How artificial intelligence will transform the role of IT in 2018

As IT teams face new challenges and old constraints in 2018, artificial intelligence has finally emerged as a practical solution for improving productivity and effectiveness while transforming the perception of IT from cost-center to innovator.

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IT teams in 2018 are facing competing pressures amidst frustrating constraints.

Executives 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.

Employees are accustomed to the immediate gratification and simplicity of consumer apps and experiences, and expect ever more out of workplace services.

Most IT teams embrace the opportunity to add value to the organization in new ways and to provide better support to their coworkers, but they’re coming up against a set of very real challenges.

As always, they’re expected to do more with less. Less money, less personnel, and—correspondingly—less time. There’s just not enough hours in the day.

AI for IT: From theoretical to practical

In 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.

And 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.

It’s the lucky IT team that has the bandwidth and resources to develop AI solutions in-house. Thankfully, there’s 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:

  • Log analysis. Logs present a rich, big-data opportunity for machine learning algorithms to uncover important patterns that unaided humans wouldn’t be able to spot. Companies like Loom Systems apply AI to your logs to predict problems and perform real-time root cause analysis.
  • Employee support. Every IT support team knows the pain of rote, repetitive questions from employees interrupting focus on high-priority projects. It’s 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’m the CEO and co-founder of Spoke.)
  • No 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.

When IT teams are able to shift their focus away from repetitive tasks and analyses better-suited to AI-powered automation, they’re able to focus their time and talent on work that calls for human judgement—work that really move the needle.

Moving IT from cost-center to ground-breaker

The 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.

AI-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.

IT 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.

This gives IT a clear path to improving outcomes across the organization, directly impacting the bottom line, and otherwise demonstrating IT’s positive impacts on the business.

AI presents a special opportunity to burnish IT’s reputation as an innovation unit, switching the perception of IT from a cost center to a value-creating change agent.

The early adopters win

A 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.

Companies that adopt AI in these early stages will have a strategic advantage over their competitors who are slower to adopt. Another 2017 report—this one from McKinsey & Company—reveals: “early adopters [of AI] are already creating competitive advantages, and the gap with the laggards looks set to grow.”

According 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 “identify the business case, set up the right data ecosystem, build or buy appropriate AI tools, and adapt workflow processes, capabilities, and culture.”

It’s 2018, and we’ve 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 “do more with less” conundrum and enjoy a new reputation as innovative, organizational change agents.

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