Today, automation is all around our homes. It controls our central heating, allows us to see who is at the door and even check in on our pets via mobile devices. As such, there is a natural assumption that robotics is also enabling businesses to have a similar consumerised experience in the workplace. However, the truth is, most businesses are still running on very manual and cumbersome practises.

Just how close is the current IT service desk to this in practice?

There is clearly a willingness for businesses to make the move to greater automation, where IT seeks to replace aspects of its traditional support to reduce costs and meet user expectations for a faster, predictable response.

Currently the evolution of the IT service desk is being driven by the emergence of different channels through which users can engage. Conversational technology can use real-time data analysis to create contextual conversations, which leverage previous interactions in much the same way humans do.

Chatbots, for example, typically solve problems through pre-defined rules in a decision tree and operate in areas of narrow expertise, where experts have defined the answer to common problems. Each conversation becomes more ‘learned’ and predictive with every interaction. This allows for personalised engagement, and with machine-learning in place, an automated and responsive process that extracts data stored in the cloud.

However, they are simply an engagement channel and whilst have the potential to be highly intelligent, they are not intelligent enough to replace humans – only evolve how they work.

Overpromise, Underachieve

Self-service portals, web chat, and automated password resets are among the digital tools beginning to re-shape the service desk function. Although representing the first wave of AI in the service desk operation, chatbots, are still relatively immature and many vendors are over-promising the expected transformational outcomes.

This of course may happen in time, but it’s not a done deal yet, no matter what some infrastructure and operations leaders have been led to believe. In order to get there, chatbots must first learn from the information they gather to be truly responsive to user needs.

From providing basic support to advising on more complex matters, conversational chatbots have the potential to replicate much of what a human customer service agent does – only faster and more accurately.

Data Is King

The starting point on this journey is data analytics. Data, or more specifically, the knowledge it brings through analytics will be vital to the IT service desk of the future.

It’s important to be knowledgeable about the use cases and desired outcomes of new service desk capabilities. Analytics can help businesses understand where and which digital tools, such as chatbots, intelligent voice recognition, or web channels, might be best used.

While it’s most likely impossible to achieve zero IT issues, analytics can ensure that such issues result in less and less intrusion on the user experience the more that’s known about common faults and user event. This automation takes away a huge burden as it dramatically reduces the instances where mistakes and oversights can happen, while also improving efficiency and speed of service.

The machine learning in these tools builds intelligence around user needs based on each interaction over time, which is why it’s wrong to assume simply investing in an AI solution will bring an immediate return on investment. It takes time for the full benefits to be fully realised.