By now most IT leaders have accepted that large swaths of the routine functions performed inside and outside of the IT department will soon be automated thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) applications employing machine and deep learning algorithms. Given the amount of organizational change involved, they may not always be excited about the prospect, but most IT leaders realize that IT is going to be at the heart of a profound change heralding what amounts to a fourth industrial revolution.
Most organizations, however, still don’t have a firm grasp of how, when, or where to apply artificial intelligence. In fact, many of them don’t even realize that most of the algorithms driving AI are not especially new. What has changed is that it’s now economically feasible to expose those algorithms to more data than ever. The more data those algorithms get exposed to over time, the smarter the AI implementation becomes.
The impact of artificial intelligence on MSPs
From an IT service provider perspective, what’s most compelling is the simple fact that just about every type of application will soon be infused with AI capabilities that will fuel a massive wave of upgrades. A recent study of 6,000 executives published by IBM finds that 73 percent expect some form of cognitive computing to play a key role in their organizations before the end of the decade. In a similar vein, a survey of 400 C-level executives conducted by Avanade, a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft, finds that 31 percent of organizations are already using intelligent automation, and that number will more than double by 2020.
The second more complex issue facing IT service providers is that many of the functions that make up a managed services offering are about to become automated. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for example, is already applying AI to automate the management of SAP ERP applications. As artificial intelligence technologies advance, many of the lower-level functions that managed services providers deliver today will become automated. MSPs will need to figure out how and where to add value on top of those automated services.
In many cases, that will require the MSP to develop more vertical industry expertise in order to continuously train the AI models that are automating the delivery of applications and IT infrastructure. How many people will be required to train those models is an unknown. But it’s clear that IT professionals will be performing tasks that involve much less drudgery than they do today. In fact, a new report from Dell Technologies says the future of AI is not so much about replacing humans as much as it is finding ways for humans and intelligent machines to work together. While such a lofty goal is attainable, there’s no doubt that the amount of disruption along the way will be considerable.