Democratization of IT: The Way Forward

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man”. These are the words of late19thCentury American writer Elbert Hubbard. Words that still ring true today, over a century later. His words can be equated to the paranoia that was rampant when Automation was first introduced to IT. It was widely believed that this would be the end of human workers and only digital workers would thrive. This was never the intention of Automation in IT.

Automation was introduced to replace the mundane and repetitive tasks that did not require much intellectual input, and to help human workers focus on crucial activities that require more brainpower. Humans are more adept in dealing with contingency as well. Technology can never replace humans entirely, but yes, some of the workforce will be affected. The human workforce can never be completely ousted due to technology-adoption.

Automation and technology have influenced lot of things in the last 2 decades and helped evolve major activities that drive our day-to-day affairs, while the adoption of technology may have taken a few jobs away, it has opened up many new job avenues that had never existed before.

What is Democratization and why it is important?

Take the example of the internet. It was introduced in the late sixties and was for exclusive use by Governments, for intelligence-sharing.  Less than 3 decades later, the internet has been democratized and it has come to define the age we are living in. No business can function without it. The same goes for printing. Printed books were available only to an elite few. Democratization of printing gave knowledge and ideas more power than ever before. Every industrial revolution will have democratization at its core. One cannot avoid it.

Democratization simply means making technology more accessible to more people, nothing furthers the above stated novel cause of automation like Democratization of IT. Democratization involves increasing availability of technology in different ways, at different speeds, to all irrespective of influencing external factors. The core idea of Democratization is to empower humans to think more and access more ideas that will lead to developments in technologies.

Democratization allows outsiders access to the newest innovations. And who are these ’outsiders’? They are customers or users of the technology manufactured by the tech industry. So, democratization ensures they become a part of the development and contribute to the advancement of technology.

Businesses can reach out to potential users, get better idea of their needs, their expectations from a product or service and tune their expertise on-hand to deliver it to them. When the products are a direct result of the consumer’s demands, it is a win-win situation. Open-source software is soaring in popularity thanks to this, not to mention the peaking of consumer satisfaction and heightened user-experience.

Democracy in Automation

When it comes to automation in particular, democratization can lead to a formidable partnership of humans and technology. This partnership collaboratively works on imaginative, innovative ideating tasks and the handling of all errands that can potentially distract the human part from achieving the end goal. This could be the answer to improve the low productivity of companies every year, an estimate says this could enhance businesses by 5 Trillion USD

The biggest contributor to Democratization of Automation is by far Intelligent Automation that uses a combination of process automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, to develop ‘smart’ workflows that learn and acclimatize to even unforeseen situations on their own volition. A great example of this is AI Augmentation which according to Gartner will Create $2.9 Trillion of Business Value in 2021.

Democratization of Automation can lead to:

  1. Improved Go-to-Market Speed: Businesses receive more direct and indirect input from customers. This reduces research time by a huge margin. Democratization improves the joint efforts of humans and technology and ensures the output is achieved with minimal productivity loss.
  2. Quicker Resolutions: With the involvement of AI that can retort to unique customer-requirements, simpler recurring issues can be solved without human involvement. It is for this purpose that Conversational AI or chatbots that leverage Intelligent Automation, is now increasingly becoming the first line of contact with employees, the business ecosystem as well as existing and potential customers.
  3. Valuable Insights: Data is continually collected and processed. AI/ML-driven insight is created to understand the trends and fore cast the possibilities of risks and settle them prior their occurrence, reduce compliance errors and operational failures.

The FlipSide of Democratization

Democratization of Technology is a budding concept and easing into it is quite tedious. The surge in DIY/Amateurism culture that is a consequence of democratization, can cause a dip in the requirement of trained professionals. The customer at times must deal with new and unfamiliar technology by themselves with virtually no supervision. The consequences of such a scenario need not be elaborated.

A framework effective enough to thwart security threats associated with democratization is yet to come into fruition. Experts are still in the developmental stages and cannot give a comprehensive solution to this common issue, at this time.

To conclude, Democratization of Technology is still in its nascent stages and many aspects are yet to be ironed out. But once it is perfected, there will be no stopping it. It can drive the complete digital transformation of businesses. There are companies who are the pioneers of such transformation in their businesses and have revolutionized their respective market by democratization, look at Uber, Amazon and many such leading examples that have a compelling story to tell.

Head, Automation Practice

Data References:

https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-08-05-gartner-says-ai-augmentation-will-create-2point9-trillion-of-business-value-in-2021

https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2020/in-full/infographics-e4e69e4de7

Next Generation Cloud Adoption: Distributed Cloud

Cloud Computing is an evolving discipline. Newer innovations in cloud management are coming into fruition as we speak. What started out as a ‘High-Availability Storage Space’ is now integrated into every function of business. The Cloud opens possibilities for customers to gain benefits and be agile with their workloads. By shifting to cloud they leverage the economics offered by cloud like elasticity, pace-of-innovation, better uptimes and much more, from cloud-based scheduling, cloud-based applications to cloud-based Data-backup and DR. Practically everything has to come prefixed with ‘Cloud-based’ to ensure BAU continues uninterruptedly. However, there is still a pinch of resistance and hesitation seen in organizations when deciding to go for a public cloud model, entirely.

Some prefer private cloud or to an extent are willing to adopt hybrid cloud. Private cloud, is designed in a way that they are, owned and controlled by the customer and operated by the service provider’s teams or the customer’s own technology team and in the hybrid cloud, the public cloud provider manages their set of cloud offerings.

Hybrid Cloud was introduced to further the ‘best of both worlds objective’ for businesses that were not keen on completely abandoning their Legacy Systems in favour of a fully Cloud-based IT Infrastructure. It provided a sort of ‘safety net’ whose requirement was triggered mostly by data security concerns. Distributed Cloud does all this and more.

Distributed Cloud is Cloud-based Technology’s newest offering. Gartner identified Distributed Cloud as one of the top 10 trends of 2020 and the hype around it does not seem to be slowing down and will seemingly continue well into 2021 as well, by the look of things. Distributed Cloud basically leverages Public Cloud to interconnect IT Infrastructure irrespective of Physical/Geographical Location.

Gartner describes Distributed Cloud as “the distribution of public cloud services to different physical locations, while the operation, governance, updates and evolution of the services are the responsibility of the originating public cloud provider.”

Let’s consider the scenario where a business maintains some data on-site, some on private/public cloud and others on edge environments. Maintaining all these complex IT environments require overhead and maintenance to some degree. There is also the issue of all these being physically apart. Not to mention delay/latency concerns. What a Distributed Cloud Arrangement brings to the table is the ability to extend Public Cloud Capabilities to these complex systems and manage all of a business’s spread-out IT Infrastructure.

Cloud-computing involving Distributed Cloud utilizes so-called ‘substations’ as coined by Gartner. These tactically located substations act as a shared cloud pseudo-availability zones with networking, computing and storage capabilities.

Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management vs Distributed Cloud

In a way Distributed Cloud Management makes up for everything HDIM falls short of. This type of cloud management does not rely on a unified approach to IT Infrastructure Management. It rather focuses on usage-consistency, customization and most importantly governance.

Firstly, Distributed Cloud raises the bar in terms of networking capabilities of IT Infrastructure Clusters. Inter-communication amongst IT clusters whether it is based on-premises and on Public platforms or Edge environments, is a striking feature of Distributed Cloud. This ensures users will have consistency across the board while utilizing the IT Infrastructure. DC also dissipates chances of network failure owing to the presence of sub-stations. This was not possible in a hybrid cloud arrangement.

This uniformity in usage does not hinder customization in Distributed Cloud Systems. Personalization based on the pertinent requirements of a particular location is possible while using distributed cloud. This drives value for the customer as well as the system administrator.

Dev Ops efficiency while deploying high-value services is also augmented by Distributed Cloud. It gives freedom of choice to users when it comes to deciding their preferred cloud clusters/locations. Integrating with Public cloud features allows Distributed Cloud to have the ability to implement innovations like AI/ML based automation capabilities to all IT environments.

Source: O’Reilly- Cloud Adoption in 2020

Another key characteristic of Distributed cloud is its ease-of-governance. If any new policy is introduced at the on-site level, it will be reflected on all cloud-based and edge systems as well. Data security is thus maintainable across the whole IT Infrastructure. This ensures the same level of security at all IT environments regardless of whether it is Cloud-based or on-site. This obliterates the security concerns posed by Hybrid Cloud.

Unifying Public Cloud and IT Infrastructure

To say it in the simplest of terms, Distributed Cloud can bring the unique competencies offered by Public Cloud to IT Infrastructure and make the experience of using cloud-based and non-cloud-based infrastructure less challenging, not to mention the reduction in cost. All this drastically reduces delays to service-delivery and makes the customer-business interaction a delightful encounter.

Source: IDC 2020

But with the unification comes issues like trouble-shooting complexities due to increased chances of interaction between cloud and on-site environments. Replicated data at all these environments also have to be kept track of and secured. So, although it is the same level of security across all platforms, the intricacies regarding the same may increase. Another factor to consider is the cost of deployment. Although operational costs may drop, the resources required to deploy such distributed systems may shoot.

Is this truly ‘The Best of Both Worlds’?

HDIM is constantly described as such but distributed cloud systems may be the new ‘the best of both worlds’ scenario that will see more adoption-rates with businesses requiring more customized offerings that do not compromise on security. But Distributed Cloud is not as ‘tried and tested’ as HDIM and may only look good on paper. that may depreciate ROI, as mentioned earlier. Only time will tell. But once perfected Distributed Cloud Systems are projected to be the future of cloud-based IT Infrastructure management.

Head, Automation Practice

Data References:

https://www.oreilly.com/radar/cloud-adoption-in-2020/

https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=US46796120/

Enjoy the Best of Both Worlds with Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management (HDIM)

The purpose of IT Infrastructure and ITES is to provide continual services, without disruption and deliver best-in-class customer experience. This is only possible when the triad of end-users, customers and employees, all receive consistent response and support. Solely relying on legacy infrastructure to maintain digital assets is a thing of the past. Organisations are restructuring and automating their IT Infrastructure at a faster pace than ever deemed prior. Enterprises are drawn to a system where they can leverage the advantages of their heritage systems as well as newer technologies with more advanced features like cloud and AI.

IT infrastructure modules are no longer static entities; they are acknowledged as dynamic integral units and organisations are moving away from on-site IT Infrastructure to Cloud-enhanced systems that is better suited to the times and comes with short term and long term perks like ease-of-access, cost-efficiency and low maintenance owing to the lack of physical support infrastructure.

The Selection: ‘Critical Decision’

The most difficult part of a journey is staring it. For organisations, deciding on which systems are to stay in the legacy mode and which are to be moved to the cloud is a haunting question. The key is to identify the advent of the journey towards cloudification of systems and have a defined point of inflection that will pace up the journey of adoption.

It depends on the type of business and the kind of applications that are being used in the environment for one to decide which cloud is to be adopted and which application will be shifted first to the cloud.

There are many proven and tested approaches that are used by organizations to embark on the cloud journey, such as,

  • Moving the test and Dev environment to the cloud
  • Moving some Disaster Recovery systems to the cloud
  • Moving specific non-business workloads to the cloud
  • Consolidating distributed systems into a single large compute environment

The cloudification of infrastructure helps the ITOPS team in managing the cloud infrastructure seamlessly and focusing more on the legacy systems migration to the new platforms by restructuring or redeploying them inthe new environment.

The Transition: ‘Comfort Zone’

Companies are enthusiastically starting their cloud journey and they are systematically making the transition of a portion of the infrastructure to cloud while some are still using the current legacy systems and the rest are migrated and maintained on private and/or public clouds, this is where most firms consider to be their comfort zone. This partial Cloud adoption provides leeway to companies where the cost of replenishing their phasing out or phased out physical infrastructure significantly out-weighs the monetary gains of implementing an entirely cloud-run configuration. On the other hand, some organisations may face challenges in adopting cloud because of restrictions imposed by governing regulatory bodies, fear of data-breaches, concerns over compliances &security factors.

Post-Adoption Management: ‘Continual Journey’

This ‘best of both worlds’ scenario is what led to the development of “Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management” (HDIM), these evolved systems allow enterprises to maintain a steady balance of physical/on-site IT assets and private/public cloud-based infrastructure while workloads keep growing with the business scaling up. Organisations are thus able to take advantage of the security and compliance benefits of their own legacy systems while at the same time have their cloudified infrastructure that is easily accessible and manageable.

According to Gartner, around 20% of enterprises are projected to employ HDIM tools to optimize their workload and IT configurations by 2022.

The best part of Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management is that it incorporates both on-site heritage systems as well as the latest innovations. The hybrid environment is best for DevOps tools to flourish and deliver better results. HDIM also reduces complexities associated with migration of entire configurations to an online shared platform by making the move to the new system smooth and uneventful.

What does HDIM entail?

Hybrid IT Management monitors all assets 24×7 across domains and utilizes predictive data analytics backed by Artificial Intelligence. Hardware probes capture data from physical assets storage, servers, and networks while digital assets are monitored by software probes that access this information without disrupting the running of devices. This information is gathered with or without the involvement of agents and is cross-referenced, evaluated, and everything from the largest to most miniscule amount of Information that is gathered by the HDIM systems is virtually recorded, analysed and reported for action to make sure they are running efficiently. This data is recorded for future reference and can be retrieved at any time. Hardware and software probes also alert the system in the event of security breaches and illegal access attempts.

Is it all Good?

Infrastructure when Managed by HDIM tends to witness a drastic improvement in connectivity and collaboration efficiency of the ITOPS team and makes remote management easy for operations. While shared platforms give diversity they also enhance scalability and plays the role of a catalyst in business growth.

With HDIM, automation of major processes can be deployed easily. Cost involving maintenance of assets and development is reduced with the adoption of Hybrid Digital IT Management.

With so many benefits also come a host of complexities associated with HDIM. The concern of data breaches and cyber attacks is a constantly in question, organisations hence opt to retain critical and important business-data centric configurations under legacy systems.

Continuous examination of Hybrid systems is required to ensure there are no data audit errors. There are major challenges linked to having Hybrid system-management considering the fact that it is a  daunting task to handle ever-growing data across multiple systems that are poles apart in terms of physical infrastructure. The Management of Hybrid IT systems also requires niche skills that may drive up talent development and acquisition costs. Also, weightage needs to be given on allocating the right bandwidth to run these systems as personal devices from various locations may connect to the systems in the current and post-pandemic scenario.

The long-term benefit of an HDIM is truly attractive and it certainly will become the new standard of running DCOPS in the future. We are seeing more and more organisations turning to Hybrid IT for their IT infrastructure Management needs. HDIM brings to the table, the superior aspects of both heritage systems as well as newer technologies and proves to be effective on both fronts and drives innovation with minimal disruption.

Head, Automation Practice

Ensure Customer Delight: Automate your Customer-Service Lines with Conversational AI

Providing amazing customer service is one of the primary goals of any business. In the current scenario AI Chatbots are turning out to be the safest way to interact with customers. Chatbots allow us to eliminate a fair share of the ‘human’ factor from the interaction chain. Especially for answering standard queries and sharing general or specific information that customers might require. Whether a customer is retained or not is highly dependent on how smooth their initial interaction with the company is and how well they are treated during this crucial step.

Chatbots work along the same lines as a human in terms of communicating with prospects, but it is more apt to say the chatbot works practically the way it is programmed to. Chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence, do not rely on written process material or videos, it learns from real-time scenarios or the archives of earlier conversations. The way chatbots can stimulate the conversation and keep customers engaged has made them a promising option in the market.

Companies are drawn towards digital services and/or digital platforms today but the apprehensiveness over the loss of existing or potential customers due to unsatisfactory service remains. While most enterprises have more or less accepted the Chatbot trend and are providing a complete digital experience for their customers, some still prefer a human touch or intervention to the transaction.

At times, the communication channel of the chatbot may hit a dead end, and to avoid such situations the most important thing is to have common and critical intents fed to the Bot. But complications could still pop up post ironing all teething issues. The AI Chatbot may be functioning properly but may fail in considering the limits and be unable to deliver information at its best level of proficiency during a customer conversation. At such critical juncture, it is important for a human to take over the conversation to diffuse the situation and avoid the user from taking away a negative experience from the interaction. To avoid such stray experiences, it is necessary to set the communication patterns and expectations, so that users are not let down due to restricted knowledge or competence during communication.

Organizations willing to invest in chatbots need to choose the right platform and have the BRD (Business Requirement Document) ready in hand. They also need to invest time in designing the intents that are recognised by humans and bots. It is also advisable to use a human-agent-based bot, with clear indicators for the agent to understand and pick up the conversation from the bot, to ensure a seamless transition of the customer’s query.

 

AI Chatbots can efficiently tap into their understanding of automated workflows and knowledge management to ensure the user has a delightful experience where they had a faster resolution of their concerns assisted by technology, in the right way and at the right time. Chatbots have self-service/self-help features that lead users to pointed solutions, web pages and documents instead of deviating them and wasting time. They can also raise a service request ticket on behalf of the customer with all the communication history for the agent to act precisely. They can even book conference rooms and suggest travel itineraries.

So Customer engagement via AI-driven Chatbots is a trend that is here to stay. AI Chatbots are programmed and well-equipped to deal with customers and respond to their queries without human interference. This not only increases efficiency but makes great strides in reducing the workload of customer support teams and at the same time ensures a smooth transition for the customer.

Embrace AI-powered customer acquisition, support and engagement.

Drive business continuity and growth

Head, Automation Practice

Data References:

Top 12 Benefits of Chatbots: Comprehensive Guide [2020 update], MAY 12, 2020 by AI Multiple based on Drift’s 2018 State of Chatbots Report.

https://research.aimultiple.com/chatbot-benefits/

What Is a Chatbot and How Is It Changing Customer Experience? APRIL 25, 2019 by Salesforce Blog.

https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2019/04/what-is-a-chatbot.html

Chatbot Report 2019: Global Trends and Analysis, APRIL 19, 2019 by ChatBot Magazine

https://chatbotsmagazine.com/chatbot-report-2019-global-trends-and-analysis-a487afec05b

4 Evolving Technologies That Are Empowering Chatbots by AITHORITY, JAN 16, 2020

https://www.aithority.com/guest-authors/4-evolving-technologies-that-are-empowering-chatbots/

Two-out-of-three Americans interact with AI chatbots, but we still prefer humans by ZDNET, MAY 18, 2019

https://www.zdnet.com/article/two-out-of-three-americans-interact-with-ai-chatbots-but-we-still-prefer-humans/

Conversational AI Statistics: NLP Chatbots in 2020 by Landbot.io FEB 21,2020

https://landbot.io/blog/conversational-ai-statistics/