Robotic Process Automation: Artificial Intelligence for IT Support

Does your organization already have the tools to transform IT support through artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence for IT Support

HAL 9000, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is famous for saying, “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

A complete RPA solution is based on building blocks that need to exist throughout your IT ecosystem.
Today, artificial intelligence (AI) technology has advanced to the point that organizations can leverage its capabilities for the many things it can do in the enterprise, especially automating processes.

In particular, forward-thinking companies are exploring robotic process automation (RPA), a form of AI, to transform IT support.

“The future of IT support is a digital hybrid paradigm,” says Sam Gross, chief technology officer for CompuCom®. “That means service desk becomes a mix of digitally assisted remote support and digitally fulfilled self-service. And deskside services digitally merge self-service, remote support and on-site support into a single service continuum.”

It’s all part of what CompuCom calls Advanced Intelligent Automation, or AIA. AIA is a digital transformation strategy for elevating end-user experiences and business outcomes. (See sidebar, “Advanced Intelligent Automation.”)

IT Guy Meets Mr. Roboto

Graphi: RPA Vs. \\"Traditional\\" Process Transformation
RPA is the use of software “robots” to perform repeatable yet complex tasks in business processes. In IT support, RPA can “learn” from experience and intelligently respond to new situations to resolve end-user IT problems significantly faster and with far less human intervention than traditional approaches.

RPA isn’t merely a future promise. It’s achievable today, and CompuCom is piloting and fine-tuning real-world models. “Analysts project that 40 percent of IT support events could be delivered in a fully automated fashion in the next two to three years,” Gross notes. “But we’ve already achieved results that are far higher than that for Level 1 infrastructure support.”

Yet Gross emphasizes that RPA isn’t something organizations can implement overnight. Rather, it’s a journey. “You can’t just buy RPA in a box,” Gross says. “There are vendors that sell RPA software, but they’re really just selling pieces of an overall solution. A complete RPA platform must leverage building blocks that need to exist throughout your IT ecosystem.”

The good news is that many organizations already possess many of these building blocks. The key is identifying the components and then combining them in a way that begins to achieve RPA. The result will be a transformation of IT support.

I Think, Therefore I Am RPA

RPA represents the evolution of multiple process-improvement paradigms: IT best practices, data-driven analytics and technology management.

Best practices progressed from ad hoc to ITIL® standards, Lean IT, DevOps and now modern services management. Data-driven methodologies started with structured data, moved on to unstructured and patterned data, and is evolving to self-defining data insights. And technology management evolved from scripting to orchestration and now to RPA.

“If you look at these progressions, you begin to define the components of the IT technology platforms that in their aggregate enable RPA,” Gross says. “It starts with data, then automating technology, then automating IT processes, and finally automating business processes.”

Starting with data is key. In the past, data was organized in rows and columns. Today, data is increasingly represented by graph structures. It’s that change that enables predictive analytics. And it’s what enables RPA to achieve human-like reasoning.

What else besides the right data structures are necessary for RPA? Gross points to four building blocks:
 

  1. Global identity service — Every device, performer and thing needs to have an identity.
     
  2. Digital services integration — Web services, application programming interfaces (APIs), enterprise services processes and macro orchestration are crucial to ensure the right information is published across the enterprise.
     
  3. Micro orchestration — These are technologies that enable you to do remote execution, file, configuration and communication services to the object you’re automating.
     
  4. Integration of technical services — Event management, performance management, correlation services and domain management all need to be integrated into the ecosystem, because these services communicate to the RPA platform what needs to be done and when.

The ROI of AI

If all this sounds like it could require a fair amount of investment in time, effort and resources, you’re right. But the payoff can be a significant reduction in overall IT support costs, and incremental benefits accrue with each step. Still, that’s not the primary reason to invest in digital engagement. Rather, it’s the end-user experience.

Today, digital engagement primarily takes place through a portal. The problem with most of today’s portals is that they fail to recognize what Gross calls the help desk moment. When end users engage with IT support, they inherently have a sense of urgency or frustration.

So the portal can’t just be a buffet of services. Instead, you need a digital engagement platform that understands who the user is, what the user is doing and, therefore, what the user needs. That will deliver a far better user experience.

“Today when technology fails, it takes from 15 minutes to the next business day to resolve the problem,” Gross says. “Once RPA is mature, which means you have aggregated a sufficient number of knowledge items in your platform, that same issue can be resolved in 15 to 30 seconds.” Such significant improvements in mean time to resolve (MTTR) by themselves will dramatically improve the end-user experience.

Ultimately, RPA will drive IT support closer to the end user. Whether the end user needs to acquire a device, track something about a device or get technical support with a device or application, RPA-powered digital engagement will be more personalized and effective than traditional approaches. That will enable IT to work for end users, and allow end users to work toward achieving your company’s goals.

Advanced Intelligent Automation

Ask many CIOs and IT directors, and they’ll agree the traditional help desk approach to IT support no longer reflects today’s business realities. End users increasingly demand enriching and empowering consumer experiences. Business needs IT to be more expedient, predictive and cost-efficient. Rising technical complexity and product diversity require broader and deeper IT skills.

The solution is Advanced Intelligent Automation (AIA), CompuCom’s digital transformation strategy for elevating end-user experiences and business outcomes.

AIA combines technologies, processes and best practices to help automate IT support and increase end-user productivity. The goal is to enable organizations to modernize and extend their investment in IT and position the business to achieve its strategic objectives.

DeloitteTM is a trademark of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
ITIL® is a registered trademark of Axelos Ltd.
All data cited in this article is used with permission.

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