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The technologies in our personal lives — navigating Amazon for the first time, for example, or hailing our first ride from Uber — taught us about self-service. Now, at work, we expect the same quality of self-service, responsiveness and personalization from our enterprise systems.

We now work in hybrid environments, caught between our commutes, the car office, the home office and the office. We rarely stop to think about how many forces, automated or otherwise, conspire to keep us connected and productive.

Before the pandemic hit, when logging in to our emails on the weekend or while traveling failed, we desperately called the IT service desk and then surrendered our laptops so that IT could take remote control of our screens. Who could have imagined the changes that would be thrust upon us?

With employees working in diverse locations, IT service desks became inundated by calls. As the volume of calls skyrocketed, services tickets zoomed to unmanageable levels. IT Service Desks had to pivot from being reactive to proactively providing tools to help employees help themselves.

How Automation Can Help A Deluged Service Desk

Service desks already offered several ways to help employees. Chatbots, for example, integrate with the service desk to meet the employees in a channel of their choice be it mobile, email, Microsoft Teams or Slack. An up-to-date FAQ also provides answers for the employee. If the FAQ does not help, employees can raise a service ticket, which goes to a manned service desk.

With an automated service desk, though, a bot can read and understand the ticket on its own and, after categorizing it, resolve the ticket automatically or partially before assigning it to an engineer. Most incident tickets are not reported in forms but in emails, and the bot goes through the unstructured text to predict a standard operating procedure (SOP). When complete remediation is not possible, the bot can sometimes do partial remediation, creating a summary of remediation steps it has completed and can recommend the next steps for the engineer. If a SOP does not already exist, a smart bot can even build one from related SOPs.

No matter the size, every organization should consider service desk automation. Small- and medium-sized organizations may be too short-staffed to handle a manned service desk. Large organizations need help due to the sheer volume of calls from employees, which is only compounded by the prohibitive cost of manned service desks.  

Here are a few considerations before you get started:

1. Test drive. A “pay as you go” metered service desk would be a great way for an enterprise to test the automated service desk waters without lock-ins or any strings attached. A good starting point to testing its capabilities would be to see if an intelligent frontend offers support with ticket classification and distribution. Then, businesses should consider a backend supported by the incident automation, semi or fully automated remediation and a virtual agent with hundreds of pre-built IT skills.

2. Look for “out of the box” solutions. Once piloted, the automated process needs to scale to accommodate the entire enterprise. To avoid downtime with the transition, enterprises should ask potential vendors if the automated service desk is fully operational from the get-go. No enterprise can afford long implementation times, enormous customizations or comprehensive training for its staff.

3. Change your culture. Finally, the biggest challenge to adopting an automated service desk is that it requires an organizational change from employees reaching for the phone as soon as trouble hits. This behavior can make or break the enterprise-wide adoption of the service desk. If the service desk genuinely helps the users by serving up carefully curated FAQs that address the user’s issues instead of throwing up irrelevant artifacts, though, users tend to adopt.  

The future is dynamic; your next-gen service desk should be too.

To deal with the changing workplace, the next-gen service desk needs to meet its end users on the channel of their choice with relevant, timely help. An automated service desk can know when to hand off to a human and can become smarter and richer with every query to allow IT to, finally, focus on its core mission instead of on the daily dredge of relentless firefighting.

By Uday Birajdar

CEO and co-founder at AutomationEdge

This article was first published on Forbes here.

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