How AI is helping the help desk

Service desk chatbots and automated request routing are just the beginning. AI- and ML-driven tools will soon tap predictive analytics for better decision making in incident management, demand planning and more.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are turning up seemingly everywhere these days, and the IT support function is no exception. In fact, experts see AI in various forms becoming a key component of the help desk in the years to come.

“Artificial cognition will, over the next three to five years, become absolutely indispensable for any form of operations or support,” says Shannon Kalvar, research manager for IT service management and client virtualization at research firm IDC.

IT self-service is nothing new. But these days it’s becoming much more sophisticated, with chatbots and intelligent search recommendations to help guide users to the right solution. AI is expected to increasingly help IT support teams in other ways too, such as predictive analytics for incident management, demand planning, and workflow improvement.

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One of the biggest benefits of AI for the help desk and overall IT support function is that it can “remove the manual overhead associated with high-volume, low-value service desk activities,” says Stephen Mann, principal and content director at analyst firm ITSM.tools. “In many ways it’s similar to the more familiar IT automation of repetitive tasks that allow people to be freed up to focus on higher value-add activities.”

Early AI capabilities are already here in some IT service management (ITSM) tools, says Mann, “and I expect far more tool vendors to add AI capabilities to their existing ITSM tools this year.”

ServiceNow, Micro Focus, BMC, Symphony Summit, Ivanti, IBM, ServiceAide, and Freshworks are among the ITSM vendors who have integrated AI into their products, Mann says. Other vendors such as Astound, Spoke, and Espressive don’t make full ITSM suites but deliver AI-driven help desk or virtual assistant software.

According to IDC’s Kalvar, chatbots, knowledge curation, and incident/request routing are the three big categories of AI features and capabilities that vendors are working on today with their help desk-focused software. “We are already using artificial cognition [to] help route requests for service and service restoration to the appropriate responder, and to answer simple questions directly,” Kalvar says.

Read on for details on how artificial intelligence is helping the help desk today — and how it will in the near future.

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