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Easily Rightsize AWS EC2 Costs and Resources with Automation

Author: Guy Nadivi

I don’t need to remind anyone that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. When the crisis began, it forced lots of people to work from home, creating a sudden surge in remote workers. Many organizations scrambled to accommodate this shift in work environments by quickly assigning them resources from cloud-based providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS). The good part of that was how rapidly IT Ops teams were able to pivot and accommodate this shift to maintain business continuity. The bad part was they’re now realizing their cloud expenses skyrocketed, and they need to go back and revisit their initial resource instantiations to optimize both the resources and their attendant costs.

Now when it comes to AWS, there’s good reason why lots of organizations are migrating there. AWS, as many of you probably already know, is currently King of the Mountain among cloud infrastructure service providers.

But did you know that their market share is so big, it’s actually greater than the next 3 providers combined? These aren’t no-name brands either. We’re talking about Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud. Even if you bundle up their respective market shares together into one, AWS still exceeds them all.

Those of you already familiar with the Ayehu NG platform know that one of our core strengths is easy interoperability with many categories of enterprise infrastructure systems, platforms, and tools.

Our goal from day one has been to enable organizations to seamlessly integrate Ayehu with just about anything in their data center, and to do so without the need to write even one line of code. We want to be your single pane of glass for orchestrating automation across any platform in your environment, and we do that by making it as simple as possible to connect as many things as possible in your enterprise solutions stack.

Increasingly, our integration with environments like AWS have been getting more popular, as organizations migrate their infrastructures and computing workload to the cloud. That’s true especially since the start of the pandemic, when many organizations had to rapidly pivot in order to accommodate work from home environments.

We expect this trend of migrating to the cloud will continue growing in popularity. A company called RightScale published a report recently estimating that the average business already uses the public cloud for 38% of their workloads, and the private cloud for 41%. However, all indications are pointing to more and more corporate workloads shifting to the public cloud.

An organization called Datometry surveyed 166 executives to find out the reasons organizations were migrating to the cloud, and the #1 reason cited by over 60% of respondents was cost cutting to save money. Probably not too big a surprise there.

Given all this cloud migration, the idea of proactively rightsizing AWS EC2 instances in order to cut their costs is a fantastic real-world use case for AIOps and Automation.

AIOps is something everybody’s heard a lot about the last few years. This Gartner graphic, which might be familiar to many already, is a great visualization of the 3 main components that make up an AIOps environment:

  • Monitoring (to Observe)
  • Service Desk (to Engage)
  • and Automation (to Act)

It’s that last part that Ayehu focuses on, obviously, and in all the excitement about AI, machine learning, and big data driving the continuous insights and business value for AIOps, we think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that automation, there on the bottom, is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the output from observing and engaging gets put to practical use, to do things like rightsize AWS EC2 instances to save money.

If you’re wondering how to visualize that, think of a relay race where runners race as a team.

In the top two segments of Gartner’s graphic, an AIOps vendor like Virtana performs their magic in the form of AIOps computations that produce a recommendation on what to do next.

Ayehu, the next runner in the relay race, takes the baton from Virtana, which triggers AIOps-grade automation to carry out Virtana’s recommendation.

In this race though, it’s the IT Operations team leveraging AIOps and Automation that crosses the finish line as the winner. That’s because the combination of AIOps and Automation not only saves on costs and resources for your cloud environment, but it frees up your staff for other more strategic tasks.

When you consider the volume of EC2 instances many organizations work with, you’ll quickly realize that AIOps combined with automation can be a real force multiplier for your IT Operations Management team.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that can automate rightsizing of your AWS EC2 instances, download your very own free 30-day trial version today by clicking here.

5 Mid-Year Artificial Intelligence Trends to Watch For

We’ve officially reached the mid-way point of 2020, and what a year it’s been so far! Between political turmoil and the worldwide health pandemic, the economy has seen its share of ups and (way) downs. One thing that has remained constant through all the uncertainty is technology – in particular, artificial intelligence. In fact, AI has quickly emerged as a versatile and viable solution to almost all of the problems businesses are facing currently. Let’s take a look at what our experts believe will take place in the AI sector over the next six months.

An increase in availability and accuracy of data will make AI even more useful.

We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but we simply cannot state it enough: artificial intelligence is only as good as the data it is fed. Because of this, many organizations that have tried to adopt AI in the past have failed, primarily due to a lack of relevant and accurate data. As technology continues to improve at a lightning pace, however, more and more quality data is becoming available. In particular, today’s technology is now capable of simulating real-world scenarios, which reduces risk and cuts costs, resulting in AI that is even more powerful, accurate and ultimately more valuable.

Collaboration between human and digital workers will continue to increase.

Let’s face it. Artificial intelligence is here to stay. And as we’ve learned over the past decade or so, it’s not here to displace human workers, but rather make their jobs and their lives easier. This trend will continue as we wrap up 2020 and move into 2021. As people get comfortable with the idea of working alongside intelligent bots, more processes and workflows will be transitioned from human to machine, skyrocketing productivity and enabling organizations to maximize the human skills that AI isn’t quite capable of just yet. For many, this will require learning new skills, so prepare accordingly.

AI will play a more prominent role in cybersecurity.

They say the best defense is a good offense, and this is certainly true in the area of cybersecurity. The fact is, cybercriminals are leveraging the most up-to-date technology to carry out their nefarious plots. The most effective way to combat these criminals and ward off their attacks is to utilize the same advanced technology against them – essentially, fight fire with fire. AI-powered intelligent automation will increasingly be used to autonomously and continuously monitor systems and infrastructures, identifying areas of concern and raising alarm before breaches occur and preventing sensitive data from becoming compromised.  

Interactions with AI will become more mainstream and far less detectible.

In recent years, despite tremendous advancements in technologies like natural language processing (NLP), interactions with robots vs. human agents were relatively easy to spot. With NLP algorithms becoming increasingly capable of understanding context, distinguishing between humans and machines will become much more challenging. And even though recent numbers indicate that the majority of people prefer to receive support from humans than robots, as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, there’s a very good chance that will change. In fact, there’s a good chance that over the next several months, we’ll begin engaging with intelligent bots without even realizing it.  

Remote work and augmented workforces will become part of the norm.

Over the past several months, thanks to a global health crisis, many organizations around the world were forced to make sudden changes to their workforce. One of the biggest shifts was toward a remote work environment. Technologies like AI and intelligent automation have made this transition much more feasible for many. However, as the dust begins to settle, business leaders are discovering that, with the right technology and approach, these types of arrangements are not only possible, but are actually more favorable for the long term. As such, many will continue operating either partially or entirely remotely, leveraging artificial intelligence to augment and balance their workforce.

Are you behind the curve when it comes to AI, machine learning and intelligent automation? Get up-to-speed and in the game quickly by downloading your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG today. Click here to get started!

How to Automate Pre- and Post-Patch Management

Author: Guy Nadivi

Patch management is considered by many to be one of the more vital functions provided by the IT or Security Operations team. That’s especially true nowadays when there are so many threats from hackers, and so many bugs found in systems after they’ve gone into production. Software patching is critical for preventing data breaches, server crashes, and lots of other bad outcomes from various vulnerabilities.

There are many options for you to choose from when considering a patch management solution. Ayehu has no favorites in that regard, and just to be clear, we’re not going to be talking today about our automation platform replacing any of those solutions. What we’re going to focus on actually is automating the equally important activities adjacent to the application of a software patch.

That wasn’t one of the original use cases Ayehu NG was intended for, but we’re very much a customer-driven product, and it turns out that our customers were the ones who realized they could use our automation platform to streamline patch management and dramatically improve their overall process.

Ayehu believes that streamlining the patch management process while ensuring its thoroughness in complying with organizational standards, is a critically overlooked aspect of many organizations’ lifecycle management strategy.

Patch management tools are (mostly) good at doing 3 things:

  • Pre-patch checks: This includes things you’re likely familiar with such as identifying dependencies, testing patches out on a test environment before applying them to a production system, etc. BTW – There’s a number of great checklists on the internet that include best practices to implement when doing a pre-patch check.
  • Applying patches: This one is self-explanatory and doesn’t really require any elaboration.
  • Post-patch checks: This includes rebooting machines that require it, performing a smoke test to ensure everything that worked correctly before the patch was applied still does, and executing rollbacks wherever problems are uncovered.

And that’s pretty much it. Those are the 3 things patch management solutions do well.

Customers tell us their biggest pain point with patch management tools is their one-size-fits-all rigidness. Vendors in that niche just assume everyone’s patch management process should be aligned with the way their solution works out of the box. Basically, their philosophy seems to boil down to you can have your patch management solution in any flavor you like, as long as it’s vanilla.

The vanilla approach doesn’t work for everyone though.

There are probably as many different patch management standard operating procedures (SOP’s) as there are organizations performing patch management.

And that’s where you’ll find the biggest gap among patch management vendors – their relative lack of customization, which many organizations require to ensure conformity with their unique enterprise SOP’s. These organizations want more flexibility from the patch management tool so its workflow conforms to their way of doing things, instead of the other way around.

That’s where Ayehu comes in.

We recognize that organizations want to orchestrate their patch management process their way, according to their schedule, and based on the outcomes they desire. So Ayehu NG’s integration and automation capabilities allows organizations to use best-of-breed tools for all aspects of the patch management process.

For example, Ayehu enables you to easily incorporate:

  • ITSM platforms like ServiceNow, BMC Remedy, JIRA, etc. into any aspect of your change management process.
  • VM platforms like VMWare, Azure, etc., can be incorporated
  • And even notification tools like Twilio, Everbridge, PagerDuty, etc. can be part of your change management workflow

All of these, together with whatever patch management platform you use, can all be orchestrated into one finely-tuned patch management process that works the way you want it to, so that you can ensure compliance with enterprise SOP’s and adhere to your organization’s best practices.

And BTW – If there are other tools that are part of your patch management process, even proprietary in-house solutions, Ayehu can integrate them as well.

Continuing with the ice cream metaphor, you can think of Ayehu as the ice cream scooper. This higher-level control over the process allows you to pick and choose whatever flavored IT system you’d like to incorporate into your patch management workflow, and to orchestrate it exactly where you want it to execute.

For pre-patch management, that means you can do things like initialize your patch management process via submission of a change request to your ITSM solution. Just send in the request, let Ayehu do the rest.

Or you can simply send Ayehu an email to kick off the patch management process.

If you only want to apply the latest patch to a specific list of your servers, for whatever reason, you can create a list of them in Excel, leave the spreadsheet on a shared drive, and point the Ayehu workflow at it so your patch only gets applied to the servers in that spreadsheet.

Another very popular use of Ayehu NG in the patch management process is taking VM snapshots to create rollback points prior to applying the patch, in case something in the patching process leads to less than desirable results?

What about post-patch management?

With Ayehu orchestrating the process, you can automatically update ITSM tickets following conclusion of the patching process. This can include documenting the details on all the servers that got updated, what specific patches were added, and any other information you’d like to keep track of for future reference.

Another popular post-patch management task is notifying people and groups about the status or completion of the patch management process, which Ayehu can do for you via email, text, or even by phone.

All of these tasks and many more can be included in your overall patch management process when Ayehu is used to orchestrate all your different-flavored IT systems into providing the specific outcome you want.

In October 2019, the Ponemon Institute published a study called “COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF GAPS IN VULNERABILITY RESPONSE”.

One of the questions they asked was “What steps would you take to improve your organization’s patch management?”

The #1 response from about 3,000 respondents was “Increase Automation”. 45% said that was the top thing they would do to improve their organization’s patch management.

Another question asked by the Ponemon Institute was regarding how automation impacted the time to respond to vulnerabilities.

80% said that automation reduced their time to respond either slightly or significantly, with more than 2/3 saying significantly.

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG as the automation platform that orchestrates your overall patch management process, click here to download your very own free 30-day trial version today.

To watch the full recording of the webinar, click the graphic below.

5 Common AI Pitfalls that Trick Unsuspecting CIOs

If there’s one thing CIOs are good at, it’s ignoring the hype and extracting the value out of technology. Except, however, when it comes to artificial intelligence. Whether it’s all the pomp and circumstance that clouds their reason or the lofty promises that tend to distract them, for some reason, a surprising number of IT leaders seem to fall into similar traps. It can be a costly lesson filled with delays and missteps. To avoid heading down this path in your organization, here are five risks to watch for.

Forgetting the importance of data.

We’ve said it time and time again, but an artificial intelligence solution is only as good as the data it has to work with. It’s sort of like having a Lamborghini and using subpar fuel. If you haven’t given adequate attention to ensuring that your AI platform is being fed data that is both accurate as well as relevant, then you will not realize much of any return on your investment (and you’ll probably end up holding the bag for it at the end of the day). A good strategy is to first identify which datasets are needed for each desired outcome and then building from there.

Being too quick to choose a solution.

A lot of CIOs get so amped up over the promises of what AI can deliver to their organization that they fail to perform due diligence when selecting a platform. Not only are solutions different in quality and potential benefits, but vendors themselves can vary widely on the spectrum of trustworthy vs. fly-by-night operations. Don’t fall for lofty promises. They may be legit, but it’s up to you to verify that by asking to see tangible results before signing on the dotted line.

Solving for the wrong problems.

Just because an AI solution works, doesn’t mean it’s delivering value. Ultimately, the goal isn’t to simply deploy artificial intelligence technology for the sake of doing so, but to generate actual return on your investment. To do this, you must define realistic, achievable objectives and outcomes that can be effectively tracked and measured. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a fancy automation tool that does nothing more than cost you money.

Being lured by bells and whistles.

There are some pretty amazing artificial intelligence solutions out there. Unfortunately, many of them are so complicated, they’re actually not worth the investment to begin with. In fact, when a system is too complex, not only does it become detrimental, but it can lead to ancillary problems, like a lack of experienced personnel to manage the technology. Again, the goal is to deliver value, not get the fanciest tool on the market. Instead, you want a solution that’s advanced but also intuitive and as easy to use as possible.

Equating price with worth.

The fanciest tool on the market may have far more features than your organization even needs. And, as mentioned, the more bells and whistles, the more complicated and challenging it will be to deploy. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a hefty price tag means you’re getting the best possible solution. To the contrary, the platform that most closely matches your business needs may not only save you money upfront, but may also be more valuable in the long run as well.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to bring your organization to the next level. But only if it’s implemented the right way. If you’re just starting out on your AI journey, be cognizant of the above pitfalls so you can avoid them for yourself. If you’ve already fallen into one or more of these traps, the good news is, it’s never too late to right the ship.

Ayehu NG lets you harness the power of AI in minutes with a code-less, drag and drop visual designer and over 200 ready-to-use workflow templates. Schedule a live demo or get started today with our free 30-day trial.

6 Steps for Bringing Your AI Project from Concept to Reality

There is often a disconnect between proof of concept testing of AI, which typically occurs in a controlled environment, and applications that occur in the real world. External forces, like variable conditions, integrations with existing workflows and actual time requirements commonly lead to a breakdown of these proof of concept solutions. In fact, one recent study by the International Institute for Analytics revealed that fewer than 10% of artificial intelligence pilot projects actually reach full-scale production. To avoid this same disappointment with your own AI projects, here are a few expert tips.

Have a plan for data collection.

In order for artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver measurable value, it must have access to quality, relevant data. Without this, the project will inevitably fail. An important point to keep in mind, also, is that the more diverse and closer to actual real-world conditions your dataset is, the greater your chances of success. Dedicate an adequate amount of time and resources to this step, as it will give your project a solid foundation.

Anticipate risks and dependencies in advance.

In order to bring your AI project to life, you must thoroughly and as accurately as possible identify the various conditions the system will encounter. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to solve for every one of them, however, there will be at least some that you can prepare to overcome in advance. Make a list of all the risks and potential issues you can foresee and then rank those risks in order of priority, focusing on the most impactful first. The earlier you can remove a potential roadblock, the smoother your project will go.

Determine your milestones and metrics for success.

One of the biggest reasons AI projects fail is because they don’t effectively solve the target problems. This can stem from misunderstandings and miscommunications, and can result in a tremendous waste of time and money. To avoid this, make sure that there is a clear and accurate definition of exactly what the goals are. Set specific milestones and metrics that you will use to measure progress. Include relevant stakeholders in this step to ensure that everyone is on the same page and nothing is ambiguous before moving forward.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Avoid getting caught up in the trap of trying to solve problems that have already been solved. While the goal is certainly to adopt AI at an organization-wide level, that doesn’t mean every task, process or workflow is a good candidate for automation. Start instead with low-hanging fruit that can produce quick and measurable wins and focus on a solution that will allow you to use what’s already available to create a harmonious, interconnected infrastructure. Remove silos wherever possible.

Emphasize value over accuracy.

While maximum accuracy is always the goal, 100% is rarely achievable. It can be helpful to go into the project with the right focus: on delivering as much business value as possible, as opposed to attempting to achieve perfection. Understand that you will be able to tweak and make improvements along the way, so it’s ok to go from test environment to live environment, even if the solution isn’t one hundred percent perfect. If you’re not realistic in your goals and expectations, you’ll never get off the ground.

Don’t leave humans out of the loop.

Despite the incredible advancements in AI technology capabilities, some things are still better left to humans. Avoid being lulled into the idea that your workforce is suddenly expendable just because you’ve got some robots waiting in the wings. To the contrary, successful AI projects integrate a balance of human and digital workers. Besides, who better to identify areas of opportunity where intelligent automation could add value than the people who are working in the trenches day in and day out.

The last point we will leave you with is that developing and implementing an AI solution is a process. If you want to achieve long-term, sustainable success, you need to think of it more as a marathon than a sprint.

Your journey to a self-driving enterprise begins here. Claim your free 30-day trial of Ayehu today.

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.

Addressing the New Social Distancing Rules as Businesses Re-Open

Over the past several weeks, as organizations were forced to shut down due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, some serious weaknesses have been exposed. First, many quickly discovered how drastically unprepared they were for disaster response.

According to a recent survey conducted by AvidXchange, a shocking 40% of organizations polled did not have business continuity plans in place. And despite the fact that 60% of those surveyed did have a continuity plan in place, only 37% of them actually have the technology necessary to enable employees to work remotely as part of their strategy. Furthermore, only a mere 19% said their workforce has the appropriate technology to be able to work from home.

Then there was the challenge of offshore IT support. In particular, many organizations that rely heavily on MSPs for their IT management recently discovered that such an arrangement isn’t always viable. For instance, the entire country of India – where a massive number of these MSPs are located – was ordered to lock down for several weeks. Unfortunately, working from home there is a rarity, which left the reliant businesses in quite a bind.

In recent weeks, we’ve discussed the various ways that intelligent automation could address these issues. For example, we talked about how automation could help minimize and possibly even prevent business disruption when transitioning to a work-from-home setup, as well as which factors to consider when making this change. We also talked about how automation could help companies for which remote work wasn’t an option, as well as how it could be an insurance policy for those relying on offshore MSP arrangements.

Now, as the world slowly but surely prepares to reopen, there has come to light a new challenge. Many businesses are now quickly coming to the realization that they’re simply not prepared to respond to the new social distancing rules that will inevitably be in place for the foreseeable future.

For larger enterprises, the first wave of reopening will likely involve a return to work of only a portion of employees. After all, we can’t have droves of workers filing in, sitting in cubicles located just inches from one another. But how will companies fare on only a segment of their workforce. Yes, some can continue working remotely, but what about organizations that weren’t able to facilitate such an arrangement? How can they be expected to operate at full capacity with only a small percentage of their people?

Once again, we are seeing a point at which humans and robots are coming together to work in tandem. Intelligent automation can be brought in to fill in the gaps, be it executing complex IT processes and workflows, monitoring systems 24/7 to prevent and address incidents, or delivering instant self-service IT support – all without the need for human agents. This will support just about any arrangement a company has, whether it’s a partial remote/on premise setup, or operating on a skeleton crew during the first wave.

Most importantly, technology can (and should) be used to help manage those processes and workflows that are most critical to business continuity. The aforementioned study revealed that there is a direct correlation between the existing gap in technology preparedness and the mission-critical processes that are necessary to keep businesses operating. Intelligent automation is a surprisingly simple and affordable solution to these glaring needs. And 85% of those surveyed agree that this is something they need to invest in.

The fact is, while the coronavirus situation happens to be at the forefront, it’s really only one of the many serious risks organizations today face. Beyond health crises, there are any number of disasters that could potentially knock a business off course, whether it be something physical, like a fire or flood, or something digital, like a cyber-attack. Having a solid plan for backup and recovery – one that leans heavily on innovative technology – is the key to survival.

By leveraging intelligent automation, you can fortify your organization and make it more resilient so that no matter the external circumstances, you’ll no longer be vulnerable to them. Best of all, getting started with automation is quick and easy. Simply download your free 30-day trial of Ayehu NG.

Pandemic-Proof Your Service Desk with Automation for MS-Teams

Author: Guy Nadivi

I’m going to assume that just about everyone reading this blog post is affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 7th, 2020, the New York Times reported that at least 316 million Americans — about 95% of the country — have been told to stay home for at least the next few weeks, and likely longer. That’s forced a lot of organizations to very rapidly change the way they work, and especially for IT, the way they deliver services to an organization’s end users, customers, and partners.

One platform being chosen increasingly more often to deliver those services is Microsoft Teams. When you add automation to MS-Teams, you can create a pandemic-proof way to empower your end users and others with self-service, effectively turning MS-Teams into a virtual service desk operator that’s available 24x7x365

Adding a virtual service desk operator should be high on the list of priorities for IT Operations teams these days, because anecdotal evidence suggests that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their workloads have mostly gone up, and in many cases, way up.

One thing likely to have caused workloads to spike upwards, of course, is the recent & very rapid switchover to remote working.

Numerous government & health officials have encouraged organizations to let their employees work from home, wherever possible, as a way of minimizing community transmission of the Coronavirus.

This 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 just trying to maintain the status quo at most organizations.

Maintaining the status quo on its own is a pretty onerous task.

Ayehu’s customers, partners, and prospects have been telling us that IT Operations is already inundated with things like:

  • Application Issues
  • System Alerts
  • Outages
  • And of course the ever popular Password Resets

This represents just a fraction of the many incidents, requests, & projects that IT Operations is responsible for.

Now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of all that, IT has been tasked with this massive emergency project to start supporting most if not all people working remotely. It’s an absolute tsunami of work, and it’s further overwhelming IT Operations staff.

I think everyone can agree that this massive transition to remote working can be categorized as “unplanned work” for just about every IT Operations team.

It just so happens that last month, PagerDuty conducted a survey about the impact of unplanned work on IT Professionals. I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of the results in particular.

Nearly 1/3 of respondents, 31% have said they “considered leaving a job due to too much unplanned work”. That should be pretty startling to anyone in IT management, especially right now, because if 1/3 of your team is thinking about leaving due to unplanned work, what will that do to your IT operation?

This isn’t a hypothetical scenario either, because as it turns out, 21%, over one-fifth responded that they actually have left a job due to too much unplanned work! So again, ask yourself what would happen to your SLA’s, ticket queues, etc. if one-fifth of your IT professionals just got up & walked out? I’m guessing it would drastically complicate things even more than they already are.

During this pandemic, many of you have no doubt heard the term “Flattening The Curve”, which refers to slowing, not stopping, the number of sick people who have to go to the hospital for treatment. Flattening the Curve is all about minimizing the number of cases that doctors, nurses, & hospitals have to deal with simultaneously so that the healthcare system doesn’t collapse.

And flattening the curve, of course, is one of the main reasons so many organizations are justifying sending people home to work remotely.

Flattening the Curve for the Healthcare System

But how about “Flattening the Surge” for IT professionals so that service desks & other operational teams don’t buckle under the strain?

Just like the healthcare system, IT Operations has a capacity threshold too. If the # of daily incidents, requests, etc. come in too high & too fast, IT Operations might collapse. Remember what PagerDuty’s survey said your IT staff might do because of too much unplanned work?

The way to avoid that disaster, the way to pandemic-proof your service desk, is with automation for MS-Teams.

Flattening the Surge for IT Operations

Thanks to COVID-19 causing so many people to work remotely, the NATURE of work is changing. That change will almost certainly carry over once the pandemic ends, and the all-clear signal has been given.

I want to share with you what work might look like post-pandemic from the perspective of Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365. He recently said:

“It’s clear to me there will be a new normal…… We don’t see people going back to work and having it be all the same. There are different restrictions to society, there are new patterns in the way people work. There are societies that are thinking of A days and B days of who gets to go into the office and who works remote.”

So he believes there’s going to be a new normal, and that new normal involves a lot more remote work for people who, pre-pandemic, found themselves exclusively in corporate office environments.

One of the products Jared Spataro is responsible for is Microsoft Teams, and the market that MS-Teams is in is called Unified Communications. More recently that space has been referred to by Gartner as the Workstream Collaboration market.

According to Statista, Microsoft’s market share in the Workstream Collaboration space has been growing very steadily, but on March 5th, 2020, things took a dramatic turn. On that day, Jared Spataro, who we just heard from, announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams would be made available to everyone FOR FREE as of March 10th, even if you didn’t have an Office 365 license!

What happened next was truly stunning. The worldwide number of daily active users for Microsoft Teams exploded from 32 million to 44 million very quickly. An increase of 12 million users, about a 37% jump in basically a matter of days.

That definitely caught the attention of Slack, their top competitor. Slack’s TOTAL WORLDWIDE user base is 12 million users! So with their announcement, Microsoft effectively added the equivalent of 1 Slack user base to their own.

Now just to be clear, here at Ayehu we love Slack. It was the first platform we built chatbots for, and we’ll continue building chatbots that enable automation for Slack because it’s a great platform. But when it comes to market share going forward, the writing’s on the wall, and at least in the near-term, this market is probably going to be dominated by Microsoft Teams.

The great news about that is that Microsoft Teams, like other chatbots, can help flatten the surge for IT professionals by diverting calls or tickets or work away from the Service Desk, and shifting that load to end-users for self-service. Combining Microsoft Teams with automation can do more than reduce work volume though, it can also slash MTTR by accelerating resolutions of incidents & requests, liberate IT staff from doing tedious work & free them up for more important tasks, raise customer satisfaction ratings (an increasingly critical KPI for IT Operations), and last but not least reduce costs.

Let’s drill down a bit deeper on that last value proposition, specifically as it’s often measured by service desks – Cost Per Ticket.

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

However, if you turn any given service request into a self-help or self-service function with a chatbot like MS-Teams, 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 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), wouldn’t you want to learn more?

If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG with all its cool new features & ability to add automation to MS-Teams, download your very own free 30-day full-version trial today.

3 Steps to Get Your Organization Intelligent-Automation-Ready

Over the past several years, intelligent automation has begun to revolutionize the workplace, facilitating digital transformation and enabling forward-thinking organizations to position themselves on the right side of the future of work. Getting to this point, however, isn’t something that happens overnight. Without the right approach, companies could easily be missing out on the tremendous advantages intelligent automation has in store. So, what’s holding other companies back?

Relatively speaking, the primary obstacle is simple. Many IT decision-makers approach implementation by attempting to merely automate existing processes. What they should be doing instead is changing their entire mindset. In order to do this, there are three key things that must be done, as follows.

Reconsider processes and workflows from start to finish.

Understand that deploying intelligent automation isn’t just a one-off project for the IT department. Rather, it should be an aggregate change that occurs across and throughout the entire enterprise. In order to implement automation at scale, buy-in is needed in every facet of the business.

Incorporating intelligent automation presents an opportunity for leaders and teams to reimagine what they’re trying to accomplish and completely redesign their workflows and processes. Only by starting from the foundation and working automation into each step of the process will the optimal level of efficiency be achieved.

We’d even go so far as to recommend building automated processes first and then working humans into the mix as needed. The actual need for human intervention – or lack thereof – will be quite surprising.

Pose the right questions, right from the beginning.

The right questions can help guide and facilitate the development of a strong, effective and long-term intelligent automation strategy. The problem is, many leaders simply don’t know what those “right questions” happen to be.

If you are among them, we suggest you start by thinking critically about which workflows and processes you currently have in place, and – more importantly – which of those processes and workflows would be best suited for artificial intelligence.

Still having trouble? Flip the switch and instead, start by asking what tasks are intelligent bots not capable of doing? This may help you more clearly pinpoint which processes still require some level of human mediation. The tasks remaining can then be shifted to automation.

It’s also pivotal to keep specific goals in mind when incorporating intelligent automation into the fold. Specifically, asking what you want this technology to help you accomplish should help you identify which pain points for which an automated solution could provide the most value.

Seek opportunities to meld the digital and human elements of your workforce.

At the end of the day, intelligent automation is most successful when it’s implemented with the goal of creating the best possible experience for everyone. Again – it’s imperative that the mindset evolve from automation being an “IT project” to something that permeates the entire organization.

This begins with culture, and changing a company’s culture starts at the top. Not only must the “powers that be” be fully committed to intelligent automation adoption, but they must proactively and consistently send the message that both humans and robots can cohesively work together in a connected ecosystem that benefits both the employee as well as the organization as a whole.

Conclusion

Successful digital transformation occurs when an organization is able to strengthen and grow by empowering its workforce to trust and depend on advanced technology. Without question, intelligent automation is poised to become the foundation of this digitized future. By rethinking how automation fits into the big picture, posing the right questions and merging the digital/human experience, you’ll dramatically improve the chances of a smooth and profitable transition.

Ready to jump in and test the waters? Get up to speed with intelligent automation within minutes by taking Ayehu for a free, 30-day test drive.