Artificial intelligence has caught the fancy of MSPs, who are hearing questions from customers in industries from retail to health care to contact centers, while attempting to figure out how to use it. I hear plenty of "water cooler debates," real and in the virtual square, over the long-term impact AI will have on MSPs and their employees.
In my experience, IT systems management solutions, including RMM tools, are using machine learning now to automate rote tasks, thus saving time, reducing errors, increasing profit margins and ensuring that all endpoints are properly updated. It's a win-win.
Longer term, I believe that Al will ultimately revolutionize systems management as profoundly as automation — and arguably more. Intelligent, self-reliant systems-management solutions will more easily detect anomalies by looking at patterns and exceptions from millions and perhaps billions of data points. AI-based systems management will also be able to predict problems and future events based on what has happened in the past, and the current state of the systems. At the same time, increasing autonomy will impact your and customer IT staffs. Just as robots move worker demand from assembly-line grunts to robotics engineers, technicians and robot operators, AI-driven systems management will transform low-level admins into higher-level IT decision makers. In fact, CompTIA recently put machine learning trainer/scientist and AI developer at the top of its list of emerging job roles to watch.
A recent article in Forbes by Moe Fardoost, a senior director of product marketing for Oracle, discussed how machine learning will bring a "brain boost" to systems management.
“Machine learning is a perfect partnership between the data, the computer and the human coder. Programmers write algorithms that allow the computer to learn as it processes data that describe routine operations. The more data the ML software processes, the more it learns and, therefore, the more accurately it identifies which operations are running normally, and which are not. And before an abnormal operation becomes serious enough to affect customers, the system can notify its human operator to take corrective action, or fix the problem automatically,” wrote Fardoost.
“Demand for higher levels of availability will lead to increased use of automation," wrote Cliff Saran of Computer Weekly. "Over time, many IT roles will be taken over by intelligent algorithms. In the age of the customer, human IT operators will be inferior and a new rule book for IT operations will be needed. IT will need to change from supporting back-office processes to interacting directly with consumers and users, who will have far higher expectations of IT systems than traditional business users do.”
Gartner also weighed in with research suggesting that self-learning automation technology and smart-machine research will be one of the top areas of investment for some 30 percent of CIOs in 2020; specifically, Gartner defines next-generation service offerings as “intelligent automation” services that use one or more AI technologies, such as a cognitive-computing platform, as the basis of an offering’s "core value proposition."
If you're thinking right now that intelligently delivered services sounds a lot like what you as an MSP offer as your own core value proposition, you're right. So do I expect some ITSM jobs being done by AI-driven chatbots and service portals to result in MSPs slashing headcount?
No, not at all. Rather, over the long term, most data suggest that AI will create more jobs, not eliminate them, for those able to adapt. I expect this to hold true for MSPs. Start now to learn about AI – this CompTIA report is one place to start – and ask your tool vendors about their machine learning and AI road maps. Your suppliers want to help. Think about how and when to retrain staff. The future is bright: We expect AI to empower ITSM pros to focus on higher-value services — those that make customers more efficient and secure, address problems that impact many end users and ultimately make you as an MSP more strategic and able to help align IT work with business objectives. There's still time to make friends with the robots.
Marius Mihalec is CEO and Founder of Pulseway, a provider of remote monitoring and management software. Before joining Pulseway, he was a technical architect at Irish Medical Systems (IMS MAXIMS) for 10 years.