It seems like everywhere you look these days you find a thinkpiece to grimly warn us of the dangers of artificial intelligence. But if you talk to anybody with an interest in the way technology interacts with human life – particularly in the world of service management – and instead of the grim pessimism of dystopian fiction, you’ll find sheer enthusiasm. There is tremendous potential for AI in ITSM.
One of those people is Mauricio Corona. He’s the Chairman and Owner of BP Gurus as well as an active SDI Chief Transformation Officer, board member at ACIS_IT, Head of AI graduate programs at Universidad La Salle (Mexico), and Professor at Actuarial Science Faculty STEM Anahuac (Mexico). With a resume like that, you can believe he has a true passion for ITSM.
Ask him about artificial intelligence and you’ll get an impassioned defense of its strengths and the different ways it can be incorporated into service management. He’s seen firsthand, traveling around the world bringing service management and business maturity to many countries while also collecting experiences of the use of AI and robotics. Mauricio spoke about the topic in his recent appearance on the Ticket Volume podcast.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- How AI is currently incorporated into service management
- The potential of robotics and AI in the field
- How the incorporation of cultural elements can result in a richer experience for all parties involved
Let's get started!
Current use of AI in ITSM
There's already quite a bit of use of AI in ITSM. Let's talk about some of the most common trends that are already taking the industry by storm.
This is the version of AI you’ve most likely come across, and one of the most widely implemented AI tools in service management. The use of “virtual support staff” is rapidly increasing as well, with studies showing that over 50% of organizations use this feature within their IT departments.
The advantages of chatbots and virtual service workers is that they allow quick and easy access to both self-service and proper service routing. Whether it’s directing users to a knowledge base article to get the information they need or automatically assign a ticket to one of the various IT support tiers, the use of chatbots and virtual service workers bypasses the human-based assignment system that can cause errors or delays.
This essentially takes the place of the lowest of the five levels of IT support, functioning as gatekeepers and making sure both that the ticket gets properly routed and that the user is delivered a good service experience.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software technology meant to build and manage software robots that emulate human actions interacting with digital systems. They are programmed to understand what’s on the screen, navigate systems, perform the right keyboard strokes, identify and extract data, and a wide range of predefined actions. Because robots are able to perform these tasks faster and more reliably than people (without the needs that people often have) they’re quickly catching on in the world of ITSM.
So what can RPA bots do? They can scrape web data, copy-paste, make calculations, open and move files, parse emails, connect to APIs, log into programs, and extract unstructured data. They are easily adaptable to any interface or workflow, which means there’s no need to change business systems, applications, or existing processes. Because they are so easy to set up, use, and share, they’re also quickly growing in their implementation.
How is RPA used in ITSM? Well, think of the repetitive tasks that a help desk agent has to perform. Simple but repetitive and time consuming operational activities: service requests, delivering changes, closing incident tickets, and such. RPA can automate the resolution of a ticket once it has reached the appropriate assignment group, reducing the effort and resources needed to resolve a ticket.
Natural language processing (NLP)
Natural Language Processing (NLP) refers to the branch of AI that focuses on giving computers the ability to understand text and spoken words in a similar fashion to how human beings do. It does so by combining computational linguistics (rule-based modeling of human language) with statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models. It allows computers to process human language and “understand” its full meaning.
The use of Natural Language Processing makes it easier for both users and IT service staff to get a better understanding of requests, incidents, and problems. Initiatives like InvGate's Support Assist will ensure support teams can more directly and efficiently address recurring issues and trends. It can also allow IT to quickly find patterns, such as a recurring or trending problem type that could eventually lead to incidents.
Unlocking the full potential of AI in ITSM
Of course, there’s more to AI than what is already in practice. The technologies that make up artificial intelligence are all very young, and their full potential hasn’t been explored yet. And one of the best examples of this lies in the field of robotics, which works by bringing together various artificial intelligence disciplines.
While Robotics Process Automation is already in use in ITSM, this can be taken to the next level by including actual physical devices – so, actual robots, as sci-fi as it sounds – to further replicate an actual human interaction. So if RPA can be used to automate repetitive tasks, the use of actual robotic machinery would be the next step in applying AI to the service desk.
On this topic, Mauricio said:
“I love robotics because it’s pretty much the maximum expression of AI. The service robot allows you to mix every single kind of artificial intelligence that you have. For example in service robotics you need natural language processing. So that’s a complete whole domain within AI. On the other side, we need a lot of computer vision, and that’s a whole new domain within AI.
On the other side, we need autonomous. So we’re using Lidar sensors, understanding how even autonomous cars are using Lidar. So it is very interesting because you can actually mix everything, every single AI domain, with mechanical parts, with some circuits, with some AI development.”
- Mauricio Corona, Chairman and Owner of BP Gurus.
While these practices are slowly gaining steam, the field of AI is one that is especially given to rapid growth and industry-wide adoption, so we could see the introduction of robotic help desk operators (at the lowest tiers of IT support) catch on quickly.
There is a potential risk. The use of robot operators could easily fall into the uncanny valley territory (that vaguely disturbing feeling you get when the human-like appearance of a robotic object doesn’t sit quite right).
A way to mitigate this is by making sure the AI is programmed to fall closer to the human side of things than the cold, disaffected tenor of a robot. In this sense, digital AI assistants such as Siri have found the right balance when it comes to approximating a sense of humanity without evoking that sense of unease.
How can that be accomplished? A good way to do it is injecting a sense of personality and culture to the AI service robot, whether this is an actual physical device or just a software tool. On his appearance on Ticket Volume, Mauricio spoke about the positive impact he saw when Latin American programmers integrated some local flair into the AI’s personality:
“When you work on the AI models for a service robot, if the guy who is behind those algorithms is Mexican or Latin American, they will print their souls into their robots. So they can start engaging with you like you will never find in any other place in the world. It’s like, joking and answering you with typical phrases that we use in Mexico and that kind of thing.
So I think that’s something that on the cultural side when we’re mixing advanced technology with cultural stuff like this, you are creating a whole new level of high technology. And that’s exactly what we are doing right now.”
- Mauricio Corona, Chairman and Owner of BP Gurus.
Play the full interview to learn more. You can also find Ticket Volume on all podcast platforms.
Incorporating AI into ITSM is definitely catching on. But it’s also a very, very new practice. Because of this, it has a tremendous amount of potential and can bring your organization huge benefits in efficiency and process improvement. And because it can serve as an additional channel of communication to your customer base, it has to be managed like any other product or service your organization offers.
There are various ways to introduce AI into service management. The potential pitfalls of computer communication (such as the aforementioned uncanny valley) can be avoided by injecting AI with some personality. But more than just a nifty novelty, the incorporation of AI elements into service management should always be done with purpose, and a clear view towards improving service.