Transform Your Organization with AI in 5 Steps

According to IDG’s 2018 State of the CIO report, 73% of IT executives struggle with striking a balance between the need to innovate and the demand to achieve operational excellence. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that IT frequently gets bogged down with a growing list of tools and competing priorities, all of which chip away at precious time and available resources. As a result, more organizations are turning to artificial intelligence as a way to bring technology, data and people together to drive digital transformation. Here’s how you can use AI to do the same in five easy steps.

Step 1: Understand what you can and cannot solve.

While AI has the potential to transform an entire organization, machine learning technology is not yet capable of fully replacing the experience of skilled professionals. Instead, IT teams can leverage automation powered by artificial intelligence to free up skilled workers to do what they do best: apply their expertise to develop solutions for highly prioritized issues.

Machine learning algorithms can sift through mountains of data to spot trends, deliver insights and identify potential solutions. Automation can assist in resolving certain issues. But it’s up to the IT department to apply the deep analysis necessary to achieve business goals.

Step 2: Identify and prioritize problems to address.

Artificial intelligence can help address the two biggest IT challenges: maximizing operational efficiency and improving the customer experience. The role of CIO has taken on much greater importance, with 80% of businesses viewing IT managers as strategic advisors for the business. As such, these individuals, along with others in IT, are responsible for defining key areas of focus for new technology, such as AI solutions. In order to achieve buy-in, new solutions should be presented in a way that closely aligns with broader organization-wide goals.

Step 3: Pinpoint gaps in technology and skills.

The IT skills gap is an ever-present problem, and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time in the near future. In addition to the talent shortage, IT budgets are stagnating. AI solutions can help to mitigate both of these issues by empowering IT teams to do more with less, and at a much faster rate than they could on their own.

Keep in mind, of course, that key skills are still necessary in order to drive these solutions. To address this, many organizations are looking to reskill existing staff. Thankfully, today’s automation tools do not require a PhD to operate them. Regardless, decision-makers should look for a data-based platform that features AI-powered technology.

Step 4: Develop your strategy.

Once you’ve identified which problems AI is capable of solving for your organization, defined the specific challenges you’d like to overcome, achieved buy-in for adoption and assessed what resources you have to work with, the four step is to develop your strategy for deployment. This strategy should include the following main segments:

  • Roadmap – from proof of concept to continuous process improvement
  • Testing Plan – defining what you want to accomplish and what metrics will indicate progress
  • Team – investing in and arranging training for IT staff

Step 5: Prepare for scale.

Any broader AI strategy should involve mapping out data across all systems, services, apps and infrastructure. This includes both structured and unstructured data as well as data in a variety of different formats. It’s essential to select a solution that is capable of ingesting, normalizing and formatting all data sources for analysis.

Further, it’s critical to choose a platform that offers room to mature and scale. And keep in mind, also, that while the “land and expand” concept may work for some companies, others – particularly those with a higher risk tolerance – may be better off to push transformation across the entire organization at once. Generally speaking, however, stable and sustainable change begins by starting small and building on early successes. The key is leaving enough room to grow.

Want to experience some of those early successes now? Launch your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG and put the power of AI and intelligent automation to work for your organization today!

How to Leverage Intelligent Automation to Better Manage Alert Storms [Webinar Recap]

Author: Guy Nadivi

As most of you already know, there’s a digital transformation underway at many enterprise organizations, and it’s revolutionizing how they do business. That transformation though is also leading to increasingly more complex and sophisticated infrastructure environments. The more complicated these environments get, the more frequently performance monitoring alerts get generated. Sometimes these alerts can come in so fast and furious, and in such high volume, that they can lead to alert storms, which overwhelm staff and lead to unnecessary downtime.

Since the environments these alerts are being generated from can be so intricate, this presents a multi-dimensional problem that requires more than just a single-point solution. Ayehu has partnered with LogicMonitor to demonstrate how end-to-end intelligent automation can help organizations better manage alert storms from incident all the way to remediation.

The need for that sort of best-of-breed solution is being driven by some consistent trends across IT reflecting a shift in how IT teams are running their environments, and how costly it becomes when there is an outage. Gartner estimates that:

Further exacerbating the situation is the complexity of multi-vendor point solutions, distributed workloads across on-premise data centers, off-premise facilities, and the public cloud, and relentless end-user demands for high availability, secure, “always-on” services.

From a monitoring standpoint, enterprise organizations need a solution that can monitor any infrastructure that uses any vendor on any cloud with any method required, e.g. SNMP, WMI, JDBC, JMX, SD-WAN, etc. In short, if there’s a metric behind an IP address, IT needs to keep an eye on it, and if IT wants to set a threshold for that metric, then alerts need to be enabled for it.

The monitoring solution must also provide an intuitive analytical view of the metrics generated from these alerts to anyone needing visibility into infrastructure performance. This is critical for proactive IT management in order to prevent “degraded states” where services go beyond the point of outage prevention.

This is where automating remediation of the underlying incident that generated the alert becomes vital.

The average MTTR (Mean Time To Resolution) for remediating incidents is 8.40 business hours, according to MetricNet, a provider of benchmarks, performance metrics, scorecards and business data to Information Technology and Call Center Professionals.

When dealing with mission critical applications that are relied upon by huge user communities, MTTRs of that duration are simply unacceptable.

But it gets worse.

What happens when the complexities of today’s hybrid infrastructures lead to an overwhelming number of alerts, many of them flooding in close together?

You know exactly what happens.

You get something known as an alert storm. And when alert storms occur, MTTRs degrade even further because they overwhelm people in the data center who are already working at a furious pace just to keep the lights on.

If data center personnel are overwhelmed by alert storms, it’s going to affect their ability to do other things.

That inability to do other things due to alert storms is very important, especially if customer satisfaction is one of your IT department’s major KPI’s, as it is for many IT departments these days.

Take a look at the results of a survey Gartner conducted less than a year ago, asking respondents what they considered the most important characteristic of an excellent internal IT department.

If an IT department performed dependably and accurately, 40% of respondents considered them to be excellent.

If an IT department offered prompt help and service, 25% of respondents considered them to be excellent.

So if your IT department can deliver on those 2 characteristics, about 2/3 of your users will be very happy with you.

But here’s the rub. When your IT department is flooded with alert storms generated by incidents that have to be remediated manually, then that’s taking you away from providing your users with dependability and accuracy in a prompt manner. However, if you can provide that level of service regardless of alert storms, then nearly 2/3 of your users will consider you to be an excellent IT department.

One proven way to achieve that level of excellence is by automating manual incident remediation processes, which in some cases can reduce MTTRs from hours down to seconds.

Here’s how that would work. It involves using the Ayehu platform as an integration hub in your environment. Ayehu would then connect to every system that needs to be interacted with when remediating an incident.

So for example, if your environment has a monitoring system like LogicMonitor, that’s where an incident will be detected first. And LogicMonitor, now integrated with Ayehu, will generate an alert which Ayehu will instantaneously intercept.

Ayehu will then parse that alert to determine what the underlying incident is, and launch an automated workflow to remediate that specific underlying incident.

As a first step in our workflow we’re going to automatically create a ticket in ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, JIRA, or any ITSM platform you prefer. Here again is where automation really shines over taking the manual approach, because letting the workflow handle the documentation will ensure that it gets done in a timely manner, in fact in real-time. Automation also ensures that documentation gets done thoroughly. Service Desk staff often don’t have the time or the patience to document every aspect of a resolution properly because they’re under such a heavy workload.

The next step, and actually this can be at any step within that workflow, is pausing its execution to notify and seek human approval for continuation. Just to illustrate why you might do this, let’s say that a workflow got triggered because LogicMonitor generated an alert that a server dropped below 10% free disk space. The workflow could then go and delete a bunch of temp files to free up space, it could compress a bunch of log files and move them somewhere else, and do all sorts of other things to free up space, but before it does any of that, the workflow can be configured to require human approval for any of those steps.

The human can either grant or deny approval so the workflow can continue on, and that decision can be delivered by laptop, smartphone, email, Instant Messenger, or even via a regular telephone. However, note that this notification/approval phase is entirely optional. You can also choose to put the workflow on autopilot and proceed without any human intervention. It’s all up to you, and either option is easy to implement.

Then the workflow can begin remediating the incident which triggered the alert.

As the remediation is taking place, Ayehu can update the service desk ticket in real-time by documenting every step of the incident remediation process.

Once the incident remediation is completed, Ayehu can automatically close the ticket.

And finally, it can go back into LogicMonitor and automatically dismiss the alert that triggered this entire process. This is how you can leverage intelligent automation to better manage alert storms, as well as simultaneously eliminating the potential for human error that can lead to outages in your environment.

Gartner concurs with this approach.

In a recently refreshed paper they published (ID G00336149 – April 11, 2019) one of their Vice-Presidents wrote that “The intricacy of access layer network decisions and the aggravation of end-user downtime are more than IT organizations can handle. Infrastructure and operations leaders must implement automation and artificial intelligence solutions to reduce mundane tasks and lost productivity.”

No ambiguity there.

Ayehu

What is AI-Powered Decision Support?

Fifty years ago, businesses relied almost exclusively on human judgment for key decision-making. While some data existed, it was professionals and their intuitions, honed over years of experience, who were central to the process of determining good vs. bad and safe vs. risky. Not exactly the most ideal solution.

From there, we moved to data-supported decision making. Thanks to the growing number of connected devices, business leaders were able to access unimaginable volumes of data – every transaction, every customer interaction, every macro and microeconomic indicator – all available to make more informed decisions.

Unfortunately, even this approach had its limitations. For one thing, leveraging such a massive amount of data wasn’t feasible, which left a summarized version. This often obscured many of the patterns, insights and relationships that existed in the original data set. Further, cognitive bias from humans still existed.

Enter stage three: AI-powered decision support. Artificial intelligence is already ahead of the game because, provided the data being used is accurate, it’s not prone to cognitive bias. Therefore, it is more objective in its decisions. Furthermore, AI is better capable of leveraging not just mountains of data, but also all the information contained within that data, allowing for a much higher degree of consistency and accuracy.

As a real-world example, decision support that is powered by artificial intelligence can determine with much more certainty what the optimal inventory levels are, which ad creative would be most effective and which financial investments would be most lucrative.

While humans are essentially removed from the workflow, however, the purpose of introducing AI into the mix is to enhance and enable better decisions that what humans are capable of achieving on their own. In other words, the ideal scenario would involve both humans and AI working in tandem to leverage the inherent value of both for the benefit of the organization. In fact, there are many instances in which business decisions depend on more than mere data alone.

Take, for example, inventory control. While AI may be leveraged initially to objectively determine the appropriate inventory levels for maximum profitability, other information that is inaccessible to AI but incredibly relevant to business decisions may also come into play. For instance, if the organization is operating in a highly competitive industry or environment, human decision makers may opt for higher inventory levels in order to ensure a positive customer experience.

Or, let’s say the AI workflow indicates that investing more in marketing will generate the highest ROI. That company may decide, instead, that it’s more important to focus on areas other than growth for the time being, such as improving quality standards.

So, where artificial intelligence offers consistency, accuracy and objective rationality, other information that is available to humans in terms of values, strategy and marketing conditions may merit a change of direction. In these cases, AI can essentially generate a number of different possibilities from which human decision makers may select the best course of action based on the whole picture at hand.

The key takeaway is that humans are no longer interacting directly with data, but rather the insights produced by artificial intelligence’s processing of that data. Culture, strategy and values still remain a critical component of the decision-making process. AI is basically a bridge to marry them with the objective rationality that cannot be achieved through human cognition. Essentially, it’s a “best of both worlds” situation. By leveraging both humans and AI together, organizations can reach better decisions than they ever could using either one alone.

Want to experience the power of AI to create a force-multiplier for your business decisions? Try Ayehu NG absolutely FREE for 30 days. Click here to start your trial.

Preparing for the Future of Work: Transitioning to Intelligent Automation

These days, a growing number of organizations are making the shift toward integrating intelligent automation as a critical component of their business model. But it should never be about automating just for the sake of automating. That’s not going to help you win the AI race. The future of work will involve more of a hybrid approach that balances artificial with human intelligence for a “best of both worlds” kind of environment.

From the top down, it’s important to identify and address the challenges companies will face when implementing initiatives around critical areas, such as analytics, intelligent process automation, digital and AI. There is no shortage of lessons to be learned and common themes from which to gain knowledge. For those charged with preparing their organizations for what the future of work will inevitably become, here are five key insights to keep in mind.

Expect the unexpected.

While it’s true that business leaders can learn from others who have gone before, the fact is, every hybrid AI initiative is unique. As such, it’s important to design fluid systems that are capable of accommodating requirements, expectations and business challenges that are often unexpected. To some degree, the future of work is a moving target. Systems that can adapt and evolve will be the ultimate key to success.

Mistakes will happen.

It’s been said that failure is the key to success. This is an important mantra to keep top of mind when preparing for the future of work. Remember that when it comes to any type of change process, mistakes are inevitable. When and if you do fail, the key is to fail fast and bounce back by reflecting, regrouping and iterating your subsequent attempts with a greater understanding of what you’ll need to do in order to succeed. Decision-makers must also recognize that change is a necessary investment that requires the right communication and resources at the right time.

Start with small, measurable wins first.

Automating at scale isn’t something that takes place overnight – at least not if it’s done correctly. As you move toward the future of work and strive for digital transformation, it’s wise to start with smaller wins that can quickly generate ROI. To begin, focus on the tasks already being performed by the organization that are menial, repetitive and mature. Capturing those quick wins early will gain you buy-in and provide a solid foundation upon which to build out an organization-wide automation strategy.

Identify and communicate the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ across the enterprise.

When it comes to good governance, it’s critical that executives carefully develop their strategic plans around intelligent automation. More importantly, they must openly and consistently communicate the hows and whys behind their decisions to everyone across the organization. As mentioned, incorporating the valuable skills of humans in with the benefits of automation and AI is the ideal scenario. As such, proactively reskilling, retraining and reorganizing employees will become essential over the coming months and years.

Automate accordingly to address business problems.

Some organizations find it necessary to enlist the help of consultants or outsourced companies to help them identify the best processes to begin the automation journey. Don’t be afraid to admit if this assistance is something that could benefit your organization. Either way, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding of business priorities so you can identify quick successes. Ideally, the automation strategy should be one that is a joint initiative between the IT department and the rest of the business.

Ultimately, what these five insights have in common is that they require executive buy-in, AI investment that is strategic and a shift toward a business model that involves a convergence of innovative technologies. Master these five steps and your organization will be much better positioned to be successful in the future of work.

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Hybrid AI in the Future of Work

 Hybrid AI in the Future of Work - ITOps Guest Post
This article was originally posted on ITOps Times

Due to ongoing improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, we are on the cusp of an entirely new era in automation. Not only are software robots adept at performing routine, repetitive tasks on behalf of humans, but they are now capable of carrying out activities that rely on cognitive abilities, such as those requiring the use of judgment and emotion. One only needs to look at the cars we drive to recognize just how far automation technology has come.

Does this mean that there will be no place for humans in the future? The answer – at least for the foreseeable future – is a resounding no. That’s because, despite the growing list of benefits, there are also a number of drawbacks to having a system that is entirely autonomous. That’s where hybrid AI comes into play.

The concept behind hybrid AI is remarkably simple, even if the actual technologies and strategies driving it are incredibly complex. In basic terms, a hybrid model integrates humans throughout the automation process, but uses advanced technologies like deep learning and natural language processing to make automation systems even smarter.

AI needs humans
Beyond the hype, the truth is that artificial intelligence technology is simply not yet ready to replace humans – particularly when it comes to mission-critical applications. Take, for example, Tesla’s autopilot feature. While the vehicle itself is equipped with the capability to drive on its own, the driver behind the wheel is still required to remain alert and attentive to ensure his or her safety. In other words, AI is capable of running unassisted, but when it comes to mission-critical functions, it still needs humans, not only to train it, but to make sure everything stays on track.

The truth is, when artificial intelligence gets things right, everything is peachy. But when it doesn’t, the outcome can be disastrous – especially for larger organizations. And while modern AI may have some impressive cognitive capabilities, at the end of the day, it’s still just as its name indicates: artificial. Keeping humans in the mix ensures that the nuances of communication are present and that the output is accurate and relevant.

Humans need AI
On the other side of the coin, humans can benefit tremendously from artificial intelligence technology. And with 37% of organizations having already implemented AI to some degree, it’s clear that people and machines working side by side is becoming the norm rather than the exception. The reason being, artificial intelligence is like a force multiplier for human workers.

For example, data mining can be handled far faster and in much more massive volumes than any human being is capable of. Using AI, organizations can more effectively turn data into insights that can then be used to assist in human decision-making. This thereby drives innovation and competitive advantage.

Bringing it all together
As we progress toward a more automated future, a hybrid approach to integrating AI can help organizations figure out how to get from point A to point B with as little business disruption as possible. One way executives are handling the shift is to create automation centers of excellence (COE) that are dedicated to proliferating automation throughout the organization. Taking a structured approach like this helps to reduce confusion and limit friction.

Members of the COE are responsible for planning, ongoing testing and continuous oversight of the enterprise automation strategy. Typically, this group is made up of individuals who possess a mix of critical IT and business skills, such as developers, operations specialists and business analysts. Additionally, an entirely new role of automation engineer is being created to support the COE.

CIOs may choose to create their COEs with existing employees who are reskilled or newly hired team members. Regardless, COEs represent a strategic approach that is designed to drive adoption across the enterprise while delivering key results in support of company goals.

Ultimately, choosing a hybrid approach that includes a combination of humans and artificial intelligence, is simply the logical evolution of any disruptive technology. It safeguards against the risks of early-stage gaps and helps organizations get the most out of new solutions every step of the way. Done right, technology enables humans to focus on mission-critical applications while using AI to streamline operations and identify the best opportunities and strategies for ongoing organizational success.

AI is not an either/or proposition. It’s up to each organization to determine the right mix of humans and technology that makes sense. As new capabilities and options emerge, that mix will inevitably evolve. And the IT leaders that fully embrace their increasingly strategic value will know how to create the balance that will continually optimize and elevate staff, technology and the entire future of work.

This article was originally posted as a guest piece on ITOps Times. Click here to redirect to the official publication.

4 Ways Digital Transformation will Impact IT Support

The IT help desk, as it once existed, has changed. Driving that evolution has been the changing demands and expectations of digital customers. Simply put, digital is revolutionizing the world of IT support and service. These newer and more complex requirements of digital customers (which include employees) are causing IT teams to re-evaluate what they have to offer in terms of support and capabilities. If your organization or team is at a similar crossroads, here are four key areas on which to focus. 

IT Support Strategies

Regardless of whether your IT service desk happens to support a company of ten or a multi-location, enterprise level organization, the time to start thinking digital is now. A great place to begin is by uncovering how employees have evolved into so-called “digital consumers” and, more significantly, how this evolution has changed the expectations they have of IT support.

To do this, evaluate the gap between your current situation and those changing expectations. In particular, look at your current channels of support. Poll employees to determine whether they feel the current channels they are using to contact IT support are sufficient and effective. Figure out what channels they might prefer. Also, examine common customer use cases and needs. Then, use this information to develop a strategy that incorporates newer, more innovative support channels (like self-service chatbots and virtual support agents).

Operating Models

How does your IT service desk engage with customers? The focus here should be more on this approach as opposed to best practices and ITSM processes. To bring your operating models in line with digital transformation, ask yourself and your team the following questions:

  • Is your approach to IT support adequately in line with your realistic business needs and expectations? For example, what is the overall goal? Cutting IT support costs? Minimizing lost time and revenue at a business level? Understand your objectives and align your strategy accordingly.
  • Do your IT support agents understand “personas” of its customers (i.e. the common characteristics and behaviors they share)? Do your operational practices accurately reflect these personas?
  • How does your IT support desk measure success? Is it primarily related to how the IT service desk has helped and/or improved customer and business operations?

Once you’ve answered these questions, use the data you’ve gathered to identify any and all disconnects between IT support status quo and the actual needs and desires of both the customer as well as the business as a whole. These gaps are where changes must be made.

IT Support Technologies

Without question, the future of IT support will rely heavily on automation. In fact, newer technologies have already made it possible for organizations to augment their human workforce by leveraging ever-improving artificial intelligence capabilities. With these advanced technologies deployed in the right areas, IT support teams are able to more effectively deliver on the increasing demands of digital customers.

Whether your service desk is already leveraging virtual support agents or is planning to in the near future, it’s important to ask the right questions. In particular:

  • Are your virtual agents being used to their fullest potential?
  • Are your virtual support agents being employed at the right points during the customer journey?
  • Do end-users feel that the VSAs improve their support experience?
  • Have you established a robust and accurate knowledge-base from which the VSAs can draw?

This last point is key, as virtual IT support will only be as good as the data behind it. That being said, creating an environment that blends high-tech automation with the human touch of IT support agents will position your organization for greater success.

IT Support Staff

The question of whether human service desk agents will be assisted, augmented and possibly even replaced by virtual support agents is no longer an “if,” but rather a “when.” Getting employees onboard with the concept of artificial intelligence isn’t always easy, especially those L1 agents who view automation as a threat to their livelihood. But it’s essential for an organization of today to remain competitive tomorrow.

Educate your IT support team on the value and benefits that AI has to offer. Make it about them – how AI will make their lives easier, enable them to perform more meaningful work, provide an opportunity to learn new skills and make themselves more marketable, etc. – not just about the company. And start investing in your current workforce. Identify champions of the cause and reskill them so they’ll be ready to face the digital future with confidence. Get them excited about the possibilities that lie ahead!

There is no longer any doubt. IT support as we know it today is changing. Only those organizations that are willing to adapt and evolve their strategies, models, technologies and people alongside those changes will make it through unscathed.

Want to experience the power of artificial intelligence for your IT support team? Try Ayehu NG absolutely free for 30 full days. Click here to download your free trial.

Want better self-service IT adoption? Try these 4 tips.

Many individuals (and even entire teams) mistakenly believe that self-service IT is something that threatens their livelihood. To the contrary, providing employees the control over their technology usage can make the job of IT much easier and more efficient. In other words, it’s a good thing, not something to fear and resist. So, how can a forward-thinking professional convince the powers-that-be that adopting intelligent automation is a step in the right direction?

Focus on the needs of the end-user.

The first part of the process involves identifying what needs end-users face that the IT department is responsible for fulfilling. This could include everything from simple password resets to entire user setups for new employees. As these needs are identified, they should be built out into what’s known as a self-service IT portfolio. The second part of the process involves determining the actions required in order to deliver these services. This will make up the service catalog.

Standardize and assign value.

With self-service automation, it’s important to ensure that any and all services and workflows being automated are as standardized as possible. Otherwise, you could end up automating broken processes, which will not only not help but could actually harm your overall business operations. It’s also important to assign a clear price/performance to each item in your service portfolio and catalog. This provides insight into the true value of the self-service IT activities.

Sell the benefits to each group.

If you want everyone – from the end-users to the IT team – to jump on the intelligent automation bandwagon, you have to demonstrate the actual benefits each group will achieve as a result. For instance, show employees how much more quickly they can get their needs taken care of without having to rely on someone from the help desk. At the same time, show IT personnel the time and effort they’ll be saving by eliminating these routine, repetitive tasks from their workload.

Start small and work from there.

You can’t expect a huge change such as self-service IT adoption to happen overnight. The process will take time and involve researching various automation platforms to determine which one best suits the particular needs of your business and then testing that tool before rolling out a full implementation. Start by automating one small area, such as password resets, and then work from there. Your service portfolio and catalog can provide the blueprint of what areas to automate in which order.

If you’re thinking of adopting intelligent automation to create a more consumer-style, self-service IT environment for your employees, it’s important to recognize that these things take time. Following the steps listed above can make the process go much more smoothly and help achieve the buy-in and support needed from others across the organization.

Ready to try intelligent, self-service automation? Click here to start your free trial.

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4 Tips for Successful Adoption of AI at Scale

Utilizing artificial intelligence on a smaller scale is relatively simple in nature. At the enterprise level, however, it isn’t always so straightforward. This may be a contributing factor to the recent survey results from Gartner indicating that while 46% of CIOs have plans for implementing AI, only a mere 4% have actually done so. Those early adopters no doubt have faced and overcome many challenges along the way. Here are four lessons that you can learn from that will make adopting AI at scale easier.

Start small.

Desmond Tutu once said that the best way to eat an elephant is “one a bite at a time.” Just because your end goal is to have enterprise-wide adoption of AI doesn’t mean you have to aim for that large of an outcome right off the bat.

Most often, the best way to initiate a larger AI project is to start with a smaller scope and aim for “soft” rather than “hard” outcomes. In other words, rather than primarily seeking direct financial gains, focus instead on things like process improvement and customer satisfaction. Over time, the benefits gained by achieving these smaller “soft” goals will lead you to your larger objectives anyway.

If decision-makers in your organization require a financial target in order to start an AI initiative, Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Whit Andrews recommends setting the target as low as possible. He suggests the following: “Think of targets in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, understand what you’re trying to accomplish on a small scale, and only then pursue more-dramatic benefits.

Focus on augmentation vs. replacement.

Historically, significant tech advances have often been associated with a reduction in staff. While cutting labor costs may be an attractive benefit for executives, it’s likely to generate resistance amongst staffers who view AI as a threat to their livelihood. A lack of buy-in from front line employees may hinder progress and result in a less favorable outcome.

To avoid this, shift your approach to one that focuses on augmenting human workers as opposed to replacing them. Ultimately, communicating that the most transformational benefits of AI lie in the technology’s ability to enable employees to pursue higher value and more meaningful work. For instance, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 20% of organizations will have workers dedicated to overseeing neural networks.

Make an effort to engage employees and get them excited about the fact that an AI-powered environment will enhance and elevate the work they do.

Prepare for knowledge transfer.

The majority of organizations are not adequately prepared for AI implementation. In particular, most lack the appropriate internal skills in data science and, as a result, plan on relying heavily on external service providers to help bridge the gap. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that 85% of AI projects initiated between now and 2022 will deliver erroneous outcomes due to inaccurate or insufficient data and/or lack of team knowledge/ability.

In order for an AI project to work at scale, there must be a robust knowledge-base fueled by accurate information and there must be adequately trained staff to manage it. Simply put, relying on external suppliers for these things isn’t a feasible long-term solution. Instead, IT leaders should prepare in advance by gathering, storing and managing data now and investing in the reskilling of existing personnel. Building up your in-house capabilities is essential before taking on large-scale AI projects.

Seek transparent solutions.

Most AI projects will inevitably involve some type of software, system, application or platform from an external service provider. When evaluating these providers, it’s important that decision-makers take into account not only whether the solution will produce the appropriate results, but also why and how it will be most effective.

While explaining the in-depth details of something as complex as a deep neural network may not always be possible, it’s imperative that the service provider be able to, at the very least, provide some type of visualization as to the various choices available. At the end of the day, the more transparency that is present, the better – especially when it comes to long-term projects.

For more information on how to incorporate artificial intelligence into your strategic planning for digital transformation, check out this resource from Gartner. And when you’re ready to move forward with your AI initiative, give Ayehu NG a try free for 30 days. Click here to start your complementary trial.

IT Incidents: From Alert to Remediation in 15 seconds [Webinar Recap]

Author: Guy Nadivi

Remediating IT incidents in just seconds after receiving an alert isn’t just a good performance goal to strive for. Rapid remediation might also be critical to reducing and even mitigating downtime. That’s important, because the cost of downtime to an enterprise can be scary. Even scarier though is what can happen to people’s jobs if they’re found to be responsible for failing to prevent the incidents that resulted in those downtimes.

So let’s talk a bit about how automation can help you avoid situations that imperil your organization, and possibly your career.

Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) is a foundational KPI for just about every organization. If someone asked you “On average, how long does it take your organization to remediate IT Incidents after an alert?” what would your answer be from the choices below?

  • Less than 5 minutes
  • 5 – 15 minutes
  • As much as an hour
  • More than an hour

In an informal poll during a webinar, here’s how our audience responded:

More than half said that, on average, it takes them more than an hour to remediate IT incidents after an alert. That’s in line with research by MetricNet, a provider of benchmarks, performance metrics, scorecards and business data to Information Technology and Call Center Professionals.

Their global benchmarking database shows that the average incident MTTR is 8.40 business hours, but ranges widely, from a high of 33.67 hours to a low of 0.67 hours (shown below in the little tabular inset to the right). This wide variation is driven by several factors including ticket backlog, user population density, and the complexity of tickets handled.

Your mileage may vary, but obviously, it’s taking most organizations far longer than 15 seconds to remediate their incidents.

If that incident needing remediation involves a server outage, then the longer it takes to bring the server back up, the more it’s going to cost the organization.

Statista recently calculated the cost of enterprise server downtime, and what they found makes the phrase “time is money” seem like an understatement. According to Statista’s research, 60% of organizations worldwide reported that the average cost PER HOUR of enterprise server downtime was anywhere from $301,000 to $2 million!

With server downtime being so expensive, Gartner has some interesting data points to share on that issue (ID G00377088 – April 9, 2019).

First off, they report receiving over 650 client inquires between 2017 and 2019 on this topic, and we’re still not done with 2019. So clearly this is a topic that’s top-of-mind with C-suite executives.

Secondly, they state that through 2021, just 2 years from now, 65% of Infrastructure and Operations leaders will underinvest in their availability and recovery needs because they use estimated cost-of-downtime metrics.

As it turns out, Ayehu can help you get a more accurate estimate of your downtime costs so they’re not underestimated.

In our eBook titled “How to Measure IT Process Automation ROI”, there’s a specific formula for calculating the cost of downtime. The eBook is free to download on our website, and also includes access to all of our ROI formulas, which are fairly straightforward to calculate.

Let’s look at another data point about outages, this one from the Uptime Institute’s 2019 Annual Data Center Survey Results. They report that “Outages continue to cause significant problems for operators. Just over a third (34%) of all respondents had an outage or severe IT service degradation in the past year, while half (50%) had an outage or severe IT service degradation in the past three years.”

So if you were thinking painful outages only happen at your organization, think again. They’re happening everywhere. And as the research from Statista emphasized, when outages hit, it’s usually very expensive.

The Uptime Institute has an even more alarming statistic they’ve published.

They’ve found that more than 70% of all data center outages are caused by human error and not by a fault in the infrastructure design!

Let’s pause for a moment to ponder that. In 70% of cases, all it took to bring today’s most powerful high-tech to its knees was a person making an honest mistake.

That’s actually not too surprising though, is it? All of us have mistyped a keyboard stroke here or made an erroneous mouse click there. How many times has it happened that someone absent-mindedly pressed “Reply All” to an email meant for one person, then realized with horror that their message just went out to the entire organization?

So mistakes happen to everyone, and that includes data center operators. And unfortunately, when they make a mistake that leads to an outage, the consequences can be catastrophic.

One well-known example of an honest human mistake that led to a spectacular outage occurred back in late February of 2017. Someone on Amazon’s S3 team input a command incorrectly that led to the entire Amazon Simple Storage Service being taken down, which impacted 150,000 organizations and led to many millions of dollars in losses.

If infrastructure design usually isn’t the issue, and 70% of the time outages are a direct result of human error, then logic suggests that the key would be to eliminate the potential for human error. And just to emphasize the nuance of this point, we’re NOT advocating eliminating humans, but eliminating the potential for human error while keeping humans very much involved. How do we do that?

Well, you won’t be too surprised to learn we do it through automation.

Let’s start by taking a look at the typical infrastructure and operations troubleshooting process.

This process should look pretty familiar to you.

In general, many organizations (including large ones) do most of these phases manually. The problem with that is that it makes every phase of this process vulnerable to human error.

There’s a better way, however. It involves automating much of this process, which can reduce the time it takes to remediate an IT incident down to seconds. And automation isn’t just faster, it also eliminates the potential for human error, which should radically reduce the likelihood that your environment will experience an outage due to human error.

Here’s how that would work. It involves using the Ayehu platform as an integration hub in your environment. Ayehu would then connect to every system that needs to be interacted with when remediating an incident.

For example, if your environment has a monitoring system like SolarWinds, Big Panda, or Microsoft System Center, that’s where an incident will be detected first. The monitoring system (now integrated with Ayehu) will generate an alert which Ayehu will instantaneously intercept. (BTW – if there’s a monitoring system or any kind of platform in your environment that we don’t have an off-the-shelf integration for, it’s usually still pretty easy to connect to it via a REST API call.)

Ayehu will then parse that alert to determine what the underlying incident is, and launch an automated workflow to remediate it.

As a first step in our workflow we’re going to automatically create a ticket in ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, JIRA, or any ITSM platform you prefer. Here again is where automation really shines over taking the manual approach, because letting the workflow handle the documentation will ensure that it gets done in a timely manner (in fact, in real-time) and that it gets done thoroughly. This brings relief to service desk staff who often don’t have the time or the patience to document every aspect of a resolution properly because they’re under such a heavy workload.

The next step, and actually this can be at any step within that workflow, is pausing its execution to notify and seek human approval for continuation. To illustrate why you might do this, let’s say that a workflow got triggered because SolarWinds generated an alert that a server dropped below 10% free disk space. The workflow could then go and delete a bunch of temp files, it could compress a bunch of log files and move them somewhere else, and do all sorts of other things to free up space. Before it does any of that though, the workflow can be configured to require human approval for any of those steps.

The human can either grant or deny approval so the workflow can continue on, and that decision can be delivered via laptop, smartphone, email, instant messenger, or even regular telephone. However, please note that this notification/approval phase is entirely optional. You can also choose to put the workflow on autopilot and proceed without any human intervention. It’s all up to you, and either option is easy to implement.

Then the workflow can begin remediating the incident which triggered the alert.

As the remediation is taking place, Ayehu can update the service desk ticket in real-time by documenting every step of the incident remediation process.

Once the incident remediation is completed, Ayehu can automatically close the ticket.

Finally, Ayehu can go back into the monitoring system and automatically dismiss the alert that triggered the entire process.

This, by the way, illustrates why we think of Ayehu as a virtual operator which we sometimes refer to as “Level 0 Tech Support”. A lot of incidents can be resolved automatically by Ayehu without any human intervention, and thus without the need for attention from a Level 1 technician.

This then is how you can go from alert to remediation in 15 seconds, while simultaneously eliminating the potential for human error that can lead to outages in your environment.

Gartner concurs with this approach.

In a recently refreshed paper they published (ID G00336149 – April 11, 2019) one of their Vice-Presidents wrote that “The intricacy of access layer network decisions and the aggravation of end-user downtime are more than IT organizations can handle. Infrastructure and operations leaders must implement automation and artificial intelligence solutions to reduce mundane tasks and lost productivity.”

No ambiguity there.

Gartner’s advice is a good opportunity for me to segue into one last topic – artificial intelligence.

The Ayehu platform has AI built-in, and it’s one of the reasons you’ll be able to not only quickly remediate your IT incidents, but also quickly build the workflows that will do that remediation.

Ayehu is partnered with SRI International (SRI), formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute. In case you’re not familiar with them, 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 creates 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 what’s really exciting.

One of the ways Ayehu implements AI is through VSAs, which is shorthand for “Virtual Support Agents”.

VSA’s differ from chatbots in that they’re not only conversational, but more importantly they’re also actionable. That makes them the next logical step or evolution up from a chatbot. However, in order for a VSA to execute actionable tasks and be functionally useful, it has to be plugged in to an enterprise grade automation platform that can carry out a user’s request intelligently.

We deliver a lot of our VSA functionality through Slack, and we also have integrations with Alexa and IBM Watson. We’re also incorporating an MS-Teams interface, and looking into others as well.

How is this relevant to remediating incidents?

Well, if a service desk can offload a larger portion of its tickets to VSA’s, and provide its users with more of a self-service modality, then that frees up the service desk staff to automate more of the kinds of data center tasks that are tedious, repetitive, and prone to human error. And as I’ve previously stated, eliminating the potential for human error is key to reducing the likelihood of outages.

Speaking of tickets, another informal webinar poll we conducted asked:

On average, how many support tickets per month does your IT organization deal with?

  • Less than 100
  • 101 – 250
  • 251 – 1,000
  • More than 1,000

Here’s how our audience responded:

Nearly 90% receive 251 or more tickets per month. Over half get more than 1,000!

For comparison, the Zendesk Benchmark reports that among their customers, the average is 777 tickets per month.

Given the volume of tickets received per month, the current average duration it takes to remediate an incident, and most importantly the onerous cost of downtime, automation can go a long way towards helping service desks maximize their efficiency by being a force multiplier for existing staff.

Q:          What types of notifications can the VSA send at the time of incident?

A:           Notifications can be delivered either as text or speech.

Q:          How does the Ayehu tool differ from other leading RPA tools available on the market?

A:           RPA tools are typically doing screen automation with an agent. Ayehu’s automation is an agentless platform that primarily interfaces with backend APIs.

Q:          Do we have to do API programming or other scripting as a part of implementation?

A:           No. Ayehu’s out-of-the-box integrations typically only require a few configuration parameters.

Q:          Do we have an option to create custom activities? If so, which programing language should be used?

A:           In our roadmap, we will be offering the ability to create custom activity content out-of-the-box.

Q:          Do out-of-the-box workflows work on all types of operating systems?

A:           Yes. You just define the type of operating system within the workflow.

Q:          How does Ayehu connect and authenticate with various endpoint devices (e.g. Windows, UNIX, network devices, etc.)? Is it password-less, connection through a password vault, etc?

A:           That depends on what type of authentication is required internally by the organization. Ayehu integrated with the CyberArk password vault can be leveraged when privileged account credentials are involved. Any type of user credential information that is manually input into a workflow or device is encrypted within Ayehu’s database. Also, certificates on SSH commands, Windows authentication, and localized authentication are all accessible out-of-the-box. Please contact us for questions about security scenarios specific to your environment.

Q:          What are all the possible modes that VSAs can interact with End Users?

A:           Text, Text-to-Speech, and Buttons.

Q:          Can we create role-based access for Ayehu?

A:           Yes. That’s a standard function which can also be controlled by and synchronized with Active Directory groups out-of-the-box.

Q:          Apart from incident tickets, does Aheyu operate on request tickets (e.g. on-demand access management, software requests from end-users, etc.)?

A:           Yes. The integration packs we offer for ServiceNow, JIRA, BMC Remedy, etc. all provide this capability for both standard and custom forms.

Q:          Does Ayehu provide APIs for an integration that’s not available out of the box?

A:           Yes. There are two options. You can either forward an event to Ayehu using our webservice which is based on a RESTful API, or from within the workflow you can send messages outbound that are either scheduled or event-driven. This allows you to do things such as make a database call, set an SNMP trap, handling SYSLOG messages, etc.

Q:          Does Ayehu provide any learning portal for developers to learn how to use the tool?

A:           Yes. The Ayehu Automation Academy is an online Learning Management System we just launched recently. It includes exams that provide you an opportunity to bolster your professional credentials by earning a certification. If you’re looking to advance your organization’s move to an automated future, as well as your career prospects, be sure to check out the Academy.

Q:          Does Ayehu identify issues like a monitoring tool does?

A:           Ayehu is not a monitoring tool like Solarwinds, Big Panda, etc. Once Ayehu receives an alert from one of those monitoring systems, it can trigger a workflow that remediates the underlying incident which generated that alert.

Q:          We have 7 different monitoring systems in our environment. Can Ayehu accept alerts from all of them simultaneously?

A:           Yes. Ayehu’s integrations are independent of one another, and it can also accept alerts from webservices. We have numerous deployments where thousands of alerts are received from a variety of sources and Ayehu can scale up to handle them all.

Q:          What does the AI in Ayehu do?

A:           There are different areas where AI is used. From use in understanding intent through chatbots to workflow design recommendations, and also suggesting workflows to remediate events through the Ayehu Brain service. Please contact an account executive to learn more.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid with Self-Service Automation

Self-service automation is becoming more of the norm rather than the exception. In fact, a recent survey by SDI found that 61% of businesses were focusing on some type of self-service initiative (up from 47% in 2015). And it’s not only for making your customers’ lives easier. Many organizations are realizing the benefits of providing self-service options to employees to eliminate the need for many of the common issues plaguing the help desk, such as password resets and system refreshes. If you’re thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, here are a few common mistakes you should actively avoid.

Inadequate Communication – If you want your employees to adopt and embrace self-service technology, you have to ensure that they understand its many benefits. This is particularly important for your IT team, some of whom may feel uneasy or even threatened by the thought of automated technology handling some of their tasks. Gain acceptance and buy-in by communicating how self-service options will actually make the lives and jobs of everyone easier and more efficient.

Lack of Knowledge – What types of activities can you – and more importantly – should you be transitioning over to self-service? Many otherwise savvy IT decision makers rush into self-service implementation before they truly have a good understanding of what tasks are most beneficial to automate. Take time to learn about what your IT team is bogged down by and also what areas the end-user might not only benefit from, but actually appreciate the ability to handle things on their own.

Not Choosing a Tool Carefully – Not all self-service automation platforms are created equal and if you don’t carefully and thoroughly do your homework, you could end up with a less-than-ideal result. Not only does implementing a faulty tool mean more headaches for your IT department, but the frustration of everyone who has to use it will ultimately lead to disengagement, resistance and/or complete lack of adoption. Make sure the platform you choose is robust, user-friendly and versatile enough to handle both full and semi-automation needs.

Setting and Forgetting It – Like anything else in technology, self-service automation isn’t something that you can simply put in place and never think about again. Not only is it important to keep up to date from a tech standpoint, but it’s equally important to ensure that the system you have in place remains as effective as possible. Conducting regular audits of both the IT department and the end-users can help you determine whether new tasks could be automated or if existing ones could use some tweaking.

Forgetting the Intangibles – Last but not least, maintaining an environment in which self-service automation is embraced and celebrated involves regular assessment and selling of the many benefits this technology provides. When calculating ROI, don’t forget to also consider the intangible ways self-service is good for your organization, particularly how it allows IT to improve its meaningful contribution to the organization. That is a value that can and should be recognized across the board.

What could self-service automation do for your company? Why not find out today by starting your free 30 day trial of Ayehu. No obligation, just enhanced efficiency and better overall operations. Get your free trial now by clicking here!