IT teams in 2018 are facing competing pressures amidst frustrating constraints.\nExecutives want to enjoy the benefits of hot trends like digital transformation, so they look to IT to create new revenue streams, improve customer engagement, optimize operations, and otherwise exploit the magical, transformative powers of technology.\nEmployees are accustomed to the immediate gratification and simplicity of consumer apps and experiences, and expect ever more out of workplace services.\nMost IT teams embrace the opportunity to add value to the organization in new ways and to provide better support to their coworkers, but they\u2019re coming up against a set of very real challenges.\nAs always, they\u2019re expected to do more with less. Less money, less personnel, and\u2014correspondingly\u2014less time. There\u2019s just not enough hours in the day.\nAI for IT: From theoretical to practical\nIn 2018, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have finally become part of the natural solution to these challenges. The best AI solutions augment human capabilities with little overhead management or expertise required, which means IT teams can get more done with their current personnel.\nAnd since AI is especially good at automating small, repetitive tasks, teams can spend more interruption-free time focusing on big projects and complex problem-solving. In short: spend more time making meaningful improvement to service delivery and operations.\nIt\u2019s the lucky IT team that has the bandwidth and resources to develop AI solutions in-house. Thankfully, there\u2019s no longer a need for that. Here are just a few ways AI-powered, third-party products and services can help IT teams improve their productivity and effectiveness right now:\n\nLog analysis. Logs present a rich, big-data opportunity for machine learning algorithms to uncover important patterns that unaided humans wouldn\u2019t be able to spot. Companies like Loom Systems apply AI to your logs to predict problems and perform real-time root cause analysis.\nEmployee support. Every IT support team knows the pain of rote, repetitive questions from employees interrupting focus on high-priority projects. It\u2019s an area ripe for intelligent automation. Spoke uses natural language processing and machine learning to automatically resolve and route employee requests across chat, email, and SMS. (Disclosure: I\u2019m the CEO and co-founder of Spoke.)\nNo human could effectively track, identify, and defend against the ever-evolving universe of cybersecurity threats in real-time. Deep Instinct uses deep learning algorithms to automatically identify and block cybersecurity threats with greater than 98 percent detection accuracy and less than 0.013 percent false positives.\n\nWhen IT teams are able to shift their focus away from repetitive tasks and analyses better-suited to AI-powered automation, they\u2019re able to focus their time and talent on work that calls for human judgement\u2014work that really move the needle.\nMoving IT from cost-center to ground-breaker\nThe benefits of adopting AI can go well beyond the IT team, which provides a clear opportunity for IT to improve its profile and value in the organization.\nAI-powered marketing automation tools help sales and marketing teams maximize the ROI of their activities. AI coaching networks teach customer service reps how to provide better phone support. AI analytics tools let employees across the company pull the types of reports that would otherwise require help from a data scientist. And these are just a few examples.\nIT will be key to introducing the potential and unlocking the value of AI applications for other departments. IT will help other teams in the organization identify opportunities for AI software, select the right solutions for their needs, implement and customize applications to meet business goals, and train users on how to get the most out of these new solutions.\nThis gives IT a clear path to improving outcomes across the organization, directly impacting the bottom line, and otherwise demonstrating IT\u2019s positive impacts on the business.\nAI presents a special opportunity to burnish IT\u2019s reputation as an innovation unit, switching the perception of IT from a cost center to a value-creating change agent.\nThe early adopters win\nA 2017 survey published in MIT Sloan Management Review highlights the need for IT teams to move forward with AI adoption. While 85 percent of executives believe that AI will help their companies grow or sustain their competitive advantage, only 20 percent have adopted the tech. And only 5 percent have adopted AI on a large scale.\nCompanies that adopt AI in these early stages will have a strategic advantage over their competitors who are slower to adopt. Another 2017 report\u2014this one from McKinsey & Company\u2014reveals: \u201cearly adopters [of AI] are already creating competitive advantages, and the gap with the laggards looks set to grow.\u201d\nAccording to the McKinsey report, the key for CIOs in encouraging adoption will be to focus not solely on the technology but on explaining how the technology creates business value. Technical leaders should \u201cidentify the business case, set up the right data ecosystem, build or buy appropriate AI tools, and adapt workflow processes, capabilities, and culture.\u201d\nIt\u2019s 2018, and we\u2019ve finally moved past the theoretical discussions of how useful AI will be to organizations and workplace teams. AI-powered solutions have arrived in ready-to-deploy packages, and savvy IT teams will leverage these solutions to help solve the \u201cdo more with less\u201d conundrum and enjoy a new reputation as innovative, organizational change agents.