In 1952, Kurt Vonnegut authored one of my favorite books, Player Piano. It took satirical aim at mechanization and automation, and the resulting (and ironic) toll on human advancement. It was an over-the-top story of the shift to factory automation that pitted the haves – the scientists and engineers, and the machines they managed – with the have-nots, those replaced by machines. Brilliant, funny, and a direct response to what Vonnegut saw after he returned from WWII.
These days, it’s quite easy to see factories like Vonnegut envisioned in 1952. Many mainstream product companies use automation and mechanization in the creation of their goods. It’s become so commonplace and commoditized that parts creation can be done with thousand-dollar 3D printers right from your house.
This makes me wonder if we’re about to see the next “Player Piano” moment closer to home: the complete mechanization and automation of the IT services industry. We already have some degree of automation: ITIL workflows, self-healing scripts (via orchestration) driven from monitoring platforms, and even IVRs come to mind. We haven’t taken that next step, though, and removed the human element altogether from IT support.
One company is out to change that. IPsoft has recently launched Amelia, the “first cognitive agent who understands like a human” to quote their website. That’s right, a virtual service desk agent. Amelia uses very intelligent algorithms to learn and adapt to situations and not only respond to service desk issues, but also incorporate with what IPsoft calls an Empathy Engine. In other words, she (yes, they have given her a feminine identity and address her with the appropriate pronouns) can adapt to your mood in the call and act accordingly. As Information Age cheekily states, our “feeble human brainpower will be no match to the superior intellect of a silicon assistant.”
If you have the time, I highly recommend watching the following video. It gives a tutorial on Amelia and the engineering behind the Artificial Intelligence (AI). There’s certainly a lot of brainpower on display, both from the presenter and the AI he’s demonstrating, and it feels like a mash-up of technology, psychology, and philosophy.
If you strip away all the amazing science behind Amelia, it seems like a perfect fit for a purpose-built, scope-limited, and clearly defined service desk. Think banking service centers or a call center for oil and gas rig workers (which is one of their beta testers). Does a similar description fit most IT service desks? Sometimes yes, but more often than not, no. IT service desks often exist to create order out of chaos. Not all projects go perfectly. Not all applications are cleanly deployed. “Shadow IT” or even end users deploy their own applications, systems, cloud subscriptions, you name it, with IT having no knowledge of what’s been put in production until the first phone call to the service desk.
This is why Virteva believes so strongly in our Service Desk offering. We hire creative, intelligent, and empathetic employees that can adapt to situations, think outside the box, and help our customers resolve issues or questions without the aid of algorithms or engines. Sometimes our Cisco-based IVR and ACD, ITIL processes, ServiceNow platform, Calabrio Quality Management (QM) application, and excellent Knowledge Base (KB) articles are there to support us. Sometimes, however, we don’t have all the necessary knowledge or clearly articulated documentation. It’s those times when we’re proudest of our team. They are relentless in their pursuit of a great customer experience, and sometimes it means relying on intuition rather than following a script.
Our service desk analysts are all about continuous improvement, just like AI. We learn, document, share, and keep evolving as a service entity every day. Will AI catch up someday? Probably. Even when that “Player Piano” moment hits us, it will be Virteva at the forefront, using it to the betterment of both our analysts and our customers. Until then, we’ve got you covered with our existing proven automation and 100+ big brains!