The words "Artificial Intelligence" may invoke sci-fi visions of a future where machines have taken over the world, but artificial intelligence ("A.I.") plays a vital role in the success of today's small businesses. From customer relationship management ("CRM") systems to your automated accounts receivable process, A.I. is prevalent in many different technologies. On the fringe of innovation, managed I.T. service providers ("MSPs") are leveraging A.I. to manage, maintain, and secure their clients' technologies to enhance productivity, improve responsiveness, and deliver consistency.
The MSP Business Objective
While most I.T. service providers will refer to themselves as MSPs, there are varying levels of business maturity that distinguish one service provider from another. Mature MSPs, such as Digital Boardwalk, understand that growth and profitability are only attained once all aspects of their business are optimized to deliver maximum value to their clients for minimal human capital investment. This approach is mutually beneficial. While the MSP works diligently to reduce the number of labor hours applied to its client by preventing problems and streamlining the client's technology, the client benefits from reliable, efficient, and innovative technology that helps them stay ahead of their competition.
The A.I. Solution
While most MSPs focus their efforts on driving proactivity through monitoring and routine maintenance, a select few industry-leading MSPs, including Digital Boardwalk, focus on the development of custom artificial intelligence systems. Dedicating entire teams to this effort, mature MSPs analyze where large portions of their time are spent and train A.I. systems to augment or even replace the need for human intervention. A few hours invested in developing custom A.I. can result in hundreds of hours or more of saved time across the MSP's entire customer base.
Simple Example: Adobe Reader
Most small businesses use Adobe Reader as their preferred PDF viewer. While other applications may work just fine, users are comfortable with Adobe, and will often ask their I.T. provider to install it for them if it's missing. Installing Adobe Reader only takes a couple of minutes to complete, but the entire scenario consumes more time. The user had to take the time to report the missing application, wait for the MSP to respond, and then wait for the application to be installed. While this still may not have required much time in total, consider how much time the client would lose if multiple users had this same request throughout the year. Also, consider how many hours the MSP would have to invest in solving this problem for thousands of users across their entire customer base.
With less than two hours of time invested into developing custom A.I., mature MSPs eliminate the scenario altogether. Their A.I. system collects a real-time inventory of the client computer systems, detects when Adobe Reader is missing, silently downloads the latest version from Adobe, and installs it on the computer for the user. The user likely didn't even notice Adobe was missing before the A.I. stepped in and installed it. Even if the user uninstalls Adobe, the A.I. system will detect the change within minutes and reinstall it. Simple use-cases for A.I. like this save mature MSPs and their clients hundreds of hours every year.
Complex Example: Server Maintenance
A.I. systems aren't limited to simple automation scenarios like the Adobe Reader example above. They can be developed to solve complex problems that human teams will often neglect. Servers, for example, require security updates and routine maintenance just like computers do. These maintenance tasks often require the server to be rebooted, which can only be performed after-hours when the business is closed. The process can also occasionally cause issues with dependent systems. For these reasons, shockingly, many internal I.T. teams and external I.T. service providers neglect these maintenance tasks altogether or defer them for months or even years at a time.
Innovative MSPs have developed custom A.I. to solve this problem as well. The A.I. can detect when maintenance is needed, schedule the maintenance to be performed after-hours at a predetermined date and time, safely shut down and disconnect the dependent systems, reboot the server, power up and reconnect the dependent systems, and test all the systems to verify functionality is restored and everything is returned to normal operations. If at any time during the process an error occurs that the A.I. system can't fix itself, the A.I. system contacts an on-call engineer by phone to notify them of the issue.
Industry-leading MSPs that dedicate teams and other resources to the development of custom A.I. systems not only save time and increase profitability for their own businesses, but they also save time and increase profitability for their client's businesses. This strict focus on mutually beneficial outcomes is what truly separates mature MSPs from the rest of their competition.