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Essential Use Cases to Jump Start Your IT Process Automation

At any given organization, there are always many, many manual IT processes that make great candidates for automation. From time to time though, we run across some process automation candidates that deliver noticeably higher ROI. As people started working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and more staff needed to start using ZOOM, we stumbled upon a manual process that really stood out as an excellent use case to help jump start automation at organizations.

Ayehu keeps track of the highest value automation use cases with the broadest applicability to our customers. We display those on our website where you can drill down and get more information on each one. That list is updated from time to time when we come across great new uses of Ayehu to automate toil out of a process. The use case we’ll be talking about today is one of those examples, and we think you’ll be intrigued by how it involves Ayehu NG tying together ServiceNow, ZOOM, Active Directory, and a chatbot in a very timely way.

We’re just about 6 months or so into the pandemic, so scenes like this ought to be pretty familiar to most everyone by now.

A lot of you, maybe even all of you, are working from home. Being remote and away from the office necessitated a big shift in how employees, contractors, and staff interacted with each other.

That left the door wide open for a company called ZOOM to step in and fill that interaction gap previously provided by the in-office experience. So suddenly, it seems the entire world is using ZOOM.

BTW – One way you can tell a product has really entrenched itself in the minds of consumers is when its name becomes a verb. Right?

You don’t just hail a ride-share to the coffee shop, you Uber to Starbucks.

You don’t just edit that image, you Photoshop it.

And now, we don’t just put together a web conference, we setup a Zoom call.

Now in case you’re unaware just how much Zoom usage has increased; I’d like to share a few metrics with you that might leave you stunned.

In the past, ZOOM was criticized for being a platform only small organizations used. In their financials, they report on how many customers with more than 10 employees are using their service.

A little over a year ago at the end of Q1 2019, they had 59,400 customers with more than 10 employees

One year later at the end of Q1 2020, they had 265,400. That’s a growth rate of 347%!

It’s not just smaller firms using ZOOM though. There’s a banking firm that deployed around 175,000 new ZOOM seats in Q1 and a global law firm called Baker McKenzie with over 6,000 attorneys worldwide adopted ZOOM as well.

Here’s another great visualization of ZOOM’s growth.

Back in 2013, ZOOM had just 3 million daily meeting participants.

That’s grown dramatically, and as of the end of March 2020, they now have 300 million daily meeting participants. I’m betting that number will go up when their Q2 financials are released.

Here’s the metric that made my jaw drop to the floor.

In January 2020, the number of meeting minutes ZOOM’s customers were consuming on an annualized basis was 100 Billion. That’s right 100 Billion meeting minutes.

Can you see the “bar” representing that number? No? Let’s zoom in, no pun intended.

100 Billion meeting minutes is that razor thin sliver of a yellowish vertical line that’s thinner than the grey border representing the y-axis of this bar graph. Why does 100 Billion meeting minutes look almost invisible on this bar graph?

Because just 3 months later in April 2020, ZOOM was on a run rate to consume 2 Trillion annualized meeting minutes (see previous graph). So while 100 Billion may sound like a lot, it’s a drop of water compared to the ocean that is 2 Trillion. This is a growth rate that must’ve left their DevOps team gasping for air the entire first quarter of 2020.

And what has all that growth in customers, meeting participants, and meeting minutes done? It’s led to a lot more of this.

It seems like ZOOM is everywhere and everyone is using it all the time.

That in turn has led to a problem for IT Operations in provisioning ZOOM accounts efficiently, while also documenting their distribution and assignment.

So I’d like to give you an overview of the workflow powering the use case we think is a great way to jump start your IT process automation efforts. It highlights Ayehu NG’s ability to be that single pane of glass tying together so many different pieces in your environment.

It’s going to start with an end user sending a request through Slack that they would like a ZOOM account.

The request goes directly to Ayehu, which looks up the manager that user directly reports to on Active Directory.

When the manager is identified, Ayehu passes along the user’s request to the manager, and awaits an approval or a denial.

In our use case, the manager approves the request, which BTW – is all done through email.

Ayehu then does three things:

  • It provisions an account on ZOOM
  • Sends the user an update via Slack that their request for a ZOOM account was approved
  • It also emails the user their new ZOOM credentials

Finally, Ayehu opens a ticket in ServiceNow, and documents every aspect of this request, automatically creating a complete record of everything that transpired.

That’s it. If you wanted the whole thing to run completely on auto-pilot, without requiring manager approval, you could easily configure it to do that too.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG to easily provision ZOOM accounts for your end users, download your very own free 30-day trial version today by clicking here.

5 Tips for Maximizing Efficiency in ITOps

What started out as a promising year for CIOs has quickly and drastically gone off the rails. Today, most IT executives find themselves attempting to guide the train back toward the tracks as the focus has dramatically shifted from thriving to merely surviving.

With 61% of IT budgets being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the 2020’s highest priorities has become saving as much as money as possible. And while “doing more with less” is something most CIOs are adept at, finding ways to drive revenue and secure their organization’s position in the marketplace in the midst of a world health crisis is quite the unique challenge.

The key to overcoming this hurdle will ultimately lie in maximizing efficiency levels, and not just in terms of cutting costs, either. Today’s CIOs must focus strategically on changes and initiatives that will enable them to achieve the leanest operation possible while also adding value to the organization through improved services. 

That being said, here are five ways to improve ITOps efficiency without compromising on quality.

Audit existing operations.

When it comes to maximizing efficiency in IT operations, doing so will lie heavily in existing policies, practices and platforms. Now’s as good a time as any to conduct an audit to identify areas of waste to eliminate and other potential opportunities for improvement. The end-goal should be having an infrastructure in place that optimizes the use of seamless, cohesive technologies so that the IT team can focus their talents and efforts on revenue-generating activities and other ways to support the business.

Be willing to trim the fat.

After several years of enjoying annual budget increases and the freedom to explore and innovate freely, many CIOs now find themselves facing budgetary cuts and a bleak spending forecast. As such, it will almost certainly be necessary to trim back some of the spending and say goodbye to poor performers, both in terms of personnel as well as technology. Where before, experimenting with the unknown was feasible, in the current climate, IT leaders must focus on projects, platforms and people that they know will deliver value. Remember – occasional pruning is necessary for growth.

Establish a dedicated vendor-management team.

Keeping on top of vendor contracts is a full-time job in and of itself. For a busy CIO with dozens of tasks on their plate, this one often drops down the to-do list. But with so much opportunity for cost-cutting and service improvements, it should be a top priority. Rather than trying to juggle this on top of the multitude of other duties, it may make more sense to delegate this function to another individual or team, either in-house or third-party. The money that can be saved through continuous monitoring and negotiations should far outweigh the expense, and the potential for improved service will be well worth the investment.

Bring automation into the fold.

Most CIOs have already embraced automation to some degree, and for good reason. The technology is capable of speeding up operations, eliminating human error and freeing up staff from routine, repetitive and time-consuming tasks. It can also prevent outages, which helps to maximize profitability. All that aside, there have been many advances in automation technology of which many IT leaders are still not taking advantage. Intelligent chatbots and virtual support agents, for example, can help alleviate the burden on the IT team while providing faster end-user service. This creates a much more efficient, productive environment.

Incorporate efficiency into the long-term scope.

While maximizing efficiency becomes a natural reactionary goal during economic downturns, the most successful CIOs view lean operations as an ongoing objective. They consistently evaluate whether the people, processes, policies and technologies they currently have in place are serving their optimal purpose and they make proactive changes whenever and wherever necessary. Simply put, achieving operational efficiency isn’t just a one-and-done task. It’s something that should become an integral and permanent component of an organization’s very culture.

Like it or not, the world around us is evolving rapidly. Without the right attention, foresight and action, many CIOs risk being left behind. The five tips above should help IT leaders simultaneously streamline ITOps and minimize costs while still driving business growth.

Free eBook 10 time-consuming IT tasks you should automate

How to Deploy Virtual Support Agents in 5 Steps

How to Deploy Virtual Support Agents in 5 Steps

Intelligent bot technology is disrupting almost every industry, with everyone from Verizon and Capital One to NASA jumping onboard. But while artificial intelligent is certainly not a new concept, developing and implementing virtual support agents in a practical and profitable way is still in its relative infancy. Unlike other, more established technologies, there aren’t necessarily any real standards for using bots. Thankfully, there are things we can learn from those already paving the way. Here are five real-world tips to help your company bring a VSA initiative to fruition.

Identify audience and need.

For VSAs to produce ROI, they must solve a specific problem (or set of problems) and/or deliver real, measurable improvement (such as with staff efficiency or productivity). As such, the initial phase of your virtual support agent strategy should involve identifying who you are trying to help and exactly why. The narrower you can get with this step, the better the outcome. Keep in mind you may have multiple iterations of the same engine, based on the user you are targeting.

Select a platform.

Once you have a clearer picture of your target user and target problem, the next step should involve choosing a platform through which the bots will be built and managed. This is the phase of the project that can overwhelm some decision makers. The good news is, there are platforms (like Ayehu) that are so easy to use and quick to implement that you can be up and running in mere minutes – no coding or scripting required. Even if you have a highly talented IT team, this would be the best case scenario.

Define your measure(s) of success.

One of the biggest challenges of virtual support agent (and artificial intelligence in general) is proving financial value. The easiest and most straightforward way to approach this is to determine as early as possible which metrics matter the most. What type of ROI do those in the C-suite and/or other stakeholders expect out of this initiative? Bear in mind, also, that some measures of success aren’t as easy to quantify, but are just as – if not more – important, such as end-user engagement levels.

Start fast – don’t wait for perfection.

Many people make the mistake of trying to make things perfect before rolling out their project. Instead, the focus should be on building fast and executing fast, even if that involves some degree of failure in the process. Take, for instance, NASA, which approaches each VSA initiative as a small startup with the goal of launching as quickly as possible. If you cannot iterate that fast, optimize the process as much as possible. For example, while Verizon was developing their Mix and Match bot, the consumer plan was being developed simultaneously. This made the actual rollout more seamless and successful.

Adjust and learn continuously.

A virtual support agent strategy isn’t something you set and forget. There is also the need for continuous adaptations and ongoing training to consider. Artificial intelligence is a fluid technology, which means your bots should continue to learn and improve over time. There will almost always be something to add, whether it’s a new term or a tweak in “personality” to better serve end-users. The main thing to remember is that VSA development is an ongoing process and must be treated as such if it is to be successful.

Want to give our intelligent automation a test drive and put the power of virtual support agents to work for you? Try it free for 30 days. Click here to launch your trial today.

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:

Download Free 30-Day Trial

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

5 Ways IT Automation Can Help Your Organization Survive the Coronavirus

5 Ways Automation Can Help Your Organization Survive the Coronavirus

With the number of people infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) nearing a hundred thousand worldwide and the death toll steadily rising, there’s no question that we’ve got a pandemic situation on our hands. In the face of fear and uncertainty, more and more organizations are curbing corporate travel and turning to remote work arrangements in order to minimize impact and prevent potential business disruption.

The importance of preparing for what is quickly developing into a world health crisis simply cannot be understated. And with these sudden and substantial changes that are occurring in the workplace as a result, there are additional challenges to consider. In particular, there are the logistics of facilitating remote work (provisioning more VPNs, providing remote access to files, etc.), which means more work for the IT team – effectively pulling them away from their normal daily duties.

Addressing these serious and impactful concerns – and quickly – has become a top priority for business leaders across every industry. The good news is, it starts with the right technology. In light of this, we’ve pulled together the top 5 use cases every organization should be prepared to automate and how to pull it off as seamlessly as possible:

VPN Access

With so many employees now getting the green light to work from home, the demand for VPN is going up substantially. Subsequently, VPN access issues for both employees and contractors are also on the rise, such as resetting, opening, closing, VPN certificate updates etc. This places a tremendous burden on IT personnel, many of whom are already overworked and lacking appropriate staff and/or resources. By automating this workflow, remote workers can be up and running quickly without adding to the IT team’s already overloaded schedule.

Permissions and Password Related Issues

The requests for systems permissions and password resets don’t go away just because employees aren’t working in the office. In fact, with remote access, these issues tend to increase in frequency, which means the IT team should expect an uptick in these types of tickets. Unfortunately, as any IT support agent knows all too well, requests like these are time consuming, pulling skilled workers away from other, more important tasks. Again, this is where automation can have a tremendous impact, providing self-service options for end-users and alleviating the pressure on IT.

Extend More Resources

One of the biggest IT challenges with a remote workforce is resource management. Manually monitoring and allocating resources is not the best use of your IT team’s time. With IT process automation, however, resource provisioning requests that would otherwise bog down the service desk can be turned into automated workflows, including those that end-users trigger on their own with just a few simple mouse clicks. This results in a much more satisfactory experience for both the end-user as well as the busy IT team.

Day-to-Day Server and App Maintenance

Just because the office is empty doesn’t mean IT isn’t still responsible for meeting their day-to-day expectations. Things like service restarts, app pool rotation, log cleanup, disk space, memory and CPU utilization, etc. must all still be completed in order to prevent, or at least minimize, business disruption. With automation, you can set up workflows that are either scheduled or automatically triggered via an event. Best of all, this can even be done when IT agents are working remotely as well.

On-boarding / Off-boarding

The spread of the Coronavirus may be most ill-timed for incoming or exiting employees, but life goes on, regardless of whether these team members are in the office or working from home. The problem is, onboarding and off-boarding employees is a time consuming process, and as we’ve already established, IT has enough on their plate as it is. Thankfully, the entire onboarding and/or off-boarding workflow can be automatically initiated and completed quickly, eliminating delays and ensuring a more optimized allocation of resources.

Additional pandemic preparedness tips for IT teams:

  • Evaluate the IT supply chain to determine preparedness
  • Implement remote data center management solutions
  • Review and/or implement remote work policies, especially issues regarding BYOD, company-issued equipment, prioritized access and Internet bandwidth capacity
  • If possible, leverage the cloud to mitigate risk
  • Investigate and utilize alternative communications channels (voice, chat, etc.)
  • Leverage web-based video conferencing
  • Decide which business operations requiring heavy resource usage must continue, and which can be postponed
  • Delay/reschedule non-essential IT ops activities
  • Stagger hours of operation and staffing allocation to ease bandwidth demand
  • Reorient IT budget and projects accordingly

Unfortunately, this latest catastrophic health crisis serves as a sobering reminder of just how vulnerable businesses can be to external circumstances. By leveraging the latest technology, like intelligent IT process automation, organizations can keep employees safe and minimize potential impact. And since enabling remote work has been shown to improve productivity, reduce employee turnover and slash operating expenses, companies implementing these policies may find they come out even stronger on the other side.

Ready to strengthen your position and arm yourself for battle against this and future pandemic situations? Start your free 30 day trial of Ayehu NG today!

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

3 New Roles AI Will Create for Humans

What if we were to tell you that robots are not coming to steal your job, but instead, they’re coming to give you a promotion? Would that change your perception of artificial intelligence? Probably. Thankfully, in most cases anyway, it’s the truth. While AI will, inevitably, make some roles obsolete, it will simultaneously be creating newer and even more lucrative opportunities for humans. In fact, we’ve pinpointed at least three distinct job categories intelligent automation will open the door for. Let’s explore each of these below.

Trainers

Artificial intelligence is just that – artificial. Yes, it is capable of improving autonomously, but someone still has to be there to tell the program what to do and ensure that everything is moving along as it should be.

For example, before you can tell your virtual assistant Amazon Alexa that you want her to call your spouse, you first have to “teach” her who your spouse is and what phone number should be used. Once AI tools and platforms have the basic understanding of what’s expected of them, they can then continue to self-learn, but just like any student, they need to be taught those basics first.

Evangelists

Like it or not, artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere. In fact, according to Gartner, 70% of organizations will assist their employees’ productivity by integrating AI in the workplace by as early as next year.

Yet, despite this looming proliferation, not everyone is quite comfortable with the concept of AI. Fear of the unknown is still a very real problem for many organizations. That’s where AI evangelists come in. These are human experts whose role, at least in part, is to explain computer behavior to others.

Having champions of intelligent automation will enable the enterprise to overcome fear and resistance, clearing the pathway to successful digital transformation.

Managers

As smart as AI is, it’s not necessarily something you can simply set and forget. To the contrary, human oversight is still very much needed to ensure that systems are working properly, securely and responsibly.

The fact is, while chatbots have the capability of learning and communicating, they lack many of the characteristics that are innate to humans. One need only look back to the Microsoft Tweetbot debacle of a few years ago to understand this.

In March of 2016, the computer mega-giant introduced its interactive chatbot named Tay to the world of Twitter, with the goal of engaging 18-24 year olds with the concept of machine learning. The chatbot was taught to interact with other users like a real human through reading and processing actual tweets.

Unfortunately, within hours, savvy Twitter users had transformed the formerly innocent bot into something vile and offensive. Simply put, AI has the potential to run amok without adequate human oversight.

How Humans Can Prepare

Within these three categories there will be numerous positions and opportunities for human workers to future-proof their careers. The best place to start is through education. Learning new skills and gaining a fundamental understanding of intelligent automation technology can make you an invaluable asset and catapult your career possibilities.

Ayehu’s Automation Academy is designed to provide individuals of every level with the up-to-the-minute knowledge, experience and tools necessary to develop and expand their automation knowledge. Best of all, it’s available completely free of charge. Develop your skills today to become a trainer, evangelist or manager of tomorrow. Enroll for free today!