The impact of AI on MSPs and what to expect in 2021
Fueled by the constant desire to unlock more operational efficiency, artificial intelligence continues to penetrate into companies in most industries, and managed services is no different.
Illustration: Karthikeyan Ganesh
Competitive differentiation and excellent customer service have long been MSP goals, and implementing AI can help you do things faster, better, and cheaper.
As MSPs are more frequently becoming trusted business partners, using AI frees them up to do more mission-critical tasks and helps them accomplish more. It’s a win-win, and momentum for all things AI is continuing.
IDC estimates that global spending on cognitive and AI systems (software, hardware, and services related to AI apps) will reach $77.6 billion by 2022, growing at an eye-popping compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.3%.
You’re probably already offering your customers services like remote monitoring and management, help desk, and backups. This year expect to see a continued focus on digital transformation and growing demand for efficiencies and control. Top-performing MSPs will rise to the occasion, with AI as a weapon.
The stakes for scaling AI usage are high: Accenture has found that [three out of four](https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/artificial-intelligence/ai-investments) C-suite executives believe if they don’t scale AI in the next few years, they risk going out of business entirely.
The customer imperative
One way AI will make a splash this year is with technologies and analytics. According to [Gartner](https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/top-cx-trends-for-cios-to-watch/), organizations are struggling to keep up with the growth of customer insight data. The speed and precision of AI, coupled with human insight, will provide the intelligence needed for the CX of the future, the firm notes.
AI interactions will enhance the text, sentiment, voice, interaction, and even traditional survey analysis.
Vice President Analyst at Gartner
AI can be used to identify pain points in the customer’s journey through chatbots, for example. Chatbots provide immediate, personalized responses 24/7 in simple conversations, he added.
In fact, Gartner predicts that by next year, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as machine learning applications, chatbots, and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018.
But purchasing AI systems alone will not automatically lead to improvements in customer experience or create new revenue streams, experts say. There must be processes in place to connect the new techniques to the expected results and building these processes can be a major hurdle for firms going through digital transformation.
This presents another opportunity for MSPs.
This year will also see a wider proliferation of AIOps to address the growing complexity of IT operations. AIOps blends big data and machine learning to automate IT operations processes. It is changing the paradigm of customer support and helps MSPs and IT departments anticipate and solve problems before they impact end-users, in a cost-efficient way.
This includes anomaly detection, event correlation and causality determination.
Partners that integrate AIOps into their programs can deliver to their customers an AIOps-driven business approach that reduces risks, cancels out noise, identifies root causes, and a framework for remediation.
The time and cost-saving features AIOps promises benefits not only the IT team but the enterprise as a whole. This is a major value-add that partners can provide to their customers.
Partners can also help executives move beyond proof of concept in their projects and scale AI across their organization to stay competitive. Before they do that, however, they need to help their customers figure out what their AI strategy is.
Once organizations have a strategy in place, they can invest more in smart applications, but that also means having a solid data platform in place. It behooves MSPs to build an approach to data management and integration so customers can obtain value from their data.
This paves the way for using AI to help automate IT infrastructure, SaaS, and custom-built applications.
One of the most significant things the pandemic demonstrated was the need to pivot. Automation became the operative word — and there is no looking back. MSPs must continue to find ways to add value beyond automating routine IT tasks.
In 2021, you want an MSP that can help you leverage AI and AIOps technologies. These are the new-age MSPs.
Ticketing system and PSAs for new/small MSPs
Every new business has some growing pains as they are starting up. There is a certain learning curve they must face, and sometimes we learn through hard experience. A good example of this for MSPs is where to move to a PSA and get those tickets out of your inbox.