The Secret to Unlocking Maximum Return on Efficiency and Cost-Savings

The Secret to Unlocking Maximum Return on Efficiency and Cost-Savings

Artificial intelligence technologies have already begun to change the way we live and work. Yet, still far too many businesses remain caught up in the trap of wasting tremendous amounts of valuable time on routine, repetitive tasks. Automating as many of these mundane tasks and workflows can not only have a massively positive impact on efficiency and productivity, but it can also dramatically improve morale. But it’s not just about adopting these technologies on a case-by-case basis that will reap the greatest rewards. It’s doing so in a way that automates business processed from end-to-end. That’s the real key.   

Why End-to-End?

In order to optimize business operations and gain competitive advantage, IT leaders must focus on integrating intelligent automation into processes at every level. Without this holistic approach, you will inevitably end up with automation silos, which can actually impede progress rather than facilitate it.

Using purchasing as an example, the goal should be to embed automation from supplier selection through invoice payment. Ultimately, you want intelligent technology to become a seamless part of normal daily work, from the start of every task or workflow through completion and beyond. Keep in mind that this may (and very likely will) involve incorporating automation through multiple teams and departments.

One of the biggest problems with dedicated (isolated) automation projects is that the organization misses out on valuable insights along the journey. For instance, automating just a piece of the customer experience process could result in a failure to effectively capture feedback data. Without this information, business leaders cannot fully understand behaviors, buying decisions and reasons for churn. As a result, they miss out on the opportunity to hone and improve their product or service.

The Self-Driving Organization

Many similarities can be drawn between intelligent process automation in the workplace and autonomous vehicles. In particular, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies have the potential to adapt and either recommend certain actions based on data, or carry out those actions independently, without the need for human intervention. Does this mean people will suddenly stop driving? No – at least not for the foreseeable future.

Likewise, humans will still be needed to oversee the intelligent technologies that are being utilized in the workplace. (This is why we recently posted an article about the importance of reskilling the workforce.) Someone still has to define algorithms, decide what rules should be followed and determine which priorities present the most value.

That being said, there is plenty of opportunity now to start making strategic decisions and laying the foundation for a more autonomous future. A great first step is to help human workers gain a better understanding of the technology, its capabilities and the potential ways intelligent process automation can bring tremendous benefits to their daily lives. Better understanding will foster trust, which will make it much smoother sailing as more and more processes are moved to automation.

At the end of the day, in order to remain profitable in an increasingly digital world, business leaders must take a holistic approach to their automation initiatives, working together across the entire enterprise to incorporate intelligent technologies across the board. Only then will they be able to achieve the highest return on their investment.

Did you know that Ayehu NG integrates with dozens of the top software, platforms and applications to help facilitate seamless automation process across the entire infrastructure? Check out our full integration list here and then download your free trial to take Ayehu for test drive today!

The Importance of Reskilling Employees for the Future of Work

The Importance of Reskilling Employees for the Future of WorkA few months ago, nobody could have imagined a rampant virus shutting down the world and bringing the global economy to its collective knees. Yet, here we are, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and most of us still trying to adjust to this sudden and severe change to life as we know it. Organizations around the world have been forced to adapt to a new way of work, whether having to remain operational with a reduced workforce, quickly having to roll-out work-from-home strategies or some combination of both.

As the dust begins to settle, however, a new business need has begun to emerge. Business leaders everywhere are now recognizing the critical importance of being prepared and planning ahead. And one of the most effective ways to do so is to focus on reskilling employees to get them future-ready. Likewise, those individuals who find themselves unfortunately out of work due to the current crisis have the opportunity to position themselves as much more marketable and therefore more employable by learning and mastering new skills.

One of the biggest changes we are likely to see as the world returns to work is greater adoption of a hybrid workforce. That is, humans working alongside digital agents. Many organizations are expected to continue partial or possibly even entirely remote operations, especially after discovering that not only is work-from-home feasible, but it’s an incredibly efficient and cost-effective way to do business. Of course, this would not be possible without the right policies and technologies in place. That’s where reskilling comes into play.

Even before the current health crisis, innovative capabilities, like automation and artificial intelligence, were already causing a good amount of disruption to jobs and the skills human workers needed to know in order to remain employable. In fact, in 2017, McKinsey estimated that as much as 14 percent of the global workforce would either need to acquire new skills or change occupations by 2030 due to AI and automation. To put this into perspective, that’s some 375 million workers. Another recent McKinsey report revealed that 87% of executives said they were either expecting an increased skills gap in the near future or were already experiencing one.

This latest pandemic has brought this need to the forefront and made it much more urgent. Employees across almost every industry must find a way to adapt to the rapidly evolving conditions and organizations must figure out how to transition those workers into new roles and responsibilities. While the two go hand in hand, the “new normal” will ultimately be more about the role of AI and automation than it will about remote work. It will be about how business leaders across the board are able to retrain or upskill their existing workforce to prepare them for the post-pandemic reality.

To rise to this change, organizations must develop strategic talent strategies that include advancing and honing employees’ skills from a holistic standpoint. That means strengthening their digital capabilities as well as their cognitive, emotional and social skills. If there’s ever been a time for companies to commit to and invest in the education of their workers, it’s now. Focusing on this, along with investing in the right tools and technologies, will help bolster a company’s posture against future business disruptions.

Likewise, employees themselves should be taking this opportunity to further their skillsets and adapt to the changing landscape. Whether their employer is resistant to the topic of reskilling or they are one of the millions currently unemployed, individual workers would be wise to seek out available learning opportunities on their own. At a time when job security is virtually non-existent and the skills gap is widening, embracing intelligent automation will undoubtedly create opportunities for new positions in the future of work.

Whether you are an organization seeking to get ahead of the next potential crisis and strengthen your position in the marketplace of tomorrow or an ambitious individual looking to future-proof your career, Ayehu Automation Academy is a great place to start. Find out more about the academy and enroll yourself or your team today by clicking here. 

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

Hired! How to Put Digital Labor to Work for Your Service Desk

How to Put Digital Labor to Work for Your Service Desk

Author: Guy Nadivi

With the proliferation of all kinds of bots the last few years, “digital labor” is a term you’re going to be hearing more and more about going forward.

Lee Coulter, who chairs the IEEE Working Group on Standards in Intelligent Process Automation says that “digital labor” is really just another term for “intelligent automation”. However, digital labor represents a paradigm shift that’s disruptive to the status quo. From what we’ve seen so far, you can expect that it will change how we work. It will change the kinds of work we do, and it will also create enormous new opportunities for cost cutting, as well as career opportunities for those who will be working with and managing digital labor.

A few years ago, an analyst at HfS Research coined the phrase “Welcome to Robotistan”, which referred to a corporate world where humans intermingled with virtual FTE’s, primarily in the form of bots that could take on the boring, repetitive tasks so many humans despise doing. With the proliferation of automation the last few years, that vision has turned into a reality, perhaps quicker than many thought it would.

Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing interest really skyrocket from organizations wanting to deploy chatbots to relieve humans of robotic-type tasks, and free them up for more important things, like for example, reshaping the digital workplace to accommodate all the people now working from home.

The worldwide chatbot market continues to experience extraordinary growth. According to Business Insider, in 2019 the market was worth a bit more than $2 ½ Billion, but they’re forecasting that by 2024 it will approach $10 Billion! That’s a compound annual growth rate of over 29% a year, which by any measure is very impressive.

Last year Salesforce.com released a major report entitled the “State of Service”. In this study they found that nearly a quarter of their respondents (23%) 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 from Spring of 2019 to early Autumn of 2020. Another clear indication of serious growth!

As we’ve often said at Ayehu, the biggest factor driving enterprise adoption of AI chatbots is probably service desk Cost Per Ticket.

The generally-accepted industry figure for the average cost of an L1 service desk ticket is $20. Enterprises deploying AI chatbots to enable self-help or self-service capabilities for their end users are finding that they can drive down the cost of those L1 tickets to just $4. Tell a CIO, CTO, or any senior IT Executive that there’s a way to reduce their single biggest expenditure on IT Support by 80%, and they’re likely going to be very interested in hearing more.

However, AI chatbots with automation that shift ticket requests to end-users for self-service can do much more for the Service Desk than just lower ticket volume and costs.

When AI chatbots are deployed as digital labor, service desks can also:

  • Slash MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents and requests
  • Liberate IT staff from doing tedious work and free them up for more important tasks
  • Raise customer satisfaction ratings, an increasingly critical KPI for IT Operations

Last year, Ayehu conducted an inquiry with a Gartner VP focused on the AI chatbot market, and he shared with us what they believe the biggest value propositions of digital labor are, based on an organization’s AI chatbot maturity level.

If your organization is interested in the technology but hasn’t deployed anything yet, in other words you’re in pre-production or your plans are still on the drawing board, then your biggest value proposition from digital labor is going to be cost reduction and deflection rates.

If your organization already has AI chatbot solutions in place, then your #1 benefit from adding automation and turning that AI chatbot into true digital labor will be increased customer satisfaction.

Regardless of whether you’re in pre-production and have yet to deploy digital labor, or have rolled out chatbots and are looking to add automation, here are some questions you should ask yourself and have answers to in order to guide your enterprise to the best possible outcomes.

What would AI chatbots mean inside of my enterprise?

How would they change business processes? How would they impact our cost structure? How would they increase our capacity?

How do I want our people to be able to work with digital labor?

This is another important question to ask in order to clearly demarcate where digital labor ends, and escalation to humans begins.

How do I want our people and digital labor to engage with customers?

This is actually important to answer whether the customers are internal or external.

There are a lot of important questions to ask your digital labor vendor as well before deploying, but here are 3 that really stand out.

What kind of scalability would an AI chatbot be capable of inside of my enterprise?

How many users can it handle? How many inquiries can it handle simultaneously? This is very important to know beforehand.

How easy is it to use?

How hard is it going to be to configure the AI chatbot for my enterprise? Do I need expensive highly-skilled programmers, or will one of my junior-level sys admins be enough?

Finally, how many other systems can I integrate my digital labor with?

The number of platforms your digital labor can connect to will dictate how much of your workload it can automate for you.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that powers your digital labor efforts, download your very own free 30-day trial version today from the link below:

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The Secret to Creating an AI-Powered Organization (Hint: It’s Not Technology)

The Secret to Creating an AI-Powered OrganizationAsk most companies that market AI products what the key is to successful digital transformation, and chances are, the knee-jerk reaction of far too many will be “technology.” We’re certainly not going to say that technology doesn’t play a pivotal role. To the contrary, it’s essential. What we are proposing is that creating a self-driving, AI-powered organization takes much more than just cutting-edge tech. To position your business for success, here’s what else you’ll need to do.

Expand your knowledge base.

Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, if you’re not mindful, it can be remarkably easy to become stagnant and suddenly realize you’ve been left behind. Do you have to become an expert in every product, app or platform out there? Of course not. But, you do need to know just enough to be dangerous. What we mean by that expression is, you need to gain enough insight to be able to identify where and how technology will be most useful. From there, you can determine which technologies make the most sense from a logistical standpoint.

How should you expand your tech know-how? There are dozens of ways, and many of them are convenient and free. Take, for instance, the Ayehu Automation Academy. With this free online course, you can quickly comprehend and cultivate practical skills through a variety of interactive learning activities and develop a foundational understanding of automation technology.

Focus on soft-skills.

Recruiting for technology positions isn’t easy – especially when it comes to finding candidates skilled in the field of artificial intelligence. The good news is, tech skills aren’t the only qualifying factors for being successful. In fact, they’re not even in the top 5.

Think about it. If you’ve got intelligent automation to handle the grunt work (simple as well as complex), you don’t need the human equivalent to robots. You need people who are not only tech-savvy, but also possess the soft-skills that cannot be replicated by AI. Skills like empathy and creative thinking. You want right-brained individuals who can think outside the box and find new ways to extract value from the technology that’s available to them. This is true innovation.

Avoid tech overload.

With so much available tools, it can be tempting to use as many as possible. But while it’s entirely possible, and in many cases wise, to utilize a wide variety of tech tools for their various capabilities, doing so without a plan can actually harm, rather than help your organization.

For instance, if each department is using their own systems and these systems do not connect, you’ll end up with silos that work against instead of with one another. This can cause costly delays and errors. It can also overload your IT team and lead to burnout.

It’s fine to avail your company of technology, but be sure to do so in a measured, strategic manner that includes a plan for connecting everything onto one centralized dashboard. Specifically, seek out only tools that can be easily and seamlessly integrated so that you can maximize the benefits of all.

Building an AI-powered organization will become central to success in the digital age, but as with anything else, there’s a right way and a not-so-right way to go about it. Be careful not to get tunnel-vision and focus solely on technology as the solution. The ideal approach is one that marries digital with human workers and celebrates the unique and valuable capabilities of each.

Preparing for the Future with IT Process Automation

Preparing for the Future with IT Process AutomationAs organizations focus their attention on the future in an attempt to envision what that new normal will ultimately look like, IT process automation should begin to come into clearer focus than ever. Faced with the increasing challenge of managing mountains of data and maximizing uptime without bringing in additional human workers, businesses that are late to jump on the automation bandwagon will almost certainly fall behind. Organizations that prioritize the building of a digital workforce, on the other hand, have the ability to not only bridge the talent gap but also augment the skills of their existing personnel.

While some fear of AI taking over and replacing the human workforce still exists to a certain degree that fear is lessening – particularly as people begin to experience the tremendous benefits that come with working in tandem with digital coworkers. It doesn’t have to be one or another. In fact, to the contrary, while intelligent IT process automation is certain capable of carrying a significant portion of the workload, humans are still a necessary component – at least for the foreseeable future.

Part of what makes digital workers (aka IT process automation) so appealing is the ability to quickly and seamlessly build on additional capabilities. For instance, you can have the same automation platform assist human resources as well as the IT support desk simultaneously. The versatility and virtually endless workload capacity are inherently valuable on both a granular level as well as for the organization as a whole.

Increasing Demand for IT Process Automation

Despite the fact that unemployment has recently skyrocketed, the reality is, this situation is temporary. While recovering from the economic blow of the global pandemic will take time, many of those currently out of work will be hired back once things turn around. Likewise, a significant portion of the baby boomer generation is now heading toward retirement. This will inevitably bring us back to a shortage of skilled workers.

Meanwhile, organizations are under increasing pressure to keep operations going as smoothly and with as little disruption as possible. IT process automation can address these challenges, providing a safety net for short-staffed teams and a viable succession plan for when human workers begin dropping out of the workforce.

Merging Humans and Digital Workers

Those businesses with a cohesive strategy that utilizes both digital and human workers and relies on automation technologies will have the distinct advantage over those less forward-thinking. To achieve this balance, business leaders must ensure that human workers are not only aware but fully on-board with the evolution that is taking place. Remember – successful digital transformation is not about technology. It’s about business goals and strategic outcomes. Be sure the focus lies in the correct place.

Leverage IT process automation to handle the tasks, processes and workflows that will free up their human counterparts to be able to focus on more meaningful work. Begin by first automating the “low-hanging fruit,” which are smaller manual tasks that offer fast and measurable ROI. This will enable you to test, learn and optimize to achieve even more value in the future.

Keep in mind, of course, that the digital workforce requires structure and oversight, just like your human personnel. This is where the convergence of human and digital will really shine, as it opens the doors for ambitious employees to learn new skills and enhance their own value.

Over the coming years, we’ll undoubtedly see more organizations relying on IT process automation as an invaluable resource for maximizing efficiency and productivity, augmenting their workforce and ultimately strengthening their position in the marketplace.

Will you be among these front-runners? Get started with intelligent IT process automation today by launching your free 30-day trial of Ayehu.

4 Steps to Seamless Remote IT Operations

4 Steps to Seamless Remote IT OperationsWhile the world is slowly starting to focus on recovering from the Coronavirus outbreak, experts are predicting it could be months or even possibly years until we’re truly able to return to normal (or some semblance of the word). Business leaders are working tirelessly to quickly innovate in an attempt to mitigate their damages and remain as close to operational as possible.

This change has brought about the rapid adoption of remote working which, while a welcome move, introduces a variety of challenges. If you are facing this evolution in your own organization, here are four tips for navigating the transition smoothly.

Establish a strategy to monitor and manage endpoints remotely.

With some or possibly even all employees now working from home, organizations need a way to efficiently and effectively manage all of those endpoint devices. Remote monitoring is key, as it enables optimal control.

Remote endpoint management allows the IT team to seamlessly access devices and equipment so that, should any issues arise, they can be easily troubleshot for maximum uptime. Best of all, with remote endpoint management, IT techs can operate behind the scenes causing little to no disruption to the end-user. This helps to keep productivity high across the board.

Automate as many manual tasks and workflows as possible.

Running a busy IT operation is challenging enough under normal circumstances. Add in the rapid and, in many cases, unplanned-for transition to remote work and IT teams are really feeling the pressure. Even the most proficient organizations are capable of managing all of this manually. The good news is, there are a wide variety of tasks and workflows that can quickly and easily be handled by IT process automation.

Leveraging automation technology will take much of the stress and burden off your already overworked IT team. For best results, look for an automation and orchestration platform that comes with a large library of pre-built workflows and other resources for fastest time to value.

Develop and implement a backup and disaster recovery plan.

With everything else going on in the world (hello, global health and economic crisis!), the last thing your IT team needs to lose sleep over is the reliability of your organization’s backup systems. To avoid this, you need to develop and implement a sufficient strategy for business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR).

Again, IT process automation can be utilized for continuous monitoring and autonomous incident resolution, effectively meeting the backup demands of your organization while preventing downtime or data loss.

Put protections in place against cyber-attacks.

While everyone else is struggling to handle a global pandemic, the reality is, cyber-criminals are viewing this trying time as a golden opportunity to exploit unexpected and increasing vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity is one of the most critical components of establishing a successful work-from-home arrangement. Understand that attackers can and will be coming at your business from every direction, and will be doing so relentlessly.

Keeping up with these incidents manually isn’t just inefficient. It’s ineffective. To the contrary, to protect your assets, you must fight fire with fire. That is, leverage the same sophisticated technologies as those endeavoring to cause your business harm. IT process automation can help you stay a step ahead of your would-be attackers and prevent potential irreparable damage to your organization’s future.

One Final Thought…

As you work to implement these four steps, one final but highly critical thing to think about is the cohesiveness of your current IT infrastructure. If you’re operating on a number of disjointed solutions, you risk further burdening your IT team and increasing the risk of operational failure for your organization.

Ayehu NG is designed to facilitate centralized and efficient management of IT operations. It integrates seamlessly with all the most popular IT and security applications (ITSM, ITOM, NOC, SOC, AI, intelligent chatbots and messaging platforms) federating enterprise applications, streamlining automated processes.

Navigating through the turbulent waters of our current situation isn’t going to be easy, but with the right plan, tools and innovative technology, it’s possible for your business to emerge mostly unscathed when the dust ultimately settles.

Start your free 30-day trial of Auehu NG and get your remote IT operations up and running in as little as a day!

Post-Pandemic IT: How Data Driven Automation Will Remake IT Better and More Efficient Than Ever

Post-Pandemic IT: How Data Driven Automation Will Remake IT Better and More Efficient Than Ever

                  Author: Guy Nadivi

The Coronavirus pandemic and its effects are likely to be with us for a while, but this health crisis will eventually subside, and once it does, many are wondering what things will look like on the other side, especially for IT. This question is particularly pressing in light of how many IT organizations very rapidly changed the way they work, and began delivering services to their enterprise’s end users, customers, and partners from remote locations.

In retrospect, we may look back on this period as heralding the acceleration of digital transformation for many organizations, much of which will be directly due to data driven automation.

In Q1 of this year, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a leading IT industry analyst and consulting firm, conducted an exhaustive global study on automation in the enterprise, spearheaded by their Vice-President Dennis Drogseth. Ayehu partnered with EMA to share some of the more intriguing highlights from that report with our audience, and then used the results as an input into developing some predictions for what post-pandemic IT will look like.

One of EMA’s findings was that automation has been making steady inroads into modernizing enterprise processes.

EMA also surveyed their respondents about which type of automation was at the vanguard of efforts to unify automation across IT. Interestingly, IT Process Automation was first, while RPA was last.

One of EMA’s most significant findings was that 90% of respondents viewed the coupling of AI/Analytics with automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. That in turn led to the uncovering of some other intriguing correlations.

 

Finally, EMA also uncovered the top obstacles to automating in enterprises that have not made good progress with automation. (Boldfaced results are the obstacles that were technical in nature.)

 

 

After combining #5 and #7, we boiled the technical obstacles down to 3:

  • Product complexity
  • Too much customization required
  • And lack of integration

Let’s examine each one of these a bit more closely.

Product Complexity

When it comes to automation, complexity is something we often hear about at Ayehu, primarily from organizations that have used automation vendors whose so-called “automation” actually involves lots of scripting.

This is why for many years now our mantra at Ayehu has been “Scripting DOES NOT EQUAL Automation”.

The idea behind automation is kind of similar to the idea behind a car having an automatic transmission instead of a stick shift.

Not everybody can drive a car with a stick shift. It’s more difficult for many people, requires additional driving skills, and increases the complexity of the product, which in this case would be the automobile.

Just about everybody however, can drive a car with an automatic transmission. You just get in the car, start it, decide if you want to go forwards or backwards by putting it in drive or reverse, and step on the gas. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

 

That’s similar to Ayehu’s philosophy on automation. Anyone should be able to create automation workflows, and it shouldn’t require any scripting, programming, or coding skills of any kind whatsoever. We’re often fond of saying that Ayehu is so simple to use, even a junior-level sysadmin who’s never written a single line of code in their life can become an automation wizard with just a few hours of training.

Customization Requirements

Every organization has its own way of doing things, and the automation tool needs to conform to that. Ayehu’s approach allows you to customize automated processes to fit your organization’s needs by taking a “Lego building block” approach to workflow creation.

Just about everyone who played with Legos as a kid already knows that Lego blocks are generally very basic and for the most part, fit into each other universally.

That basic simplicity and universal interconnectivity however, allows you to make an infinite number of forms and structures from very simple components.

That’s exactly how Ayehu enables you to rapidly customize workflows to fit an infinite number of IT processes. For those that were holding back on automation due to trepidation over the customization requirements, Ayehu’s flexibility and adaptability should ease any lingering concerns.

In case you haven’t seen the interface of Ayehu’s automation tool, here’s a screenshot that shows you what I’m talking about.

As you can see, it’s a kind of canvas where you build your workflow through a pretty simple, easy to learn drag-and-drop interface.

You have a selection of over 500 activities (or Lego building blocks) to choose from when building your workflow. Most of these are platform specific. You can see Active Directory, Amazon EC2, BMC Remedy and many other platform activities there on the left. All of these activities have been thoroughly tested, debugged, streamlined, and are ready to deploy in your environment.

After dragging-and-dropping your activities onto the canvas, you simply click on them to do some basic parameter configuration. No need for any coding.

Lack of Integrations

Ayehu has an ever-growing ecosystem of pre-built integrations and connectors available that are intended to simplify your automation process. Whether it’s an ITSM platform like ServiceNow or BMC Remedy, a monitoring tool like Solarwinds, infrastructure solutions like VMware, or just about anything at all, Ayehu can seamlessly integrate into it without needing to write a single line of code. The goal here is for Ayehu to be your single pane of glass for orchestrating automation across any platform in your environment, and that’s another way we help you overcome obstacles to automation at your enterprise.

Now that we’ve addressed some of the obstacles to automation that EMA’s report uncovered, we’re going to take a critical look at what Post-Pandemic IT will look like. We’ve got some very specific predictions we want to share with you, based on a synthesis of what EMA’s report uncovered, customer trends Ayehu has observed directly, and some published material by various thought leaders on this topic.

Before doing that though, I’m going to lay a bit of foundational context by talking about the current economic trends we’re all impacted by, as this is a big driver to some of our post-pandemic predictions.

At the time of this blog post’s writing, recent unemployment numbers have been nothing short of an economic horror show. The situation is bad, and we’re being told it’s going to get worse.

 

What does worse mean? Let’s get some perspective on things by looking at the numbers.

During the Great Recession, a little over a decade ago, the US lost a total of 8.8 million jobs. In the Information Technology field, there were 297,000 jobs lost. That’s a small percentage of the overall jobs lost. However, as a percentage of all the jobs in IT at the time, it was nearly 10%. So 1 out of every 10 jobs in IT were lost during the Great Recession, which lasted about 18 months.

Now we come to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which for the purposes of this economic discussion we’ll say began at some point in March of 2020. So far, as of the latest April unemployment report, we’ve already lost a total of over 20 million jobs. That’s more than twice as many lost during the Great Recession, and it happened in just a matter of weeks!

You may also have heard that this represents a 14.7% OFFICIAL unemployment rate, which is the highest we’ve had since the Great Depression. But earlier this week, the Treasury Secretary was asked if it was possible the UNOFFICIAL unemployment rate was actually higher (as high as 25%). He acknowledged that it very well could be, which is jaw-dropping.

In the IT field so far, there have been 254,000 jobs lost. Over a quarter million jobs lost! Given the total number of IT jobs in March 2020, that represents 8.8% of the industry. In just one month due to the pandemic, our industry has lost almost as many jobs as were lost in 18 months of the Great Recession!

BTW – every number just quoted is taken directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So how bad will it get? Well, no one knows for sure of course, but we can take an educated guess based on some of the projections out there.

For the total duration of the pandemic, there are estimates that ultimately 47 million jobs will be lost. How many of those are in IT? That could be AT LEAST 500,000 jobs, which would equate to somewhere around 20% of the industry.

Perhaps some of you might be thinking, well this is still early days, and as the situation develops, we could actually see job growth in IT due to the surge in demand for more IT services. Perhaps you’re right. Afterall, given how the pandemic has anecdotally awakened many organizations to the need for accelerating their digital transformation, there may in fact be a big surge in hiring of IT professionals.

So far though, that clearly hasn’t happened. In fact, once Federal bailouts like the Paycheck Protection Program run out of money, there could also be an acceleration in contraction of employee headcount in the IT field.

Given that reality, we’ve chosen to base our projections on the direction we actually see things going, as that seems to generally be the most prudent thing to do.

Here’s one more thing everybody needs to take into consideration.

If headcount reduction impacts your IT operations, it almost certainly WILL NOT RESULT in a corresponding relaxation of strict service level agreement targets. If your organization is obligated to continue meeting certain mean-time-to-resolution commitments, and you’re about to lose or have already lost some staff, you’re going to have a tough time meeting your SLA targets. Depending on how your SLAs are written, that could mean incurring some stiff financial penalties.

Just another data point to consider, as I proceed to present you with our predictions for what a post-pandemic IT will look like.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #1: Digital Transformations Will Be Accelerated

If it isn’t already, expect digital transformation to become a major focus for many IT organizations, including yours.

Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow said on a recent earnings call that they’re seeing “…that customers who are farthest along in their digital transformation are better equipped to manage this crisis. Companies lagging behind are realizing that they now have a burning platform. Accelerating digital transformation has become a business imperative.” He then went on to predict that over $7 trillion would be spent on digital transformation over the next three years.

Digital Transformation, of course, has been one of the bigger buzzwords of late. Of all its many definitions, the one we like best is “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.

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, or whether they’re working from home or sitting in a corporate office.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #2: AIOps Deployments Will Be Accelerated

90% of the respondents to EMA’s exhaustive survey reported viewing the merging of Artificial Intelligence with analytics and automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. Given the massive paradigm shift that working from home brings to an organization’s infrastructure, AIOps is being increasingly viewed as the best solution to monitor and manage on-premise and remote worker systems.

One example we’ve been hearing a lot about lately is the massive increase in VPN usage as a result of the upsurge in staff working from home. This has led to an increased need for monitoring and managing VPN license servers, to ensure that with all the VPNs being used remotely, the license limit isn’t suddenly breached, thus crashing the VPN server and creating an outage for everybody in the organization logged into it.

At this point, the new norm of working from home is virtually certain to become a long-term permanent consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially considering the liabilities organizations may incur by bringing workers back to open office plans with shared desks and common areas. It’s just very hard to see how that arrangement can possibly continue.

There are discussions about retrofitting these types of work areas with partitions and sneeze guards, but it remains to be seen how effective that’s going to be, particularly compared to just letting people continue working from home. That’s especially true now that everyone can see working remotely isn’t the productivity apocalypse many control-freak executives thought it might be.

As a result, expect to see the accelerated use of AIOps due to this monumental workplace transition.

Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #3: Accelerating Implementation of AI Chatbots

There was already a trend towards deploying AI chatbots as 24x7x365 virtual operators that enable self-service automation for service desk requests. The momentum driving that shift pre-pandemic was the huge reduction chatbots delivered in cost per ticket on L1 requests ($4 vs. industry standard $20).

The COVID-19 outbreak however has placed pressure on many IT organizations to expedite the rollout of AI chatbots, and reroute call volume away from humans working at the service desk towards virtual operators that are always on-call. If your organization suffers any headcount reduction as a result of the economic situation, and even if it doesn’t, there’s likely going to be a much bigger emphasis on using AI chatbots to facilitate more self-service incident remediation and request fulfillment.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG with all its cool new features and get a head-start on post-pandemic IT, download your very own free 30-day trial version from the link below:

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

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part III – Using Automation to Resolve the Top 5 NOC Issues

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part III – Using Automation to Resolve the Top 5 NOC IssuesMaintaining a 24/7 well-functioning Network Operation Center (NOC) is not an easy task to accomplish under normal circumstances. Add in the complexity of doing so during a global pandemic while simultaneously minimizing disruption and maximizing efficiency, and you’ve got quite the challenge on your hands. In the last of our three-part blog series, we’d like to help you rise to that challenge by identifying the five biggest issues NOC’s face and how you can use automation to resolve them.

Busy shifts and short-staffed situations

The NOC is typically a pretty chaotic place: there is always an incident to escalate, a service to restore or a report to produce, and all that while having to continuously monitor other services. Unfortunately, there’s not always enough manpower to accomplish all of these tasks successfully (especially given the current pandemic situation). With IT process automation, you can quickly and easily build automated workflows that will help carry a significant portion of the daily workload, even with limited staff.

Take for example a situation of a critical application that crashes twice a week and the solution is to remotely connect to a server and restart a service. The NOC operator has to open the procedure every time, check the server name, verify the service name and then start connecting to the server. This process can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, and that’s assuming that the operator noticed the alert right away. With automation, the entire process could be carried out autonomously in less than a minute, including sending an email to the application’s manager and updating a ticket.

Time-consuming daily tasks

The NOC is responsible for carrying out many day-to-day tasks – reports production, manual monitoring, or preventative activities, such as disk space cleanup and service resets. Naturally, executing all of these tasks is very time consuming and prevents NOC team members from getting ahead with other projects that could potentially advance the team. Alternatively, you can map out all tasks that have to be executed every shift, daily or weekly, and take the load off of your people by automating them.

Lack of technical knowledge

Not all NOC members necessarily have the same technical skills and knowledge. Therefore, some people might have more difficulties while handling an incident with a solution that requires advanced troubleshooting skills. The best solution in these cases is to have an expert to solve the problem for you: an expert can identify all troubleshooting steps and all possible options, and create an automated workflow that solves the problem perfectly every time.

Incidents not solved within the NOC

Many times the NOC is required to escalate incidents to other teams who are more qualified to handle them, or who possess the necessary permissions to solve them. When you automate such solutions, you can save the valuable time of a higher-tier team, or to avoid contacting on-calls in the middle of the night (which is always an unpleasant task). Another option is to semi-automate the workflow, meaning, that it can communicate with whoever is on-call while making important decisions.

Escalation process is unclear or complicated to follow

The point at which an escalation is required can get confusing due to the complexity of the escalation procedure, or the fact that each service/system requires a different procedure. During a busy shift, or when staff is short-handed, it can be quite difficult to keep track of the time that has passed from the previous step of the escalation, and which steps were already executed. This is especially the case when there are several open incidents at the same time.

Automating the escalation processes of frequent incidents or top services will prevent the confusion and ensure that your customers get their information correctly and on time – every time.

These are certainly trying times indeed. But as we rise up to face these evolving challenges, technology is at the helm to help us weather the storm. Don’t go it alone. Download your free trial of Ayehu and get your NOC on the path to a brighter, more successful future.

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part II – Leveraging Zero-Level Support for Your Organization

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part II - Leveraging Zero-Level Support for Your Organization

Last week, we shared the first of our three-part blog series covering the use of automation to augment and enhance the network operation center. Given the current situation, both from an economic as well as human wellness standpoint, businesses across the globe have been forced to adapt and evolve much faster than many may have liked. For some, remote work has quickly become standard practice. For others, finding ways to operate on limited resources has become the focus.

In either case, running a successful IT operations requires achieving as much efficiency as possible. Unfortunately, that comes at a cost. The good news is, there is a way to accomplish the majority of the work of lower-level NOC operations without requiring the additional personnel. With IT process automation, this is more than just a possibility – it’s completely achievable! It’s called zero-level support and it’s something that could potentially revolutionize your IT operations – especially during these trying times. Here’s how.

Level 1 NOC operations is typically the first line of contact for the end-user when an IT problem arises. As a result, this team handles many tasks that become routine and repetitive, which ultimately takes up a great deal of time that could be more effectively allocated elsewhere. IT process automation eliminates this waste of time and resources by taking these repetitive manual tasks and automating them, essentially freeing up the level 1 NOC personnel to be able to focus on other tasks that cannot be automated. In fact, up to 80% of first level NOC operations can be automated.

Some of the level 1 tasks that can be automated include:

  • Monitoring tickets, notifications and alerts and escalating issues
  • Ticket troubleshooting
  • Restart services, password resets, disk space cleanup
  • Updates and documentation

When these routine tasks are no longer required to be handled manually, level 1 employees become empowered to do more complex tasks normally handled by level 2 NOC, which in turn allows higher level teams to take on more responsibility. In situations for which IT operations is functioning on a skeleton crew, IT process automation can handle much of the heavy lifting, taking the burden off existing staff while enabling them to keep the lights on.

And, as things eventually begin to settle down and normalize, automation also makes the important job of staffing much easier for NOC managers. When an organization has the right technology in place, hiring a team of IT professionals no longer requires the presence of all the skills and capabilities as it would if the workload were to be completed manually. Because so many of the manual tasks are handled by the software, the employees don’t necessarily have to possess the lengthy list of skills and experience they once may have in order to qualify.

Essentially, automation technology can eliminate the need to find employees that possess many of the skills previously required for these types of jobs. This allows managers to seek candidates that have other important business skills, creating a more robust team of professionals.

What all of this basically boils down to is that with IT process automation, technology can essentially become your foundation of support – otherwise known as zero level. This makes the jobs of the other levels – from the 1st level up – as well as the management responsible for assembling highly effective, talented teams, much easier and much more efficient. This can ultimately benefit your entire organization as a whole.

Could your NOC benefit from IT process automation? The best way to find out for sure is to try it for yourself. Click here to download your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG and let zero-level support help your organization navigate through these challenging times.

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part I – Using Automation to Keep Your Network Fully Operational

The Virtual NOC Operator, Part I – Using Automation to Keep Your Network Fully Operational

With the current world health crisis forcing more organizations to enable employees to work from home, and industry analysts forecasting a year or more until we return to “normal” (whatever that may actually look like), businesses across the globe are scrambling to minimize disruption as much as possible.

This is impacting NOC staff as much as everyone, perhaps even more-so, given the fact that they are used to working in a ‘war-room’ type setting in which everyone is physically present. This will inevitably need to change. Thankfully, technology like IT process automation is here to lessen the blow.

Whether you work in a dedicated Network Operations Center (NOC) or operate something similar as part of a team that processes incoming tickets, you’ve probably already heard about the concept of NOC automation. Perhaps you’ve bought into the idea that this technology will all but eliminate the need for human workers. This isn’t necessarily the case, per se, but it can provide the augmentation and virtual support to not only get your organization through this crisis, but thrive well beyond it.

In part one of our three part blog series, we’ll be exploring five ways to keep your network fully operational, despite the critical external circumstances we’re all experiencing. Read on to learn more.

Enable Self-Service End-User Support

NOCs and their smaller counterparts handle an incredibly high number of tickets on a daily basis. Logic predicts that the greater the volume of tickets, the more challenging it becomes to do your job effectively. Given the current situation, demand for IT support is through the roof.

With NOC automation, much of the repetitive day-to-day tasks can be shifted to machine and the entire alert process can be streamlined and optimized. Add in the option of self-service automation, which allows the end-user to handle many of their own simple requests, like password resets, and the skilled IT pros are suddenly freed up to apply their time and talent to more mission-critical tasks.

Enhance Communication

When an incident occurs in a busy NOC environment, it’s alarmingly easy for the process to hit a bottleneck or become lost in the shuffle, especially during a worldwide pandemic. The front-line employee may initiate a request immediately, but if that process isn’t managed properly, there’s no telling where it will go from there. NOC automation is specifically designed to streamline the notification and escalation process so that everything moves through the pipeline in a smooth, timely manner.

When IT staff responds to a notification, an automatic follow-up message can be triggered after a pre-defined timeframe. When the problem is resolved, the incident is closed and a recovery notification is distributed. If the problem remains open, an alert is automatically sent to the system administrator for further review and attention. This ensures that the lines of communication always remain open and flowing freely to eliminate costly delays.

Improve Incident Management

When an incident is triggered and a NOC employee is available to handle it, there’s usually no issue. But what happens if that person isn’t available, or doesn’t have the capacity to respond in a timely manner, such as is frequently the case with work-from-home arrangements? The risk of a ticket sitting in limbo is greatly increased without some type of automated strategy in place. When NOC automation is implemented, the incident management process is much more efficient.

When an incident is triggered, the appropriate representative is notified. Here’s where technology really makes a difference. Should that person fail to respond in a specified amount of time, the system automatically escalates the incident to the next person in line, and so on. Furthermore, notifications and responses can be sent in a variety of ways, including email and SMS, which makes the entire process easier.

Better Insight for Improved Best Practices

NOC teams that perform at their best recognize that it requires continuous process improvement to stay a step ahead of the game. This is achieved through detailed, strategic reporting and analysis. Done manually, this can be a bear to perform and is probably at the top of the list of the least enjoyable tasks.

The good news is, NOC automation is capable of enhanced tracking and reporting, which means that the necessary data will be available ad-hoc at the click of a button. Advanced analytics can then be performed to help identify and develop best practices for ongoing success and future improvement.

Escalation to Management or Clients

Depending on the type of service your NOC provides, keeping customers in the loop on the status of incidents may be a requirement. Furthermore, those in leadership roles within your organization, including executive management and possibly even specified shareholders, should be kept abreast of the status of things like significant outages. In either of these cases, figuring out who needs to know what, who will be in charge of spearheading this communication and executing an open dialogue can be a challenging and time-consuming task.

With NOC automation, alerts can be automatically sent to designated parties so they are kept in the loop and workflows can be set up to notify other business stakeholders about critical incidents. Additionally, in-depth reports on incident resolution performance and mean time to repair (MTTR) can be generated to satiate management and keep them in-the-know, reducing the need for follow-ups and manual status reports.

In conclusion, NOC automation is not poised to take over and replace human workers, but rather it is designed to enhance and complement the skilled personnel working within. And at a time when the world is busy trying to navigate through a crisis of epic proportions, relying on technology has never been more important.  

Want to experience for yourself just how these benefits can play out in your NOC? Start a free trial of Ayehu NG today by clicking here.