Preparation for Automation

by Roy Atkinson
February 20, 2018

We often make decisions backwards.

No good mechanic picks up a 9/16” socket and heads to the garage to find something to fix. Yet, that’s what we do in IT, time after time: We see a tool we think can be of use, and we seek to buy it before understanding what needs fixing. We even have a name for it: Shiny Object Syndrome.

Recently I heard from an organization where there was pressure from executives to get Artificial Intelligence going. To do what, exactly? What problem are they trying to solve, and is AI the right tool for the job?

There is no doubt that AI, machine learning, bots, and other advanced technologies have the potential to improve IT service and support. But that potential will be realized only if we determine how we are going to apply the technology. We need to take a step back, assess, and prepare.

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Of all the changes you can make in and for your organization, which ones will benefit from the capabilities of automation? Doug Tedder recently tweeted, “Automate the obvious.” In the world of support, what is obvious?

automation, robot

Which part of the robot dog should you automate first? Of course, you should automate the tail. Its action is known (it wags). The motion is simple and repetitive. And if the robot dog can accept voice commands, you can program it to wag its tail when you say, “Good dog.”  It’s only logical to automate the tail wag before you get to sit, fetch, and other more complex actions.

The first step in preparation is to identify your targets. What is similar to that simple, repetitive tail wag? The things your analysts do over and over again, every day. Here’s the tough part: These are the things that make up most of your First Contact Resolution, your “one and done” calls and chats. (We’ll address the impact of automation on your metrics in a future post.) See how many of those contacts can be done by putting together a series of smaller tasks into a workflow that can be automated.

One way to take advantage of automation (with or without AI) is to allow technology to augment your staff. Example: You are not currently staffed on weekends. What about a chatbot that could answer basic questions, and, if necessary, create a ticket for the end user for follow-up during regular hours?

Automate the obvious!
Tweet: Automate the obvious! @HDI_Analyst @dougtedder @ThinkHDI #automation

Another is new hire onboarding. The same general steps are followed for each new hire—creating email and other IT accounts, assigning office space, providing a computer and other devices, and so on—although the particulars (access, groups, equipment, etc.) may vary. Another might be resetting passwords, although this can be more complicated than meets the eye if your organization does not have single-sign-on (SSO) or if there are in-house applications that require individual passwords. If, however, you do have SSO or a simple set of passwords that can be changed automatically, think about how AI can help you verify the person attempting to reset the password, and then reset it, getting them access to their account(s) rapidly and with reduced risk.

Look at the top five to ten ticket (by volume) descriptions currently in your ITSM or ticketing tool. Do you have current and correct knowledge articles for them? Do they live in your user-facing knowledge base, but people don’t take the time to find them? Here you might have a candidate for a chatbot. (For more on technology-assisted self-help, see the earlier post on Tier/Level 0.5.)

Like the mechanic headed to the garage, make sure you know:

  • What you are going to fix
  • What “fix” means (What is the desired outcome?)
  • Which tools are the best for the job at hand

Automation can be your friend, but you need to prepare the way for the future to happen.

Roy Atkinson Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.

Tag(s): supportworld, technology, automation


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