Using AI and Intelligent Automation to Increase IT Productivity

“IT… let’s be honest most of us get into it because we like technology, we like getting to see and play with new things like AI, but we also like the problem solving that comes alongside it – sometimes! Yet when I speak to many of our customers, there are a few common themes that stick out that people don’t like about the job. These tend to be the more ‘googleable’ questions that people seem to ring up to ask alongside the (let’s be honest) quite simple, repetitive and time-consuming tasks like password resets or team site creation.

So, what if we could take some of those pains away, while also using technology which interests us? I think we’re all aware that we can do, but it’s about understanding how we get the business on-board and what other benefits it can bring to help that case. In a nutshell, that’s the aim of today’s blog – to explore these questions and give some of my thoughts on the topic.

End User Support

Where do we start with this? Well, I think the best place to start is the most obvious place – how an IT Support Assistant (Bot) can help reduce the pressures on your internal Service Desk and IT Support Team.

‘Googleable’ questions – the clue’s in the standard response. This tends to be a shared link to an external website or an internal FAQ – absolutely something that the Assistant can take the pressure off the Support Team by automating. The Assistant has the capability to look up to any external facing website or internal guide and intelligently match the information it surfaces back to the question raised.

However, one thing that is worth bearing in mind is that it can look up theoretically any website you point it at. As such, it’s important when designing the Assistant to selectively choose the right website to look up or select the level of preference applied to the website. A good example of this is the Microsoft Support (support.office.com) for a query about OneDrive.

Process Automation

Automation of manual processes is easily do-able, but something which requires a bit more development work. Theoretically, any simple manual process that you do currently – maybe where you already have a PowerShell script running to save time – can be undertaken by the Assistant. All the Assistant needs to have built into it is:

  • The ability to connect to the systems that are being worked on
  • The correct PowerShell or PowerAutomate scripts provided to it, alongside the associated trigger.

Again, this is quite powerful – I’d always recommend targeting those simpler and more defined processes and functions when starting out. For example, something like password resets, team site creation or maybe adding a user to an ad group and allocating the corresponding licence.

We all know the time savings that this can provide right now. This helps provide the beginning of a business case for the implementation of a technology such as this. It’s one thing I always talk about when looking at the solution for your current pain/problem. Choose one which has longer term benefits and can scale out rather than just moving the pain to a future date.

Scalability

As an IT Virtual Assistant is based upon the Azure Platform it is also scalable and can grow with your organisation. If the number of people within your organisation grows, the number of questions it can answer can be increased. Likewise, if a new technology is adopted – i.e. using Power BI within Teams – it can also be developed to answer some of those queries as well. In effect, the machine can scale with demand, whereas a person can only handle a fixed number of queries or tasks before another individual is needed. There’s inherently a finite capacity in what a human can do just due to time constraints.

This is a similar thing when you look at the automation of the tasks. As the number of individuals in the organisation grows, so too do the day to day administrative tasks. Again, the Assistant can scale to accommodate the increase in demand, whereas each individual member of the support team can only handle a fixed limit of requests per day. Likewise, the Assistant can also be built up over time to integrate other areas that are potentially time consuming within the business for instance holiday requests or maybe absence notifications which currently take up members of the HR Team’s time.

Enhanced user Experience

Alongside the quantifiable benefits of the technology, I also feel there is another huge benefit in the fact it makes the experience of the user much more intuitive and therefore a more pleasurable experience. If we think about our daily lives, no-one really likes filling in forms, nor do people like calling up a help desk or support line. By transforming the method of engagement to a Virtual Assistant, people get the benefits of messaging a bot that talks and reacts like a human whilst not having the pains of having to wait in line if there are more calls than support desk can deal with.

The information being surfaced is instantaneous. People get a much more immediate response to their question or request, as opposed to waiting for a person to either see the email or get the link/access the required system.

In summary, using AI to support your internal users helps free up your valuable IT resource to spend their time where it has the greatest impact. By doing so, you also can improve the experience that your end users receive whilst providing a scalable, resilient solution to ensure that this service level continues into the future.

As part of this series I’ll look at how the same concept can be applied to supporting your external stakeholders not just your internal ones. If you’d like to learn more please feel free to reach out to hello@phoenixs.co.uk or call 01904 562200.”

Ben Gannon – Data and AI Specialist, Phoenix Software