Best Practices for Managing a Remote Workforce

Best Practices for Running a Remote Operation

The latest health crisis has forced many organizations into making the transition to remote work much more urgently than many would have liked. As such, a scramble to manage the logistics, like what kind of equipment will be needed, how to provision remote workers and how to maintain maximum data security have become the focus. What’s not being talked about nearly as much, but is equally as important, is how leaders who are used to managing staff in-person must adjust their approach in order to make the transition as seamless and undisruptive as possible.

Be intentional about individualization.

Not every employee is motivated or driven by the same things. Some may work best when given autonomy while others may require more hands-on leadership. Under normal circumstances, focusing on the unique needs and preferences of each employee is strongly recommended. When managing from a distance, this becomes even more critical. Managers must take the time to determine the circumstances and conditions under which each individual employee will perform at his or her best. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to remote work simply won’t cut it.

Set clear expectations right from the start.

Did you know that nearly half of all employees in the U.S. do not know what’s expected of them? Add remote work into the mix, and things could go off the rails pretty quick. To mitigate this risk, remote managers need to set crystal clear expectations with each and every employee. Specifically, employees should know exactly what the work entails, what the quality of that work should be and precisely when it is due. There should be no ambiguity whatsoever.

Arm them with everything they need.

You can’t simply hand out tasks and expect your team to perform them if they don’t have the equipment, information, guidance and support they need to carry out those tasks successfully. This is the case in an on-site operation, but even more so in a remote working environment, where people can tend to feel isolated. Implement technology that facilitates collaboration. Provide self-service options, like virtual support agents, so remote workers can receive the support they need on-demand. And make sure leadership is available to answer questions, provide feedback and offer guidance as needed.

Communicate openly and often.

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely, as mentioned earlier, is the feeling of isolation that comes along with it. This is magnified for employees who are accustomed to working on-site, where colleagues and managers are present in the flesh. Understand that managing a remote team may require more frequent communication, whether it be team meetings or one-on-one sessions (ideally, a combination of both). The key is emphasizing relationships, which are more challenging to forge from a distance.

Be supportive of front-line management.

Executive leadership needs to recognize that front-line managers are suddenly being forced to adapt to an entirely new way of working, and practically overnight. It’s an adjustment that brings with it a unique set of concerns that must be taken into consideration. For example, some managers may worry that they’ll be held accountable for disruptions to workflow that they have no control over. Others may find it difficult to trust employees that they cannot physically see working. Support and guidance – practical and emotional – is needed to make this transition as painless for managers as possible.

A Look Ahead…

A recent Gallup study found that 43% of employees in the U.S. are already working remotely to some degree. Thanks to recent circumstances, that number just skyrocketed. And although there will certainly be some growing pains, there’s a significant chance that once the dust settles and life returns to normal once again, far fewer employees will actually return to the office. By learning how to manage a remote operation now, you’ll position your organization for a much smoother ride, both today as well as in the future.

Click here to find out how Ayehu is helping organizations across the globe make the transition to remote working.

How Virtual Agents Can Help Businesses Thrive in the Face of Uncertainty

As the world is currently in the throes of battling the latest global health crisis known as COVID-19, the way organizations conduct business has changed suddenly, and perhaps permanently. Businesses across just about every industry and sector are facing two primary challenges: significant spikes in demand for IT support and the need to prepare for an economic recession that now seems imminent.

Conversational artificial intelligence (AI), also known as chatbots or virtual agents, can address both of these challenges, allowing businesses to maximize availability while simultaneously reducing costs.

Sustained and Enhanced Service Levels

With a tremendous uptick in remote working and all the risks and issues that go along with it, IT teams are being inundated with an increasing volume of support requests. Couple this skyrocketing demand with a decreased number of capable and available employees, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Virtual agents, powered by intelligent automation, can assist in a number of ways, including:

  • Delivering instant, automated answers to commonly asked questions
  • Enabling users to report problems and request assistance
  • Sending outbound notifications and updates about things like site closures, changes in service hours, or travel restrictions
  • Ability to scale on-demand to meet unexpected spikes in support needs

Virtual agents help not only to prevent lapses or delays in service, but because they are available 24/7/365, they have the potential to actual improve service levels – something that would otherwise be impossible in a crisis situation.

Augment Existing Workforce

In situations like the one the world is currently dealing with, there will inevitably be a dip in employee performance and availability. Team members may need to take time off due to illness, request changes in their shifts and, of course, transition to remote working.

Virtual agents can help organizations navigate these changes in circumstances by providing an extra level of support when human agents are not available. Furthermore, intelligent chatbots can be programmed to handle everything from helping employees set up their at-home workstations to assisting with onboarding – all without the need for any human intervention.

Optimizing Resources and Reducing Costs

With an impending economic downturn on the horizon, organizations are under increasing pressure to mitigate damages as much as possible. The ultimate goal is to keep operations running at a minimal cost – all without sacrificing service and performance. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the word.

For a tiny fraction of the average cost of a human agent, virtual agents can enable organizations to restructure their workforce, either eliminating non-essential roles or reallocating their resources so that skilled IT agents can focus on more complex or revenue-generating activities.

Over the coming months, businesses will also be looking for ways to save on things like on premise software, hardware and equipment, opting instead for software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that are much more budget-friendly. Cloud-based intelligent automation platforms can help organizations reduce development costs, boost productivity and innovate rapidly.

In business, and in life, there will inevitably be times when we are faced with circumstances beyond our control, whether it’s the current health pandemic or something else. These situations can profoundly impact an organization’s ability to remain functional. Thankfully, technology like AI-powered virtual agents can help soften that blow, providing the ability to not only survive, but even thrive in the face of uncertainty.  

Put the power of virtual agents to work for your organization and strengthen your posture against whatever may come your way by launching your free trial of Ayehu today.

How Slackbots and Ayehu Add Automation to BMC Helix Remedyforce

Author: Guy Nadivi

BMC Helix Remedyforce is a version of the BMC Remedy platform popular among organizations already using Salesforce.com, making it easy to deploy rapidly for IT organizations who value being nimble.

Since that’s a growing segment of the market, and given the surge of interest in chatbots, BMC and Ayehu have partnered to showcase how to add Slackbots and automation to the Helix Remedyforce platform.

BMC Helix Remedyforce provides a robust IT Service Management platform for running an IT organization and supporting the business. It takes a modern customer-focused perspective, and adds in very intuitive self-service capabilities that empowers non-IT staff to request services and solve problems on their own. BMC Helix Remedyforce is comprised of numerous modules, including:

  • Self-Service
  • Service Catalog
  • Knowledge Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Dashboards
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Incident and Problem Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Asset Management
  • Agentless Discovery
  • Client Management
  • Multi-Cloud Data Center Discovery
  • Change and Release Management
  • Mobile Apps for IT and Business
  • Collaboration via Chatter and Chat
  • IT Best Practices and Smart Practices

Together, all this functionality allows BMC Helix Remedyforce to offer a unique value proposition of a short time to value, with light effort, yet still yielding a powerful delivery.

If your organization uses a cloud computing platform like BMC Helix Remedyforce, then being very lean and very responsive is most likely a priority. But there’s a way to take that leanness and responsiveness one level higher to help your organization become a self-driving enterprise through the addition of Slackbots and automation from Ayehu.

At Ayehu, we often talk about the self-driving enterprise, which is our guiding vision that influences every aspect of our automation platform.

What is a self-driving enterprise and how do we define it? Very simply – becoming a self-driving enterprise means becoming less reliant on people, and leveraging intelligent automation to handle more of the robotic kinds of tasks humans really shouldn’t be doing anyways.

Ayehu’s platform comes with numerous features an enterprise needs to become self-driving:

  • SaaS-Ready Multi-Tenancy
  • Agentless architecture
  • Codeless interface
  • And overall it’s very easy to use

It also has two features which really extend automation’s ability to help enterprises become self-driving, and thus less reliant on people:

  • AI and Machine Learning
  • Slackbots, which are an extension of AI and Machine Learning that provide end users with an almost human-like channel as an alternative to calling the help desk everytime they have an incident or a request.

Slackbots of course, are part of the overall chatbot market, which is big and getting bigger. Lest anyone think chatbots are a fad, according to Business Insider, in 2019 the market was worth a bit more than $2 ½ Billion. In 2024 they’re forecasting it will approach $10 Billion!

That’s a compound annual growth rate of over 29% a year. Very impressive growth!

I think we can safely say that chatbots are here to stay.

Gartner published a report about the chatbot market (“Market Guide for Conversational Platforms: July 30, 2019 – ID G00367775), which calculated that “31% of enterprise CIOs have already deployed conversational platforms.”

That number “represents a 48% year-over-year growth in interest.”

This is a strong leading indicator that the market is ready, if not eager, for conversational AI in the form of things like Slackbots.

One big reason enterprises are so eager for conversational AI and Slackbots is the impact they’re having on one of IT’s biggest KPI’s – Cost Per Ticket.

There’s a general industry figure published by Jeff Rumburg of MetricNet, an IT research and advisory practice, that a service desk’s average cost per L1 ticket is $20.

However, if you turn any given service request into a self-help or self-service function with chatbots, you can drive that cost down by 80% to just $4 per L1 ticket. 80%!

If you’re a CIO, CTO, or any senior IT Executive, and someone tells you that there’s a way to reduce your single biggest expenditure on IT Support by 80%, without reducing service effectiveness (in fact, possibly speeding it up), you’re probably going to want to hear more.

Enterprises are looking at chatbots as a way to divert calls or tickets or work away from the Service Desk, meaning people, and re-routing that load to chatbots, meaning software.

BTW – It’s not just because of bottom line costs and reducing calls and/or ticket volume to the service desk.

There are other value propositions for enterprise IT executives deploying chatbots:

  • Slashing MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents and requests
  • Liberating staff from doing tedious work so they’re freed up for more important tasks
  • And last but not least, raising customer satisfaction ratings, an increasingly critical KPI for IT

Today, there’s another big reason to start using chatbots – the Coronavirus COVID-19.

The Coronavirus pandemic is creating a new reality for everyone, and that’s led to widespread adoption of numerous precautions:

  • Washing one’s hands more frequently
  • Not shaking each other’s hands
  • Wearing protective facemasks

Perhaps the most relevant precaution being adopted, from an IT perspective, is the sudden surge in employees and contractors working remotely.

Numerous governments and health officials are imploring organizations to let their employees work from home, wherever possible, as a way of minimizing community transmission of the Coronavirus.

This has created a new reality for those workers, because now that they’re working from home, they can’t just walk over to the help desk cubicle to make a casual request. They might not be able to do it by phone either because the help desk staff is also working from home, and they’re pretty busy right now at most organizations just keeping the lights on.

Wherever remote workers may be though, they can always submit their service requests through a chatbot, and they can do it from both a web or mobile interface 24×7.

The great news about that is that there’s really no training required for someone to start using a chatbot or Slackbot, especially if it’s on their smartphone, an interface they’re already familiar with.

Slackbots can play an increasingly important role in a self-driving enterprise, allowing users to converse with the bot naturally (so to speak), and in their own language. The bot can understand the request, or if not, request clarification. Once it has the information it needs, the bot simply goes out and executes the request. It’s just that straightforward.

In addition to BMC Helix Remedyforce, there are many other systems you can quickly plug into Ayehu, which then acts as an integration hub across just about every platform in your environment.  This allows your users to initiate automated tasks via chatbot for every system you integrate with Ayehu. Best of all, almost every system Ayehu connects to can be seamlessly integrated without writing a single line of code.

If your organization aspires to be a self-driving enterprise, Ayehu automation + BMC Helix Remedyforce + Slack chatbots can provide a powerful combination which add value to such IT functions as:

  • Incident resolution
  • Alert-driven notification
  • Cross-IT change management
  • Service request management
  • Configuration management and infrastructure provisioning

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG v1.6 with all its cool new features, download your very own free 30-day trial.

https://info.ayehu.com/download-free-30-day-trial-ng

How AI is Revolutionizing the IT Support Role

Over the past several decades, the role of IT support has evolved from basic plug-and-play transactions to handling much more complex tasks and workflows. Unfortunately, the pace of technological change and demand for faster, more accurate and more seamless service has also evolved – in many cases, beyond what human agents are capable of. Furthermore, support teams are being hindered by antiquated processes and technology silos, preventing them from realizing their true value.

That’s why more and more organizations are turning to emerging capabilities, like machine learning and artificial intelligence, to help supplement and enhance the IT support role. AI tools, like intelligent chatbots and virtual support agents, have already proven highly effective in facilitating greater efficiency and superior end-user service.

IT Support’s Greatest Challenges

To truly recognize the impact AI can have, it’s important to understand just what today’s IT support agents are up against. Research has shown that L1 and L2 IT support personnel waste hundreds or even thousands of man hours each year simply due to time-consuming manual labor and inefficient infrastructures. Often times, agents find themselves having to switch between multiple systems and platforms just to accomplish a simple end-user support request.

Another major hurdle modern IT support teams face today is a lack of adequate access to data. Or, perhaps we should clarify this to lack of access to quality, usable data. Agents (and their managers) need access to insights like this in order to analyze and improve performance. Unfortunately, these insights are not always readily available in many organizations, crippling the support desk and ultimately impacting service levels.

When these issues occur, either individually or compounded, not only does the end-user become frustrated, but so do the IT support desk agents. And if they’re feeling unhappy, overworked and unfulfilled, they’re far more likely to churn, leaving organizations with the burden and cost of recruiting and training. It’s a never-ending cycle.

How AI Can Help

How AI is Revolutionizing the IT Support Role

To answer the call of these costly and frustrating challenges, organizations across the globe are turning to AI technologies. In particular, they are leveraging the power of intelligent chatbots to handle lower-level support needs. Imagine how much more valuable your skilled IT workers could be if they weren’t wasting half their day resetting passwords or restarting systems. Not only do virtual support agents resolve issues faster and improve customer satisfaction, but they free up the IT team to focus their efforts and skills on more value-added business initiatives. This is good for everyone involved.

Artificial intelligence can also assist with building out additional content resources, helping higher level agents resolve issues faster and providing invaluable insight to management to facilitate data-driven decision-making. Machine learning algorithms can automatically and continuously analyze past cases to provide real-time guidance for best next steps as well as identify and make suggestions on areas of potential improvement. It’s like having a consulting firm working on your behalf, 24/7/365, only without the hefty price tag.

When IT support agents have access to the most up-to-date tools and innovative capabilities like AI, they’re jobs will be made infinitely easier. Trained workers will be able to apply their skills to more meaningful work, end-users will receive faster and better service, while at the same time, organizations will realize improved satisfaction levels, higher productivity and efficiency, and lower costs overall. That’s what we call a win-win-win!

Want to experience this kind of breakthrough for your IT support team? It’s as easy as downloading Ayehu NG. Click here to try it free for 30 days and put the power of AI to work in your organization.

Slash MTTR with Intelligent Automation for AIOps

Author: Guy Nadivi

There seems to be confusion in the marketplace about the term “AIOps” as far as what it means exactly, but there’s much less confusion about what it can do – Improve IT’s customer satisfaction scores by reducing noise, lowering call volume to the service desk, and slashing MTTR.

These are the types of benefits every IT organization is demanding, and the good news is they’re attainable right now.

Ayehu has partnered with Edge Technologies to show you a vision of what that looks like, and give you a glimpse at the promise that AIOps can bring to your IT organization.

Many of you have worked for years in the IT Operations and Systems Management space. Some of you may recall that in the mid-‘90s, Enterprise Systems Management and Business Service Management (or BSM for short) emerged as new disciplines that would bring together distributed systems and mainframes into a single pane of glass to solve problems. As you may know, Gartner killed off the BSM category in 2016 because vendors failed to deliver on these promised benefits.

In many large enterprises, the picture today still remains the same. Does this scene look familiar to you?

The CIO is still asking “why has customer experience dropped for our core service?.  The IT Ops Manager is unsure what the cause might be as everything looks good thanks to fantastic ”monitoring”.  And the SRE can’t make sense of any of the screens because he/she is suffering from information overload and isn’t sure where to look. No wonder MTTR is high!

Even with today’s AIOps vendors, and a market where new ones seem to be entering the space every week, the promise of universal views into your operations remains elusive.  Nevertheless, it’s still a highly sought-after goal.

So the question is, what is preventing progress towards that goal?

Today, we still continue seeing knowledge and visibility silos across the enterprise from business units, support, operations, and engineering functions all the way through to 3rd-party service providers.

This is one of the main challenges to overcome if AIOps is going to succeed. Internal politics, tool proliferation, and un-integrated workflows continue contributing to the slow adoption of AIOps.

Sound familiar?

The promise of a “single pane of glass” never materialized leaving teams to use point products with limited integration and different data formats. The result?  A huge and costly inventory of tools to manage and operate leading to more frustration.

It’s widely accepted across the industry that most monitoring dashboards today fail to provide required operational views that business needs.

AIOps aims to fully automate IT Operations workflows, but the reality today is that enterprises still struggle with tool sprawl resulting in the “swivel chair” effect. Your triage and remediation workflows are still very much reactive in nature, but the goal is to prevent incidents from happening in the first place as much as possible, right?

Also, in our experience over the years, the tools used today are more than likely to be replaced at some point, so the best approach is to have a vendor agnostic data visualization and integration solution for your dashboarding needs. The tools supplying the dashboard data feeds will come and go.  Replacing them is a simple configuration change in Edge.

In order to break the knowledge and visibility silo challenges and create intelligent operations dashboards for increased AIOps adoption, think of the process in three parts:

Part 1:   Integrate all required data sources ranging from customer experience and your enterprise IT domains to give business and service health views by role. For example, executive, manager, and analyst views.

Part 2:   Integrate your existing event management, monitoring, and IT service management tools at the data and web layers to maximize your existing tool investments, skills, and standard operating procedures to become more proactive than ever before.

Part 3:   Integrate your process automation tools (such as Ayehu) to create convenient and frictionless workflows that can be executed in either attended or unattended mode.

Now that we better understand the problems and obstacles in the way of making progress, let’s walk through the process of creating ideal intelligent operations dashboards for your AIOps initiatives by uniquely combining your data and tools into role-based views of your business and services.

When we think about digital transformation and the outcomes businesses are looking for, one of the goals CIOs have longed to achieve is ensuring that business and enterprise IT are completely aligned. This has been a goal for as long as most of us can remember!

To reflect that in our intelligent operations dashboards, let’s start from the top-level (see graphic below),which is a set of first-level business, customer, and end-user experience (EUE) dashboards that appeal to all levels of the organization.

The second level is a triage dashboard, designed to allow teams to quickly identify whether the server, network or application layer is the source of an outage or service health issue.

The third level is a dependency-mapping dashboard that links application, network, and server infrastructure together in topology views to understand the business impact.

The fourth level is individualized dashboards specifically designed for teams and dedicated roles — application, infrastructure, and network monitoring dashboards.This level of dashboard is where SMEs can directly access your existing best-in-class tools using Edge’s unique web UI proxying capability.

The fifth level gives you access to your raw data including logs, events, packet traces, and call stack traces for example —so that detailed analysis can be performed in context to the issue being investigated.

By combining your data sources and tools into universal views using a single platform like Edge, you can provide appropriate dashboards to your executives, management, and SMEs that provide them access to the content they need and tasks they need to perform to be successful in their daily jobs.

By combining business and related service health metrics along with the power of integration with your data and tools, you can rapidly identify root cause, fix the problem for good, and slash your key performance indicators such as MTTR. Many Edge customers report having happier customers, greater alignment between business and IT, eradication of visibility silos, and overall better decision making and outcomes from their deployment.

Not least of all, their most valuable assets (people) are more successful in meeting their goals and performing their job tasks.

Now let’s talk a bit about automation.

Digital Transformation is a buzzword you hear a lot about these days.  It doesn’t have one standard definition but can basically be understood to mean the collection of technology, process, and even cultural disruptions an organization adopts to maximize its competitiveness in the 4th industrial revolution.

Those technology disruptions can include things like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and of course automation.

The process disruptions include things like Agile or Six Sigma, and a cultural disruption might be something like repositioning the organization’s focus to be better aligned with the customer journey.

For IT departments, digital transformation ultimately boils down to optimizing and accelerating delivery of computing services, regardless of whether the customer is external or internal.

When it comes to incident monitoring, one thing an IT department can do as part of its digital transformation, is to consolidate the visualization of all their various monitoring tools into a single pane of glass, as Edge Technologies enables.  A unified dashboard providing a 360° view of operations, can also provide an extraordinary opportunity to not only centralize incident monitoring but also to automate incident remediation.  That represents a big step forward in the digital transformation of data centers, and a perfect example of how 1 plus 1 can sometimes equal 3.

A recent paper published by Gartner (ID G00390283 – October 9, 2019) advised its readers that an ideal performance monitoring dashboard framework must aim to “Provide for the rapid triage and remediation of performance issues…”.

No argument there. Ayehu and Edge Technologies agree that combining automation with performance monitoring is central to an ideal dashboard framework.  But perhaps the most important word to emphasize in Gartner’s recommendation is “rapid”.

Unfortunately, “rapid” is not an adjective that the vast majority of service desks can use to describe their MTTR today.

MetricNet, the IT consulting firm that publishes benchmarks, performance metrics, and scorecards for a variety of IT-related activities, claims that the average incident MTTR is 8.40 business hours.  If you’re an end user in an organization who just submitted a ticket to the help desk, you do NOT want to hear that it will take an average of 8.40 business hours to remediate your issue.  On the contrary, you want to know that your IT department is doing everything it can to expedite a resolution for your incident, before it starts hampering your personal productivity.

When it comes to MTTR, your mileage may vary of course, depending on your IT organization’s ticket backlog, user population density, and complexity of tickets handled.

Regardless though, one universal factor that’s slowing down almost all IT organizations is the ever-increasing user demand for IT services, which often leads to growing system complexity in your environment to accommodate that growth, and ultimately results in ever increasing pressure on your staff to keep up. 

However, people don’t scale very well.  Even the very best data center workers can only do so much.  At some point, and that point is pretty much right now, automation has got to do more and more of the repetitive, tedious, laborious tasks all this growth in demand for services and increased system complexity is creating.

That’s why consolidating visualization of all your monitoring tools into a single pane of glass and incorporating automated incident remediation into that dashboard, can give your IT department the critical boost it needs to overcome the lack of human scalability.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG v1.6 with all its cool new features, download your very own free 30-day trial version from the link below:

https://info.ayehu.com/download-free-30-day-trial-ng

How AI Can Reduce Service Desk Ticket Costs from $20 to $4 [Webinar Recap]

Author: Guy Nadivi

It’s the End of the IT Service Desk as We Know it (and We Feel Fine)

If you’ve been paying attention the last few years, you know Digital Transformation is a concept that’s sweeping through many organizations, and fundamentally changing how they operate and deliver value to customers.

There’s some very cool, but still somewhat emerging technologies underpinning this disruption, and you’re no doubt familiar with them. Things such as:

  • Data Science
  • Machine Learning
  • Artificial Intelligence

But in the last couple years, the emerging technology that seems to have garnered the most mindshare faster than any of them is chatbots. That’s right! Chatbots are the coolest kids on the digital transformation block, because they assimilate many of the benefits from data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence into a form that can be used today, and deliver value to your organization and customers right now. As a result, chatbots have emerged as perhaps the most familiar digital transformation experience for end users.

BTW – There isn’t any consensus yet on a single definition of “Digital Transformation”. One thing just about everyone can agree upon though is that shifting more of the laborious, repetitive tasks that people shouldn’t be doing in the first place over to chatbots is a good idea. This becomes especially true when you look at some numbers.

A the 2017 HDI show, Jeff Rumburg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of MetricNet, an IT research and  advisory practice, delivered a presentation on the results of his research into the costs of different service desk access and communication channels. He discovered some amazing disparities.

Jeff found that incidents requiring Vendor Support cost on average a whopping $599 per incident.

If you needed to get IT Support involved (that’s level 3 support), the average cost was $104 per incident.

Desktop Support (level 2) was cheaper, but still relatively expensive at $69 per incident.

Incidents going through the Service Desk, your level 1 support tier, cost $20 per incident. Since level 1 tickets comprise by far the highest volume at most service desks, that’s a logical place to start applying chatbots.

If you can push out incident resolution for level 1 tickets to your end users, enabling them to initiate and remediate their own incidents with chatbots, the cost of support drops down to a very economical $4 per incident. Yeah, wow!

At this point, some more skeptical people in IT might be asking – are chatbots a passing fad or are they here to stay? Let’s look at the objective data on that, and see what direction the numbers point to.

Earlier this year, Salesforce.com released a major report entitled the “State of Service”. Nearly a quarter of their respondents (23%) said they currently use AI chatbots and nearly another third (31%) said they plan to use them within 18 months.

That represents a projected growth rate of 136% in the use of AI chatbots over the next year and a half. By any definition, that’s a viral trajectory.

Spiceworks published a report not long called “AI Chatbots and Intelligent Assistants in the Workplace”.

One question their survey asked was about utilization of intelligent assistants and chatbots by department. Guess which department uses chatbots more than any other? That’s right – IT.

Another question in that Spiceworks survey specifically asked IT professionals if they agree or strongly agree with a number of different statements. The statement IT professionals overwhelmingly agreed with more than any other was that AI will automate mundane tasks and enable more time to focus on strategic IT initiatives.

Those IT professionals Spiceworks surveyed were right. One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is that they automate many of the robotic, laborious tasks that humans shouldn’t be doing anyway. That frees up those IT professionals to work on more strategic and far more valuable IT initiatives. Which in turn makes those professionals more valuable to their organizations.

Why is offloading that tedious work from IT staff so important? Because Gartner has shown that the biggest budget item for IT Service Desks is personnel. Between 2012 and 2016, the average percentage of a service desk’s budget allocated to labor ranged from 84% – 88%. With digital transformations driving up the demand for IT support, there’s simply no way an organization can hire their way out of this situation, even if they wanted to.

The reality is that quality service desk personnel simply cost too much, and no matter how good those personnel are, they can only keep up with so much volume. At some point the laws of physics reassert themselves, reminding everyone that people simply don’t scale very well. Chatbots though, have infinite scalability.

That limited human capacity to scale, combined with the increased volume of requests for service desk support, is degrading end user experiences.

A 2016 Harvard Business Review Webinar titled “How to Fix Customer Service” revealed that:

  • 81% of consumers say it takes too long to reach a support agent.
  • 43% of customers try to self-serve before calling a contact center.

What that tells you is that waiting for human support has gotten so insufferable, end users are increasingly willing to remediate their own issues. All they need is for IT to enable a channel for them to do that.

What kinds of requests are keeping IT service desks so busy?

Well if you’ve attended any of our previous webinars you might’ve heard us cite a well-quoted statistic from Gartner that as much as 40% of an IT service desk’s call volume is nothing but password resets. 40%!

Another big drain on your service desk? Requests for ticket status updates. Those can comprise as much as 10% of a service desk’s call volume, and we’re citing ourselves (Ayehu) as the source on that.

How do we know? Well, Ayehu knows because our clients tell us which workflows have the biggest impact on reducing call volume to their service desks.

Therefore, if you can use a chatbot to automate just these two processes – password resets and ticket status updates – you could cut call volume to your service desk in half! That’s huge, and it will go a long way towards reducing your service desk ticket costs dramatically.

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It’s the End of the IT Service Desk as We Know it (and We Feel Fine)

Ayehu and Rulai team up to turn chatbots into workbots, enabling the self-driving IT service desk

San Jose, CA and Campbell, CA — October 29, 2019 — Ayehu, a leader in intelligent automation, and Rulai today announced a partnership to deliver a self-driving IT issue resolution offering powered by AI. The Rulai integration goes beyond the limitations of traditional chatbot communication capabilities to deliver virtual service agents (VSAs) that complete IT service desk work.

“Let’s face it, people hate calling the service desk, experiencing long waits on IVR and sometimes waiting hours just to get a password reset,” said Gabby Nizri, CEO of Ayehu. “Ayehu and Rulai are disrupting the entire way the IT service desk works in enterprises today. Using the integrated solution, we eliminate the need for employees to call and wait for IT to solve their problems. Our chatbot VSA will perform these tasks, increasing productivity and employee satisfaction.”

IT service desk operation is extremely resource-intensive, with as much as 85% of the cost being labor according to some studies. Most of this work involves menial, repetitive tasks, that could easily be automated. This has led to the rise of chatbots, which can reduce the amount of human interaction considerably.

However, chatbots are often limited to basic interactions such as pointing the user to non-actionable static information pages, or at best, creating a well-formatted request that is then sent to a human operator for execution. Most chatbots use rule-based decision trees, have poor natural language understanding and limited ability to manage an ongoing dialog or execute a task. As a result, they are easily confused, and customers can become frustrated.

To address both limitations, Ayehu and Rulai have joined forces to create a solution that actually does the work.

Combining Rulai’s Level 3 Conversational Computing Platform with Ayehu’s intelligent automation engine, companies can turn chatbots into a Virtual Service Agent (VSA) – a workbot that has the ability to not only receive and communicate requests but complete and resolve them as well.  

Rulai’s platform allows companies to build AI-based conversational chatbots that can manage non-linear dialogue, and that require no code to develop or deploy. Ayehu provides an intelligent automation engine that receives user intent from Rulai, and acts on it. No code is required to build workflows that integrate with the widest range of applications, changing the IT service desk experience for the end-users.

“Improving employee experience has become one of the top goals for CIOs,” said Marc Vanlerberghe, CEO of Rulai. “We live in an instant gratification economy. Like never before, employees demand fast, frictionless engagement with companies. The combination of our Level 3 Conversational Computing Platform and Ayehu’s intelligent automation platform creates a delightful and frictionless IT experience, available 24/7, 365 days a year, vastly improving the employee experience.”

By running the service desk autonomously customers can achieve as much as a 35% cost reduction, while reducing MTTR by 98% which makes the end user satisfaction higher than ever.

Ayehu’s Rulai integration is available immediately. Please contact sdr@ayehu.com.

For more information, register for the upcoming automation webinar on November 13th: 

Rulai and Ayehu Present: How to Create a Self-Driving IT Service Desk. Register here:

https://info.ayehu.com/how-ai-can-reduce-service-desk-ticket-costs-from-20-to-4

About Ayehu

Ayehu’s AI-powered automation and orchestration platform 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. For more information, please visit www.ayehu.com and the company blog.  Follow Ayehu on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Rulai

Rulai is a new Enterprise Conversational Computing Platform provider. Rooted in academia, the founding team has a combined 200 years of experience in AI research, published over 400 research papers and filed over 80 patents in advanced AI-based dialog management. It is the only SaaS platform in the market capable of supporting business teams in building Level 3 Virtual Assistants .

Enterprises in banking, insurance, retail, telco, and life sciences increasingly rely on human-centered automation to augment the work of customer service agents, as well as increase customer self service capabilities across sales and support. Rulai’s easy-to-use platform allows business users to create and evolve virtual assistants with support from IT. Rulai has been recognized by Gartner, Forrester, and Bloomberg, and was named to the Forbes 2019 AI 50 list.

Helping the IT Help Desk – What you Need to Know about Virtual Support Agents

What you Need to Know about Virtual Support Agents

This post was originally published as a guest article on InsideBIGDATA.

IT help desks everywhere are handling a growing number of requests from multiple channels every day. And the more time the service desk spends putting out fires by phone, through email, or in person, the less time they have to focus on resolving the bigger issues and applying their cognitive skills to more meaningful projects.

Are chatbots or virtual support agents the answer? The success of virtual support depends on several key factors. Here’s how to identify those factors and evaluate whether or not VSAs are right for your organization.

Chatbot vs. VSA

The first important piece of the puzzle is understanding the difference between chatbot and virtual support agent technology. While the concept is similar, there is a distinct and critical difference, particularly as it relates to use in the help desk arena. This difference can be summed up in one word: context.

If you’ve ever visited a website and used the “live chat” feature to ask a question, chances are the party you interacted with was a chatbot. And chances are even greater that the responses you received were basic and scripted based on a set of common inquiries. Simply put, chatbots are one-dimensional. They cannot engage beyond the basic communication that they’ve been programmed for.

Virtual support agents, on the other hand, when set up properly, have far greater functionality and flexibility than chatbots. Thanks to underlying technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing, VSAs are capable of understanding the meaning and intent behind human communication, even if it’s vague or ambiguous.

In other words, VSAs can understand context. As such, they are able to hold realistic conversations, generate authentic dialogue and provide intelligent responses based not only on the data they’ve received (like chatbots), but also on the context of that data.

VSAs and the Help Desk

As mentioned, help desk agents field a mind-boggling volume of incoming requests, the majority of which are routine and repetitive in nature, but important nonetheless. For instance, password resets are a necessary evil in the IT support realm as they are required in order to keep others in the organization productive.

Yet, the process of manually resetting user passwords is not only a tremendous waste of human resources, but it’s also a massive waste of money. In fact, Forrester Research estimates that the average cost of a single password reset is $70. Multiply that cost by the number of times your support team executes this task and it really adds up.

That’s where virtual support technology comes in. VSAs enable the help desk to automate almost all routine, repetitive and manual tasks. Beyond this, however, is where the true value of virtual support becomes evident. In addition to automating the basics, the technology behind VSAs enables them to work alongside human agents, providing the same level of support and assistance.

How it works is remarkably simple. The virtual agent pulls data from various knowledge management resources to respond intelligently to incoming requests. Virtual agents are also capable of taking action on behalf of the end-user without the need for human intervention. This means fewer escalations and a more manageable workload so human support agents can focus their skills on more meaningful business initiatives.

The Key to Success

Of course, as with any technology, virtual support agents do require work in order to set them up properly. For instance, AI and NLP technologies are essential components to VSA functionality. The most fundamental key to success, however, is the establishment and maintenance of a comprehensive, dynamic knowledge-base. After all, this is the resource from which the VSA will draw its responses. Without in-depth and accurate data, virtual agents will not be capable of operating to their fullest potential.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 40% of I&O teams will be using AI-augmented automation, resulting in higher productivity with greater agility and scalability. Given the current benefits, coupled with the promise of improving technology, it’s not a stretch to see that VSAs will continue to play an increasing role in making the help desk experience better for everyone.

Click here to view the original post on InsideBIGDATA.

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.

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!