January 22, 2021
By Bob Friday
Customer experience was the top priority for vendors and partners alike in 2020. With all of the curve balls the year threw at us, it’s been crucial for businesses to find ways to ease partner and customer pain points and simplify processes wherever possible. As we head into a new year of uncertainty, and as the industry becomes even more crowded with similar solutions, it’s all about investing in the right differentiated technologies to bring value and overall simplicity to customers.
As such, in the new year and beyond, artificial intelligence will be more important than ever in providing proper support to remote workers, securing data and differentiated visibility to the end-to-end customer mobile experience.
New Year, Same Home Office
COVID-19 has changed everything, from the way we communicate and socialize to the way we learn and work. You’ve probably heard by now that our homes have become enterprise microbranches. This means that for IT teams, instead of having to manage one big hub, they are managing hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of remote work environments. It’s a very real possibility that in a post-COVID world, we will have to adjust to the new normal of more people working at home by choice and improved business productivity, in turn fundamentally shifting how businesses will provide IT services.
As we’ve learned, artificial intelligence plays a huge role in working at home when it comes to enabling IT teams to have the end-to-end visibility needed to support remote employees. Gone are the days when an employee could simply walk over to the IT department when a tech issue arose on connectivity in the office or branch. As you can imagine, this puts tremendous strain on remote IT teams as they face issues of scale and frequency like they never have before. Enter artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps).
AIOps is changing the paradigm of customer support for business to customer/employee and for business to vendor. Specifically, in the networking industry, it is helping enterprises manage the end-to-end user connectivity experience. AIOps is the convergence of data science and customer support, and it is being used to address the growing complexity of IT operations. On the business-to-vendor side, cloud AIOps is turning the customer support model upside down. IT teams need no longer to argue with vendors over return material authorization (RMA) – with AIOps, vendors now know when there is a hardware/software problem and can proactively inform customers when RMA fixes in the network are needed. In short, AIOps can help IT departments anticipate and solve their problems, before they impact end users, in a cost-efficient way.
Rather than manually searching through data to find the root cause of hundreds of connectivity problems from all different microbranches, AIOps does this automatically and learns along the way. As many of us will continue working remotely into the new year, it will become increasingly appealing for enterprises to provide their partners with vendor agnostic AIOps strategies that can ingest data from multiple sources to allow IT to quickly isolate a poor user experience.
The time and cost-savings of AIOps benefit not only the IT team, but the enterprise as a whole. This represents a major value-add partners can provide to their customers.
The Customer Comes First
In the enterprise space, customers putting business-critical services on increasingly complex networks is driving the need for AIOps. As society becomes more mobile through these remote microbranches, the wireless user experience is more complex. And as wireless networks become more critical to the daily lives of employees, AIOps is enabling the next era of search and chat bots. The goal is …
… an environment where users enjoy steady, consistent performance and no longer need to spend precious IT resources on mountains of support tickets.
So, what does this mean for the channel? By integrating AIOps into partner programs, enterprises can deliver a self-learning, automated ticket desk, expedite the troubleshooting process and free the networking team’s time for more innovative and interesting projects.
Don’t Forget About Security
While there are many benefits to incorporating AIOps in the enterprise, it’s also important to pay attention to the inherent risks. It’s not enough to provide your partners with the tools for AI optimization – you must ensure that these come with deeply embedded security protocols. Otherwise, all the efficiency and simplicity you’re providing will be eclipsed by major security vulnerabilities.
AI is not a weapon of cybersecurity experts alone, but also for threat actors. These days, it is possible to mount a very targeted cyberattack that will only trigger the laptop of a person of interest. This becomes even more dangerous when you consider the microbranches and the breadth of attack surfaces available to bad actors.
Take chat bots, for example. Chat bots, or other virtual home and office assistants that are becoming ever more popular during these times, are a potential hot spot for AI security vulnerabilities in the current remote work environment. IT teams are increasingly turning to these virtual assistants to help offset the avalanche of tasks they’re working through, but any time new software is introduced into an enterprise, it also brings flaws that can be exploited. IT teams must be increasingly cognizant of keeping artificial intelligence software updated, while also implementing the latest vulnerability patches to minimize risk. This is a crucial consideration of any AI offering for channel partners. Remember, AI and security must go hand-in-hand to maximize benefits and minimize risk.
Is the Customer Always Right?
The adage that the customer is always right may not necessarily be true on the surface level, but it is absolutely true when it comes to experience. We hear our partners and customers loud and clear when they say, “experience is everything,” and it’s time that the whole IT industry steps up and delivers.
Integrating AIOps into your partner strategy is just one way to make a big difference and set yourself apart from the pack. While our future of work remains uncertain, one thing is for sure: your customers will thank you for making their work lives a little easier and a lot more secure.
Bob Friday is co-founder, vice president and chief technology officer at Mist Systems, which is part of Juniper Networks and develops self-learning wireless networks using artificial intelligence. He previously was VP/CTO of Cisco enterprise mobility following its acquisition of Airespace, which he founded, and drove industry standards such as Hot Spot 2.0 and market efforts such as Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experience. Friday started his career in wireless at Metricom developing and deploying wireless mesh networks to connect the first generation of Internet browsers. He holds more than 15 patents. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @WirelessBob or @MistSystems on Twitter.
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