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How Copilots Will Transform Service Management

05.08.2024 | Charles Araujo
 
With the release of its new Enterprise IT copilot, SymphonyAI is leading an AI-fueled transformation of the IT service management and IT support functions

AI has been a focal point for ITSM and IT support leaders for years. Unfortunately, the results have often underdelivered, especially with virtual agents.

The rise of generative AI (gen AI) and, specifically, its use as an enabler of copilots is set to change this dynamic and usher in a transformational era. SymphonyAI’s Apex Enterprise IT Copilot, one of the first in the industry, will help lead this AI-fueled transformation, and it will be imperative that ITSM and IT support leaders understand key elements as they seek to evaluate and leverage this emerging technology:

  • The fundamental difference between copilots and older chatbot and conversational AI approaches
  • The distinct context and roles needed to effectively leverage copilots
  • The core ITSM and IT support use cases for copilots

Perhaps most importantly, effectively using copilots within the IT support and management functions will also help IT lead a broader adoption of AI solutions across the enterprise.

The Elephant in the Room: Isn’t this Just a Chatbot?

Let’s begin with the elephant in the room: isn’t a copilot just a fancy new name for the chatbots that have existed in IT Support for years?

The short answer is an emphatic no!

But to make good decisions in how you apply this technology, you’ll need to understand why this is true.

The copilot concept is the third stage in an evolution that began with simple chatbots. This first-generation technology used a rules-based approach akin to a logic tree. Similar to chat-based implementations of old-school interactive voice response (IVR) systems, these first attempts at a virtual agent were underwhelming and often left customers and agents more frustrated than when they began.

The second evolution was the rise of conversational AI-powered virtual agents. These much more advanced systems used a complex set of technologies and approaches, including natural language processing (NLP), natural language understanding (NLU), intent recognition, dialogue management, and natural language generation (NLG) to create the chat experience. While this technology was substantially more effective and natural than rules-based chatbots, it still required significant effort in dialogue design and management. More detrimentally, these systems could still come across as unengaging and stilted and could frustratingly require more effort by a user to get to an outcome than simply performing a task manually.

On the other hand, gen AI-powered copilots harness the technology’s incredible conversational prowess to deliver natural, engaging, and human-like interactions (like what you experience using ChatGPT), but without requiring significant effort around conversational design, intent mapping, and so on.

The most effective copilots enhance basic gen AI interactions with advanced techniques. These techniques not only enrich dialogues but also significantly reduce errors — known as ‘hallucinations,’ where the system might generate false or misleading information. Additionally, they ensure that interactions are contextually appropriate.

These techniques include retrieval-augmented generation (RAG), which enables a gen AI-based system to reference authoritative data sources, and agentic AI approaches, which use APIs and other AI-based systems (such as predictive AI models) for insights and automation. These techniques are essential to the transformative potential of copilots.

The integration of gen AI with advanced technological approaches distinctly separates copilots, like SymphonyAI’s, from traditional chatbots, offering a far more dynamic and responsive solution.

The Three Whys and Roles of ITSM-focused Copilots

Because advanced copilots are different than traditional chatbots and conversational AI agents, we also need to change how we look to use them. Doing so comes down to understanding the three contexts in which an ITSM-based copilot can add value and the three personas that will extract that value.

The Three Value Contexts of ITSM Copilots

Traditionally, improved efficiency was seen as the sole value of deploying a chatbot. It was all about call deflection. The value context of a copilot is significantly more robust and includes three value contributors:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Enhanced employee experience
  • Avoidance of negative business impacts

Increased efficiency and productivity have long been among the primary drivers of deploying a chat-based interface within IT support. However, the goal was solely to improve the efficiency of the support function through call deflection. With a copilot, efficiency and productivity improvements occur across multiple dimensions. First, you get the traditional deflection as end users are able to resolve issues on their own. Second, you get improved productivity for those users as copilots are more likely to resolve their issues and return them to work more quickly. Finally, the use of a copilot improves agent productivity during a worker’s day-to-day work through various summarization and generation activities.

While efficiency and productivity improvements are significant, the true value of copilots becomes evident in their ability to enhance the employee experience. This not only streamlines operations but also positively impacts overall workplace satisfaction.

This improvement occurs on both sides of the IT support exchange. For end users, copilots reduce friction during the support process. Users are able to more quickly and seamlessly resolve an issue during the normal flow of their work, resulting in an overall more pleasant work experience. For the agents, they are relieved of busy work and monotonous review or creation of material. They are able to spend their time and energy providing support and making the world better for their end users — the job they most want to do.

Finally, in some cases, an advanced copilot may use a unique combination of generative and predictive AI capabilities. Such copilots can help IT organizations proactively identify issues to avoid negative business impacts. These negative impacts may be on an individual scale (e.g., proactively identifying an issue that may have slipped through the cracks) or on an organizational scale (e.g., identifying an impactful trend that management may have otherwise missed), but the reduction of the impact will always lead to business benefit.

The Three Personas of ITSM Copilots

As I’ve alluded to in the previous section, copilots are not a one-size-fits-all equation. From an ITSM and IT support perspective, three distinct personas can gain value from a copilot:

  • The support agent or IT support staff
  • The end user
  • IT leadership

However, as the examples above make clear, the context of that value and the interaction are different for each persona. Therefore, having a copilot tuned to the specific needs of each persona is a critical step that ensures that you realize maximum value from your copilot investments.

Get this alignment right and you’ll be on your way to achieving significant business value. But first, you may need to expand your perspective to see all the ways in which copilots can transform your ITSM and IT support functions.

Expand Your Perspective: The Powerful ITSM Copilot Use Cases

The limited functionality of traditional chatbots has constrained our perceptions of copilots, which, despite appearances, offer far broader capabilities.

But we call this technology a copilot for a reason.

Much like a real-life copilot sitting next to you in the cockpit of a plane, your enterprise IT copilot is sitting next to you (metaphorically), ready to respond to and handle anything so you can focus on your most important activity at hand, whatever that may be.

When you think of your copilot in this way, you realize that it can — and should be able to — do so much more than what you would ever trust a chatbot to do. This topic has been covered previously, but as a reminder to broaden your perspective as you think about how you can deploy and leverage an ITSM copilot, here is a small list of illustrative tasks that you can entrust to your enterprise IT copilot:

  • Summarization of an incident’s history
  • Preparing documentation of the resolution of an incident
  • The addition of resolution information to a knowledge base
  • Locating relevant knowledge articles related to a given incident
  • Summarization of previous interactions during an incident hand-off or escalation
  • Identification of the likely root cause of an incident
  • Identification of a likely problem
  • Automated incident prioritization, routing, and escalation
  • Identification of incidents at risk of escalation or likely to have a greater impact if not resolved
  • Identification of emerging trends in incident volume, change requests, or MTTR
  • And on and on…

Imagine the possibilities if an assistant were available to each staff member at all times. An assistant who had near-instant access to all of your institutional knowledge and every transaction record and deep knowledge of service management principles.

What would you ask them to do? And how would that transform your ITSM and IT support functions?

That’s the true promise of a service management copilot.

You’re at the Start of a Journey

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty excited about the amazing, transformative potential of copilots, particularly for ITSM and IT support functions.

Still, a couple of words of caution (and a little advice) are in order.

First, don’t get enamored with the technology for its own sake — even something as groundbreaking as an AI-powered copilot! The only barometer of success for a copilot — or any technology — is the value it can deliver to your organization. So, don’t get caught up in the hype or my excitement. Remain steadfastly focused on the business outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and let them guide your efforts.

Second, don’t get trapped into exclusively focusing on the ITSM and internal IT use cases. Instead, use these copilots as the starting point from which you can begin to imagine how you might use similar technology to likewise transform other functions within the enterprise. As always, IT is the perfect technology proving ground. So, show some results and then export them to the rest of the organization!

Finally, any new technology — particularly a transformative one like copilots — can seem overwhelming, which can lead you to take a wait-and-see approach. In this case, you have little to lose with a little exploration. So, dive in, do some experimenting, and see where it leads.

You’re at the beginning of an amazing, transformative journey. Enjoy the first few steps. Click here to book a demo of SymphonyAI’s Enterprise IT Copilot.

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