form strategic partnerships (like the one they have with us), and create spin-off companies. They’ve received more than 4,000 patents and patent applications worldwide to date. SRI is our design partner, and they’ve designed the algorithms and other elements of our AI/ML functionality. What they’ve done so far is pretty cool, but what we’re working on going forward is really exciting.

Questions and Answers

Q:          What are the pros and cons of using general purpose bot engines compared to your solution?

A:           General purpose bot engines won’t actually perform the actions on your infrastructure, devices, monitoring tools, business applications, etc. All they can really do is ingest a request. By contrast, Ayehu not only ingests requests, but actually executes the necessary actions needed to fulfill those requests. This adds a virtual operator to your environment that’s available 24x7x365. Additionally, Ayehu is a vendor-agnostic tool that interfaces with MS-Teams, Skype, etc. to provide these general purpose chat tools with intelligent automation capabilities.

Q:          Do you have an on-premise solution?

A:           Yes. Ayehu can be installed on-premise, on a public or private cloud, or in a hybrid combination of all three.

Q:          Do you have voice integration?

A:           Ayehu integrates with Amazon Alexa, and now also offers Angie™, a voice-enabled Intelligent Virtual Support Agent for IT Service Desks.

Q:          If a user selects a wrong choice (clicks the wrong button) how does he or she fix it?

A:           It depends on how the workflow is designed. Breakpoints can be inserted in the workflow to ask the endpoint user to confirm their button selection, or go back to reselect. Ayehu also offers error-handling mechanisms within the workflow itself.

Q:          Does Ayehu provide orchestration capabilities or do you rely on a 3rd party orchestration tool?

A:           Ayehu IS an enterprise-grade orchestration tool, offering over 500 pre-built platform-specific activities that allow you to orchestrate multi-platform workflows from a single pane of glass.

Q:          Can you explain in a bit more detail on intent-based interactions?

A:           Intent is just that, what the user’s intent is when interacting with the Virtual Support Agent (VSA). For example, if a user types “Change my password”, the intent could be categorized as “Password Reset”. That would then trigger the “Password Reset” workflow.

Q:          Thanks for the information so far, great content! I would like to know if I can use machine learning from an external source, train my model, and let Ayehu query my external source for additional information?

A:           Yes. Ayehu can integrate with any external source or application, especially when it has an API for us to interface with.

Q:          Can I create new automations to my inhouse applications?

A:           Yes. Ayehu can integrate with any application bi-directionally. Once integrated with your inhouse applications, Ayehu can execute automated actions upon them.

Q:          Is there an auto form-filling feature? (which can fill in a form in an existing web application)

A:           Yes. Ayehu provides a self-service capability that will allow this.

Q:          How can I improve or check how my workflows are working and helping my employees to resolve their issues?

A:           Ayehu provides an audit trail and reporting that provides visibility into workflow performance. Additionally, reports are available on time saved, ROI, MTTR, etc. that can quantify the benefits of those workflows.

Q:          What happens when your VSA cannot help the end user?

A:           The workflow behind the VSA can be configured to escalate to a live support agent.

Q:          If there is a long list of choices – what options do you have? Dropdown?

A:           In addition to the buttons, dropdowns will be provided soon in Slack as well.

Q:          Did I understand correctly, an admin will need to create the questions and button responses? If so, is this a scripted Virtual Agent to manage routine questions?

A:           Ayehu is scriptless and codeless. The workflow behind the VSA is configured to mimic the actions of a live support agent, which requires you to pre-configure the questions and expected answers in a deterministic manner.

Q:          Is NLP/NLU dependent on IBM Watson to understand intent?

A:           Yes, and soon Ayehu will be providing its own NLP/NLU services.

Q:          Are you using machine learning for creating the conversations? Or do I have to use intents and entities along with the dialogs?

A:           Yes, you currently have to use intents and entities, but our road map includes using machine learning to provide suggestions that will improve the dialogs.

Q:          What are the other platforms that I can deploy the VSA apart from Slack?

A:           Microsoft Teams, Amazon Alexa, ServiceNow ConnectNow, LogMeIn, and any other chatbot using APIs.

This is a recap of a live Webinar we hosted in May 2019. To watch the on-demand recording and see this content in action, please click here.

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Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective – IVM’s Andy Dalton

June 03 2019    Episodes

Episode #18: Implementing Automation From A Small Company Perspective

In today’s episode of Ayehu’s podcast we interview Andy Dalton – CIO of IVM.


According to a recent report, 57% of organizations plan to use some form of IT automation by 2020, and 40% of IT decision makers foresee automation technology having the biggest impact on their business. But which specific automation technologies should IT organizations implement to get the best results?

For insight on this we turn to Andy Dalton, CIO of IVM, whose recent Information Week article dove into this very topic.  Andy recounts some of his own experiences implementing IT automation at his organization, and shares with us the one surprising skill he believes is most needed to make chatbots truly effective, the soft skills he feels are most overlooked when implementing IT automation, and the mindset that will work best for CIO’s when implementing automation technologies.




Guy Nadivi: Welcome everyone. My name is Guy Nadivi and I’m the host of Intelligent Automation Radio. Our guest on today’s episode is Andy Dalton, CIO of IVM, a provider of smart vending solutions. Andy recently authored an Information Week article entitled Three Automation Technologies to Transform Your IT Department. Since we love exploring automation technologies pertinent to IT, we knew we had to get Andy on the show and talk with him further about the subject of his article.

Guy Nadivi: Andy, welcome to Intelligent Automation Radio.

Andy Dalton: Well thanks, Guy. Thanks for having me join you.

Guy Nadivi: Andy, let’s get right to it. What are the three automation technologies to transform your IT department?

Andy Dalton: Well okay we can jump right in. And I’m … start with by saying though that’s the title of the article, I’m sure there are hundreds of great automation strategies out there that could and should be implemented by the IT organization, but these in particular are three that I’ve seen recently being used and creating great results and I apologize up front because some of them are some buzz words…..that we’re all used to. But to start with is artificial intelligence, or AI, which we all know can mean a lot of different things, but in particular the use of chat bots.

Andy Dalton: You know there’s a lot of discussion around chat bots these days when it comes to the external customer service or sales assistance type roles that they can provide. But I don’t think we can forget the fact that the internal needs that chat bots can also serve for the IT organization, especially around the very simple and repetitive service tickets that often come in. Things like, I don’t know, software updates, forgotten passwords, employee onboarding, company-wide HR updates. If you could employ chat bots to handle those type of service requests you’d do a couple things. One, you free up your IT employees instead to focus on more complex projects. And you also provide a service that’s now available 24/7 so you can reduce the downtime of employees waiting for a response, you can reduce their frustration. All sorts of things. So AI or chat bots is the first.

Andy Dalton: The second technology that I think should be considered is that of predictive analytics. What I mean by that is just really automating the number crunching or data monitoring that is necessary to make informed recommendations to the IT department. Meaning for example what if you use machine learning? I know it’s another buzz word, sorry, but to track trends or support issues or things that can alert your team to larger issues that may be popping up because you’re watching these trends. Like you know a platform outage that because certain things are spiking you can watch and say okay, man this outage is on the horizon, now we know hey we can get out ahead of this before it even occurs. So chat bots, predictive analytics, and then what good is a discussion about automation if you don’t use IoT, right?

Andy Dalton: But when it comes to IoT a lot of different things you can do there as far as automation. One thing in particular that the IT organization can do is use things like smart lockers and smart vending systems for the distribution of things like devices, hardware, and other IT peripherals. For example, IVM, we had a global tech firm approach us with a need not too long ago so that they could more efficiently manage … they on an annual basis deliver 70,000 PCs to their employees, right? Well if you combine that with the fact that there’s a recent study that Zendesk put out where employees have to wait on average 24 hours for their IT ticket to get responded to. Well now you’ve got a major need for improvement with 70,000 things needing to be delivered and an average daily wait time, you got a lot of employee downtime and waste. So this firm decided to use our smart locker system to instead of their onsite IT staff to deploy all those devices.

Andy Dalton: So those are the three that I think are … should be considered by IT leaders.

Guy Nadivi: In your article you cited a couple of interesting statistics from Spiceworks’ 2019 State of IT Annual Report. Specifically, they found that 57% of organizations plan to use some form of IT automation by 2020, and 40% of IT decision makers foresee automation technology having the biggest impact on their business. What’s been the biggest impact automation has had on IVM’s business?

Andy Dalton: Well to be honest, Guy, you know the saying goes cobbler’s children sometimes have no shoes, right? So even though something I talk about quite a bit and we provide, this is an area that I would love to see IVM even do better in. We can always do more on this as far as our own automation. But that being said, the one significant place where we’ve seen it is…so we have thousands of these smart lockers and machines at client locations across the globe, right? And all of those devices have to be connected to our servers 24/7. So understandably one of the things we have to pay attention to is our machine connectivity reports because they’ve got to be connected. Well we also know that one of the key indicators for us of a potential issue with our platform is when machines anywhere across the globe start to lose connectivity. But if we only rely upon our employees to manually monitor thousands of machines and try to look for trends and raise potential red flags, well we’re placing ourselves at a huge risk, and our clients at that.

Andy Dalton: So what we did not too long ago was implement an intelligent automation in the form of predictive analytics. What it does is it basically creates alerts by watching for particular things across our connectivity reports. And it alerts our team for things that would lead to a potential outage or concerns that there might be outages in certain places, whatever it might be. In doing that we haven’t had unplanned system downtime in now over 12 months.

Guy Nadivi: What did you find were some of the bigger challenges of automating your IT operations?

Andy Dalton: Okay. Well I’ll start with this. I’ll start with probably one of the best things about automating right now which is the fact that many of these automation strategies are available online already via SaaS and PaaS solutions. They’re already on the market and you don’t have to develop them internally. That’s the good part. The challenge comes with the fact that you now have to integrate all of those new solutions that are available on the market often with legacy systems and software that just don’t integrate well with these new solutions, right? But these legacy systems are central to the daily operations of your enterprise. So that’s a big challenge.

Andy Dalton: Second challenge then comes with that in the upfront investment of resources like labor and money to set up those integrations, to connect the dots between your legacy systems and these new great solutions. Think about like the chat bot that I talked about earlier as an example. Incredibly helpful. Only as helpful though as the information loaded into it. Everyone loves the idea of using a chat bot, but not everybody is really willing to commit the time and resources necessary to actually load it with all the appropriate content. And so if you don’t load it with much there’s just not a lot it can do for you. So those are I’d say two of the bigger challenges.

Guy Nadivi: Did you ever encounter resistance to IT automation at IVM? And if so what form did it take?

Andy Dalton: Yeah I’d say absolutely. And whether it’s at IVM or anywhere it typically takes the same form, which is people, right? And not always people for the reason you think people, because you think they might be afraid of automation replacing jobs or whatnot, but automation means change. People don’t like change. Changing systems, changing processes, and hardest of all changing behavior. So I don’t have the reference on hand, but I have heard it say that nearly half of all corporate challenges … all corporate challenges when it comes to automation have to do with cultural resistance, people resistance, right?

Andy Dalton: I’d say the second largest resistance, and this is probably less what we encountered internally but more as we encounter with our client side, but across the board is issues of IT and data security, right? We know those areas right now, IT security, data privacy, they’re escalating out of control and people are concerned with them. You couple that with the fact that all these automation solutions are cloud based, well that means there’s going to be a lot of hurdles to get over in implementing those solutions. And so IT leaders are going to have to be good and proactive leaders in selling these changes even internally to their own security departments.

Guy Nadivi: What about skillsets, Andy? What kinds of skills did you find were needed to effectively automate IT operations at IVM?

Andy Dalton: All right well some of the skills we needed, they would be skills you would think of are very logical technical skills like database development and management, application development, and especially as you’ve heard me say a number of times in here API integration. Because all of these solutions have different open APIs that you need to figure out how to integrate with your own internal systems. Those are important. Others you wouldn’t think of, but they’re actually very necessary and sometimes even harder to come by, are the creative skills like content development. We all know everyone loves to be an editor, but writers and creators are much harder to come by. So, also like I talked about a few minutes ago with chat bots, right? You have to have the necessary resources and skills as people internally who are willing to create all that chat bot content and not just a bunch of people who want to sit around editing it.

Andy Dalton: And then probably I’d say the other skill that we found very important and it’s going to be anywhere is the soft skills of leading change, right? Building the political support within the organization, helping actually lead the organization through that change and the different systems, and then actually celebrating afterwards for the risks that were taken and the results that came from it. But those soft skills are easily overlooked.

Guy Nadivi: Is there a minimum ROI needed to justify automating IT operations tasks at IVM?

Andy Dalton: All right so when you discuss ROI always a prerequisite conversation that needs to take place first by the IT leaders needs to be around like the key goals with any new automation. Mainly because ROI isn’t always as simple and clean as just cost reduction, especially in smaller companies. But sometimes it can be calculated back to cost. For example, if I reference my earlier example about our global tech client that wanted to improve their efficiency on 70,000 laptop deployments a year. Well when they ended up using our locker systems they were able to automate their onboarding and their laptop refresh process. And they now have close to 1500 employees using those lockers on a weekly basis and they have actually calculated they’ve cut their delivery costs down by as much as 30%. Well that’s a great ROI for them. And especially with the larger enterprises sometimes it’s a little easier to figure those hard ROIs. It’s not always as easy to get kind of a cost savings, but it is nice when you can.

Guy Nadivi: What single metric then, other than ROI, do you think best captures the effectiveness of automating IT operations?

Andy Dalton: Yeah … As I think about that question I don’t know if I can nail it down to a single metric, but I could definitely share with you a couple that I think are very important to take into account. They would be, and I’ve kind of mentioned them in passing probably in the last few minutes. One is increased employee satisfaction which leads to better productivity, which we all know. Meaning if you’re not sitting around waiting for 24 hours for your laptop refresh to happen you don’t get so disgruntled and you’re just a better employee and more productive.

Andy Dalton: Now second would be, which probably the most direct with a lot of this automation, is going to be the labor hours saved. You know you’re going to decrease maybe your headcount that you need to have in your IT service department. You’re especially going to be able to decrease maybe the number of IT staff that have to be at every single distributed location and you can have a little bit more of a centralized labor force there, whatever it might be.

Andy Dalton: The third metric you might want to consider, which is very important, is just the downtime of employees where they’re sitting around waiting for stuff to happen because maybe the IT department’s just not open, so.

Guy Nadivi: Andy, for the IT executives out there listening in, what is the one big must have piece of advice you’d like them to take away from our discussion with regards to implementing automation, AI, predictive analytics, and Internet of Things?

Andy Dalton: So I’d say this, what I kind of had to learn over the years and actually here at IVM, and the biggest thing is just be willing to redirect resources and fight the temptation to have a scarcity mindset. What I mean by that is this, the volume of needs and requests that are going to be placed on every IT department in every organization these days is increasing rapidly. We all know it’s increasing on a daily basis. And it’s going to continue to outpace everyone’s team’s bandwidth. So if you’re someone who’s waiting for the time when your team finally catches up, good luck. If you’re waiting for when your budget gets increased by your executives so that you can bring on more resources and handle the backlog, good luck. Or if you are hoping you can better manage your current team just to make them more productive, once again good luck.

Andy Dalton: Instead I think you’ve got to embrace a different mindset where you’re just kind of not waiting and using the best of what you have and you know all that kind of stuff. Instead just say okay I’ve got to redirect resources now before I have them, set up some of these automations, get them in place so that tomorrow, next year, whatever, we can actually be where we need to be because if you just wait it’s just not going to happen.

Guy Nadivi: Sounds like wise advice. All right, looks like that’s all the time we have for on this episode of Intelligent Automation Radio. Andy, it’s been great having you on the show and getting a hands-on perspective about why IT should be automating and the three automation technologies that will transform IT departments.

Andy Dalton: Well thanks for having me on the show, Guy.

Guy Nadivi: Andy Dalton, CIO of IVM. Thank you for listening everyone and remember don’t hesitate, automate.



Andy Dalton

CIO of IVM

Andy is the Chief Information Officer for IVM, Inc., where he helps to encourage innovation for the future of supply vending. He has more than 25 years of executive leadership experience across a variety of business areas including sales, marketing, operations, customer service, business development and information technology.

Andy Dalton can be found at:

LinkedIn:     https://www.linkedin.com/in/daltonandy/

Quotes

“You know there's a lot of discussion around chat bots these days when it comes to the external customer service or sales assistance type roles that they can provide. But I don't think we can forget the fact that the internal needs that chat bots can also serve for the IT organization, especially around the very simple and repetitive service tickets that often come in.”

"…if we only rely upon our employees to manually monitor thousands of machines and try to look for trends and raise potential red flags, well we're placing ourselves at a huge risk, and our clients at that.”

“…ROI isn't always as simple and clean as just cost reduction, especially in smaller companies.”

About Ayehu

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Links

Episode #1: Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #2: Applying Agility to an Entire Enterprise
Episode #3: Enabling Positive Disruption with AI, Automation and the Future of Work
Episode #4: How to Manage the Increasingly Complicated Nature of IT Operations
Episode #5: Why your organization should aim to become a Digital Master (DTI) report
Episode #6: Insights from IBM: Digital Workforce and a Software-Based Labor Model
Episode #7: Developments Influencing the Automation Standards of the Future
Episode #8: A Critical Analysis of AI’s Future Potential & Current Breakthroughs
Episode #9: How Automation and AI are Disrupting Healthcare Information Technology
Episode #10: Key Findings From Researching the AI Market & How They Impact IT
Episode #11: Key Metrics that Justify Automation Projects & Win Budget Approvals
Episode #12: How Cognitive Digital Twins May Soon Impact Everything
Episode #13: The Gold Rush Being Created By Conversational AI
Episode #14: How Automation Can Reduce the Risks of Cyber Security Threats
Episode #15: Leveraging Predictive Analytics to Transform IT from Reactive to Proactive
Episode #16: How the Coming Tsunami of AI & Automation Will Impact Every Aspect of Enterprise Operations
Episode #17: Back to the Future of AI & Machine Learning – SRI International’s Manish Kothari

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