Everything you need to know about Virtual Agents, Low Code and ITSM

Easy-to-use Virtual Agents and chatbots is your new coworker. In this article we will tell you why this is a good thing.
Posted January 7, 2022, Copenhagen

Thomas Nielsen

Senior Partner

Introduction – meet your coworker?

A hot topic for many ITSM practitioners is the forward-rushing low-code platforms included chatbots and Virtual Agents.

How can this technology contribute to our ITSM practices? Will it work? Or, can we live without this piece of technology?

So, perhaps welcome your new coworker – the Virtual Agent.

Watching how LinkedIn, Amazon, eBay, and others perform customer service, you see many non-human interactions – and in most cases, we are more than happy for these optimized service bots.

The topic of this blog is reflections of this new technology and how it fits into your ITSM practices and ITSM tooling.

Why Low Code?

The simple answer. Time and money.

Low-code tools and virtual agents are in focus for many IT executives. It enables IT and super users outside IT to create digital transformation quickly.

Perhaps a challenging direction from a governance point of view, but with shorthanded IT departments and a massive plan for Digital Transformation, IT executives can keep the momentum by using low-code platforms.

From analysts to production managers, everyone can structure the business processes and functions they need themselves without spending time and money on external programmers and with some help from the IT department.

Low-code platforms, like the Power Platform from Microsoft, fuel many needs from data exchange between siloes, virtual agents/chatbots, or frontend apps (GUI) connected to master data tables.

The role of low-code in ITSM-perspective

Leading research institutes concludes that in 2022 we will see increased use of Virtual Agents and low-code technologies for core ITSM practices.

But for what? And how do we enable the customer-facing technology in the ITSM context?

First of all, keep the focus on the use-case. It is not about the technology and getting the designer to shine like the sun.

The use-case of low-code tools can be everything from a gateway exchanging data from and to the ITSM platform or a real app with features for either IT professionals or your end-users.

Secondly, what are the objectives and ROI for your use case? Perhaps start with a smaller scope and harvest a fast return of investment.

The ROI part is perhaps the problematic factor in the equation. The maintenance effort is higher for own specific low-code apps than a vendor’s ready-made apps/features.

Lastly, unfortunately, you will probably find that the technology is not used as diligently initially as you had anticipated. Same with IT self-service – it requires marketing and super-users that are convinced and tell about all the good things with the initiative.

Examples of use-cases

A walkthrough of ITSM use-cases where the low-code assisted platforms can make results for you:

1. Expectations from customers: Real-time access to your support

The most crucial challenge for the Service Desk professionals is the customer expectations of the service.

The service they get in their daily home life sets the standard. Requesting assistance from your local telco provider, your electricity supplier, eBay, or Amazon (and others) starts most probably with a virtual agent.

The virtual agent responds 24X7, providing the most relevant information, and can escalate your case to a live agent.

The lesson learned is that the virtual agent responds instantly, whereas the traditional IT Service Desk operates with latency and old-school communication channels.

In conclusion, empowering your users with internal Virtual Agents would help you get closer to your customer’s expectations and save time/budget long term.

Virtual Agents – for example, Microsoft Power Virtual Agent, is classified as a low code app with integration and automation capabilities.

2. Special applications and automation

Let’s take a completely imaginary example with inspiration from the real world and our ITSM experience.

You have a device (could be at the warehouse) that needs a reboot quite often for working probably. Everybody knows it – a real known issue. Newer the less, a phone call to the service desk creates the case/ticket according to our process. Restoring the service starts by executing the well-known old reboot.

Why not automate this with a low-code application. For example, a barcode could be placed at the faulty device to scan it in case of problems.

A low-code application – made in Power Apps from Microsoft – could scan the barcode, create the request as a ticket, and hopefully trigger the reboot without any human interaction.

Above is only one example. The point is, you can build unique use-case-dependent low-code apps for increasing your ITSM (& service) efficiency. The apps can be a tailormade frontend app connected to your master ITSM data source, but with functionality designed for a particular task.

3. Ressources, money matters, and your beloving ITSM platform

Many companies have given up attracting new ITSM experts (internal/external ITSM configuration specialists), and some cannot afford the high salaries/external costs.

One aspect is the cost, and another is the availability of these experts. The real advantage of working with low-code platforms is the agility, speed, and easiness associated with the use and technology. All IT staff can participate in this game.

Best practices

Perhaps an everlasting activity, but we are still finding widespread best practices spanning several industries and segments. But we have some pros and cons + recommendations that we can share.

1. Platform

We work with Microsoft technology. According to the last Magic Quadrant from Gartner Group, Microsoft has a leading position within Enterprise Low-Code Application Platform  – read more.

As a software ITSM developer, we initially made our “own developed” chatbot, but we must conclude that very few vendors can add cutting-edge AI technology into the platform. So perhaps this game is for Microsoft, Google, and AWS only?

  • Use the proven platforms

2. Cost for my specific chatbot or low code app

Building the low-code add-in for your ITSM solution could be cost-effective compared with asking your ITSM vendor to tailormade features inside their framework.

Just remember one item in your cost estimation – the maintenance factor. Low-code platforms innovate and develop with lightspeed. So you might need to update your work quite frequently.

  • Think the entire lifecycle – do not be blinded by the nerds fast POC

3. Reporting and metrics

If we use external platforms for our low-code activities, how does this impact our metrics and KPI’s? We need to follow the actions from the low-code features alongside our main ITSM actions and practices.

The ITSM holistic insights into metrics and KPI is essential for measuring the results delivered by the low-code actions.

  • Think your metrics and KPI into the project from day one!

4. Siloed data

As an ITSM tool producer, the most common requirement is, we want 100% standard of the box. In other words, you have probably worked hard to avoid a scattered siloed landscape for your ITSM practices. However, with the creation of fast low-code actions, you could very fast end up in a siloed world again.

Perhaps acceptable considering the overall picture, but our best practice recommendation is:

  • Integrate the low-code data streams as much as possible into your master ITSM tooling (database)

5. Constrains to the master ITSM tool

Redundancy has always been a no-go in the IT industry. However, you could very fast position your company with multiple ITSM tools because the low-code platforms address the backlog quickly and efficiently.

The financial risk is the constraint to your master ITSM tooling. For example, will our low-code activites block upgrading, changing, or replacing our ITSM tool?

  • Keep the focus on your master ITSM tool and related degrees of freedom intact

Summary & conclusion

Embrace this new technology – and do it fast. A good origin is chatbots and virtual agents as an add-on to your IT self-service options.

Using a virtual agent is a support trick that your users already know from interactions with their local electricity supplier, shopping on eBay – just to mention a few.

With a virtual agent as a coworker;

  • You follow a megatrend that has started already in leading enterprises worldwide
  • You address the need for a changed support structure derived after COVID-19, where many works from home around the clock
  • You will see a decrease in the number of tickets for non-complicated requests

If designed correctly, the low-code activities will secure that you stay competitive, releases the workforce to work with real problems, and, most importantly, contribute to the digital transformation.

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