How MSPs Can Thrive In The Intelligent Machine Age

This article was originally published as a guest post on Channel Partners.

The age of intelligent machines and automation is upon us. Because they eliminate the need for humans to perform simple (and not so simple) tasks, machines and bots are a boon to managed service providers and IT outsourcers. Fail to take advantage of automation, and you will eventually be unable to compete.

The threat isn’t existential yet — the MSP market is expected to reach $242.45 billion by 2021, so there’s plenty of work to go around. But the competitive landscape is shifting, enterprise IT environments are becoming increasingly complex, and forward-thinking solutions providers are taking steps to get on board with automation and standardization because they understand that they’ll be essential to staying in the game.

For often talent-strapped MSPs and managed security service providers, without automation, bringing disparate technologies and systems online while moving resources to the cloud equals a complicated, manual IT workload. Add to this the escalating urgency to contain costs while improving service levels, and it’s no surprise that managed service providers of all types are worried.

Of course, managing innovation, complexity and cost is not a new problem. For decades, we’ve seen technologies come and go with the expectation that we’ll make it work, no matter the cost. That’s partly how IT has gained notoriety for being a “cost center.” But in reality, IT is not a cost center — it’s a resource hog. The more complex technology becomes, the more specialized and general IT resources we need to add, because it’s not as if the legacy stuff goes away.

This model cannot be sustained. MSPs must take steps to improve efficiencies in their own companies and for customers. Top priorities include delivering on SLAs, cost containment, connecting disparate systems from one client environment to the next and onboarding new customers using a repeatable and seamless process. All that requires automation.

Take the task of onboarding a customer that uses one ITSM system while the MSP uses another. Several issues arise — not the least of which is the sheer scale of human resources needed to align the two systems or switch the customer over. An MSP that can’t replicate tasks and workflows across its customer base can’t control costs.

The bottom line is that MSPs need to find a way to become not only experts in IT and security operations but also aces in efficiency. Thus it follows that intelligent automation will become the MSP’s best friend.

ROI Factors to Consider               

A wide range of intelligent automation solutions exist today, and the choices can be overwhelming. However, to get on successful track, consider these key ROI factors when evaluating options:

  • Technology features: How does the solution apply machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technology that adds value to what you are trying to achieve? What is the supplier’s road map?
  • Ease of use: Solutions that require no coding and minimal training will save you significant time and headache. Choose options that can deliver enterprise-level functionality and that virtually anyone on the IT staff can be successful with out of the gate.
  • Integration: Solutions that don’t integrate with existing systems will create a whole new set of challenges. Opt for those that offer integration out of the gate and open APIs for future flexibility.
  • Cost efficiency: MSPs must improve efficiencies through technology. With the rise of IT automation, more effective use of limited resources reduces costs and increases ROI.

Machine learning, along with other advanced technologies, has helped to propel the adoption and implementation of intelligent automation. By applying machine learning to IT process automation, manual, repetitive tasks are eliminated while gaining the benefit of intelligent suggestions and recommendations based on past history. Combined, this results in major efficiency gains, significant cost reduction, and greatly improved service delivery.

Machine learning also has the potential to enable an MSP to shift its focus to value-added services, realize increased margins and improve SLAs for a truly competitive differentiation. When used appropriately, automation and machine learning can equip MSPs to not only remain competitive, but blaze a path for future success.

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Three Fundamentals of Automation in the Workplace

Fundamentals of Automation in the WorkplaceShifting human work to machine is nothing new, nor is it something so vastly complex that it’s reserved only for the likes of multi-billion dollar operations. One needs only take notice at the interactions of their everyday life to realize how much artificial intelligence has become an integral part of our society. In fact, if you’ve ever used the self-checkout at your local grocery store or deposited a check at the ATM, you’ve leveraged automation technology.

So, what does this mean in terms of business? Specifically, how does automation impact the modern workplace? From a strictly benefits standpoint, automation is revolutionizing the way work is performed and providing advantages to organizations of every size and across every industry. Not only can AI boost productivity and eliminate human error, but it can also dramatically cut costs and provide the key to competitive advantage.

From a personnel perspective, automation is not necessarily something that will replace entire occupations, but rather the tool needed to streamline and improve workflow for human employees. Management must therefore focus on redefining roles and processes so that the two – automation technology and human workers – can complement one another.

To gain a deeper understanding of the role automation can and ultimately will play in the workplace of tomorrow, let’s take a look at three fundamentals of function below.

Automated Human Activities

Much of the conversation around workplace automation centers on the automation of simple, mundane and “codeable” tasks and workflows. While this is certainly a significant benefit, particularly in the field of IT, advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology have virtually blown the doors off this concept. In one study conducted by McKinsey & Company, nearly half (45 percent) of all work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology.

In fact, in many cases, automation technology is already capable of matching, or even exceeding, the median level of human performance. This includes such intuitive activities as planning, coordinating and decision-making tasks.

Evolution of Roles and Processes

Very few occupations could be completely automated. More than half, on the other hand, could potentially see a significant portion of their daily duties and activities automated. What this means is that although artificial intelligence is not yet capable of replacing humans entirely, automation will most certainly begin to – at least to some degree – change the vast majority of occupations. To accommodate these changes, a redefinition of roles and subsequent adaptation of businesses process will be necessary.

Thankfully, this is actually good news for many because while automation may eliminate some of a human worker’s task load, it will simultaneously free them up to focus their skills and intellect elsewhere. In other words, job descriptions and their duties will inevitably evolve. At the same time, however, new and innovative job opportunities as they relate to managing AI will begin to emerge.

A More Universal Impact

Logic dictates that the lower-wage, less skill-based jobs will be the first to be displaced by automation. In reality, particularly due to the incredible advances in AI technology and machine learning, it’s becoming clear that even those who hold high-level, high-wage occupations will not be immune to the impacts of automation. In fact, to some degree, there may actually be a fundamental shift.

Take, for instance, the role of a corporate CEO. A big part of his or her job duties – and one of the reasons for his or her hefty salary – is the ability to analyze data and make critical business decisions. Trends indicate that a good portion of this level job could be automated using intuitive technology, including analysis, reporting and decision making. As such, the high value placed on such a senior level position may begin to wane.

Conversely, those who hold jobs in certain fields such as home health aides, maintenance workers and landscapers – fields that have tasks that cannot easily be automated – may actually be viewed as more valuable in the future, and therefore paid more handsomely for their skills.

In Conclusion…

Ultimately, time will tell just how much of an impact advanced automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence technology will have on the future of work. One thing is for certain, though. Its adoption is inevitable. The best way to prepare your organization is to stay a step ahead by embracing the tools that are currently available to you.

If you’d like to give our intuitive automation and orchestration platform a try in your own company, simply click here and download your free trial.