What RPA can do for your IT Service Desk
IT service desks are essential for an organization to help keep business moving along. Even so, IT faces challenges in supporting fellow workers. And those challenges became more intense when the pandemic hit—and employees began fully working from home. Suddenly, IT technicians had to cope with remote workforces, many of whom were using cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools for the first time. And most IT workers were operating from home as well.
Some of the primary challenges for the IT service desk today include:
- A continuous stream of new technologies: Although innovations—especially the cloud-based ones we’re seeing most recently—help the business be more productive and efficient, they put demands on the IT service desk. Technicians must first master new technologies before taking steps to ensure their users successfully adopt them.
- Handling simultaneous demands: In addition to fixing issues, IT service staff must be on the phone constantly with users while replying asynchronously to growing volumes of emails. Phone calls are especially problematic, as they must be dealt with one at a time, in real-time, and users get impatient if left waiting too long in a queue.
- Mostly manual operations: Many of the issues the IT service desk handles are repetitive—and yet time-consuming, including resetting passwords and conducting security verifications for locked accounts. Other tasks, such as patch management or onboarding new employees, also involve mundane, manual steps to complete.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA), particularly intelligent automation, can help the IT service desk meet these challenges to transform operations and more.
The size of the challenge
IT services desks get, on average, between 5,000 and 7,000 incidents to resolve every month, according to the Service Desk Institute (SDI). That adds up to more than 233 events to log every day.
Oddly enough, despite all the press around the benefits of self-service IT, no upshoot has been seen in the use of self-service IT support web portals. SDI says they expect that to change in the next two to three years, as a full 89% of businesses surveyed intend to move to more automated processes within that timeframe. Until they do, though, all this adds up, cost-wise.
Today, almost half of all incidents (45%) are reported via phone, according to the SDI. A third (33%) are relayed using email. The average cost per call is between $5.50 and $9 globally. The average cost per email is even higher: $10.50 to $15.00. But that’s also worldwide. Within the United States, costs are much higher, which is why so many firms have outsourced their help desks to India, the Philippines, or elsewhere. According to BMC, across North America, where labor costs are significantly elevated, the average ticket cost was $15.56, with a low of $2.93 and a high of $46.69.
How RPA can help
To understand how RPA can help with these challenges, here are before and after scenarios.
A user calls the IT service desk. The technician’s first step is to collect necessary data: name, department, location, technology set up, and what the problem is. Typically, this involves having to retrieve the information from multiple enterprise systems that aren’t linked to each other. So that means, while talking to the user, the technician is logging onto numerous systems, looking for basic information: a profile, the technology provisioned, and support history, including any unresolved tickets.
All this background activity impacts the technician’s ability to respond quickly—and—personally to the user, affecting the overall user experience (UX). With the different logins, different tools on different physical as well as virtual systems, the need to copy and paste data from one screen to another, or hurrying to find the right manuals, the UX deteriorates.
And, of course, if the issue can’t be resolved, the ticket gets escalated to a Level 2 technician—and all the shuffling and reshuffling of logins and questions of the user for his or her basic information starts all over again.
With RPA, bots can retrieve all the data your technician needs with a single command and integrate it on a single screen. This alone addresses two common complaints users have: “I already gave you that information. Why are you asking for it again?” and “Don’t you keep records of support calls?” The technician can then use other bots for a broad range of tasks, including setting up multi-factor authentication, resetting passwords, verifying security credentials, provisioning virtual servers or other resources, or configuring security policies for a new user group. Time spent on resolving issues is minimized. Your service reps can reserve their time for upskilling for higher-value IT work or spending more time with users who need extra handholding. And costs are under control to the extent that 70% of enterprises surveyed about their outsourcing plans said they were going to be changing them because of automation, particularly from RPA technologies.
Top RPA use cases
Here are some top RPA use cases for the IT support desk (there are many more):
- Process tickets. Minimize the need for humans to be involved for the simplest of requests. Intelligent RPA can review tickets, evaluate which category of support is required, and route them to the appropriate person, department, or system. In fact, a ticket-processing bot may well forward a ticket to one of several other bots, depending on the specific nature of the request. Traditionally, the employee onboarding and offboarding processes require many manual steps. Automation can dramatically reduce the time and effort for processing, allowing your IT technicians to focus on other tasks while making it possible to standardize the processes across an enterprise.
- Manage user communications: Send updates to users about the status of their tickets by programming a bot to communicate them at key points in the process. Or bots can be created to remind them of actions they must take such as “change your password.” By informing users about your internal workings, you eliminate trivial questions your staff had to take time to answer in the past. Patch management is a tedious process and with remote workforce adaptation a complex process as well. Bots can help discover assets and send reminders to users for rebooting systems to complete the patch cycle and make the system less vulnerable to attack.
- Comply with critical service level agreements (SLAs): Build bots to alert your service professionals when issues might affect SLAs so that you can take immediate action. Tickets with the tightest SLAs can be escalated as top priorities and can be automatically sent to the appropriate specialist or even senior executives.
- Measure support desk productivity: To improve, you need to collect metrics. But doing so manually is cumbersome, slow, and prone to errors. Bots can compile all the numbers you need, for daily, weekly, monthly, or annual productivity measurements on such things as mean time to resolution, cost per incident, percentage of incidents escalated, and the number of incidents.
- Proactive measurement: Bots can help IT technicians with reactive measures such as resolving technical issues after they’ve occurred. Bots can also make IT more proactive by running housekeeping tasks at intervals to detect any potential service issues in the infrastructure. They can make it possible for you to have the data in hand to provide users with support before their laptop hardware crashes. Bots can make remote workforce infrastructure monitoring more intuitive and data-driven. They can extend assistance in terms of auditing user accounts on cloud applications to optimize license usage and keep critical applications clean. And they can monitor cloud infrastructure resources, shutdowns, and unused resources to reduce cloud operating costs.
Reduce agent churn with RPA
Best of all, automating the drudge work keeps your service desk professionals engaged and their morale elevated. And with new, user-friendly RPA solutions such as AARI (Automation Anywhere Robotic Interface), your workers can build their own virtual assistants that capture and institutionalize their know-how so that it’s retained within your support group. RPA can ease your service desk operations burden in many, many ways.