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ITSM and Artificial Intelligence - a Good Marriage?


The Need for Automation in IT Service Management

As Information Technology (IT) staff, we have always been involved in helping colleagues and clients with more effective and efficient ways of working, primarily by automating tasks and gathering and structuring data for better use. This has been the basis for every company becoming more dependent on their IT. That dependency has become stronger and stronger, resulting in a situation that a company can't function if the IT is not working.

The Increasing Complexity of IT

Meanwhile, IT has become increasingly complex with new technology and architectures. Think about Cloud technology, Hybrid environments, Big Data, AI technology, Microservices-based architecture, etc. There's more variety in platforms and technology than ever. IT staff have not focused on automating their part of the work. The combination at present, where it is more difficult to find and retain good staff members, is making it even more challenging to keep all the IT infrastructure on track.

The Struggle to Keep IT Infrastructure on Track

With staff having to cover more technologies and becoming increasingly scarce and thus more expensive, the question arises: Do we need our highly qualified team working on basic incidents and standard service requests? Should we grow our IT departments more or investigate if we can offload some of the work by using automation?

According to Gartner, roughly 60% of service requests and incidents on a service desk are standard requests that lead to repetitive manual work for IT staff. This leads to highly qualified staff spending a fair part of their time on repetitive work, which is costly and not a great for staff motivation. IT staff prefer to be challenged by new and complex situations instead of monotonous and repetitive work. Moreover, repetitive work can lead to human error.

Finding the Way Forward

We can build automation that solves issues quickly to offload the repetitive work. This reduces the effort on the IT department side and has a positive side effect on throughput time. Automation is, however, only part of the solution. We can use automation and trigger them manually. It will save time for the IT department and reduce repetitive work. However, incidents and service requests still require some manual handling.

A New Approach to Automation

Can we have a way of triggering the automation differently? Clearly, we have the capability to do so, as it has been a practice since the early days of automating business processes, particularly in areas like finance and accounting, where we establish business rules to determine whether action “A” or action “B” should be executed. These business rules are specified in detail to ensure they don't lead to errors in the system. They need an exact match to trigger execution. And in the world of structured data like finance data usually is, that works perfectly.

The Growing Significance of Data

So, in quite a lot of organisations, the use of business rules is in place. And every time there is an addition to an infrastructure or a change in process, these rules must be changed. The current situation with very dispersed platforms and more complex infrastructures, can easily lead to more than 40,000 business rules that can trigger automation in the ITSM world. It becomes a problem to manage the business rules and keep them consistent. Let alone that most of the data used in service management is conversational. On top of that, increasing amounts of data is becoming available to manage the infrastructure in the best way possible, if you can react to that data.

Embracing the Future with Automation

We cannot deny the business world is also changing. New competitors come up in a market quickly. Just think of how Airbnb, Uber, and Alibaba arrived and became the biggest in their respective markets by using different business models. He who owns the customer relationship has the market in his hands. Not he who produces the product. This means IT departments must be very responsive to support business changes. Think about straight-through processing, digital transformation, integration, and data value. These are the topics all companies are working on, which means a lot of pressure on IT departments to handle the extra workload. Wouldn't it be great to be able to offload the repetitive, commodity work from staff, and automate it?

Automation is key, but how can we orchestrate it in a manageable way?

[Continued in the blog "Leveraging AI in IT Service Management"]

In the second part, we’ll delve into the transformative power of AI in IT service management.