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Intelligence augmentation: AI comes to the service desk

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Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord, President, TOPdesk

Putting out fires seems to be a job requirement for service desk teams. When users stop in to check on or file tickets, service desk employees often spend a good deal of time handling recurring tasks (some of them mundane), as well as putting out the aforementioned fires.

Addressing user concerns is a priority for any service desk, but during busy times—busy for whatever reason (a required software update, for example)—there is usually little time to implement structural requirements or take on more strategic steps that can lead to the overall improvement of the organization. 

Strategic work helps everyone's processes become more mature and proactive. But how can organizational leaders create opportunities for their service desk teams to become more proactive and, maybe, a little less reactive?

For some leaders, strategic planning and leadership techniques that reward teams for implementing better time management and planning skills can be important work to bring everyone together on the same page

Alternatively, technology can help your service teams focus more on the vital work that needs to be done beyond responding to user requests and service tickets. In other words, there may be technologies that can help service desk teams identify the tinder and kindling before lightning strikes and starts a raging fire.

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Intelligence augmentation versus AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a blanket term for hundreds of technologies and applications designating "machine behavior" that, ultimately, allows machines to be "taught" to learn human characteristics. AI, then, could mean machines that understand human language and what is happening in their environment so they can think along with your people and respond to stimuli just as they do.

But even with recent developments in machine learning, for most mature and strategically thought-out service desks, AI is still aspirational. AI in the service desk has little to do with other applications, such as self-propelled cars and independent, "thinking" robots.

In these areas, smart software is designed specifically to help people. For example, IBM recently introduced its own definition for this process, known as augmented intelligence. Essentially, the idea is to produce software that takes on small, repetitive tasks that can "think" along with people.

AI in another form

Augmented intelligence is really just another form of AI. Confusing, yes, so for reasons of distinction, I call this "intelligence augmentation," or IA.

Perhaps the best example of IA technology is Google Maps. The program learns what time you arrive at work every morning and the route you take. A traffic jam somewhere along the way? Google Maps notifies you so you can leave earlier or take another route, even before you leave. In this way you no longer have to check how busy the roads are in the morning. It's simple, in theory.

This is how IA will enter center stage for IT service management. It can help your organization spot structural problems and respond accordingly. Service desk leaders might use these kinds of tools to detect requests related to specific problems or issues before they arise. Then, when those issues pop up, those systems notify the service desk team so that they can get straight to work on the problem.

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Makings of a mature service desk

IA can make it possible for service desk teams to proactively implement structural improvements that allow team members to focus on more important work that serves the whole organization. The outcome is a more mature service desk, and a more mature organization.

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