Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting all the hype now. Everyone is trying to figure out how it will affect our lives. Will everything we do have some AI component? Will AI displace millions of workers?
Such questions lead to fascination and fear all at once. AI and machine learning are expected to disrupt industries such as trucking, transportation, healthcare, finance, and IT—to name a few. But how will it impact managed services?
Anyone who answers that question with unwavering certainty is either a clairvoyant or has a healthy imagination. It’s impossible to envision all the ramifications of implementing AI in the managed services space, but one thing is certain: there will be an impact.
Clients are going to keep hearing about it, just like they did the cloud, mobility, and IoT. The more they hear, the more they’ll want to know how they can leverage it. And they’ll be asking you about it.
Besides having answers for clients, you also need to consider how AI will affect your business. Will it replace your staff with robots? Does the need for technicians go away at some point? Not really—at least for the foreseeable future.
There has been considerable progress in AI research in recent years—especially in machine learning, which requires training highly complex algorithms by feeding them enormous amounts of data. However, we’re still a long way from systems that replicate all human brain functions—if that ever happens. But we already have machines that can learn without reprogramming.
AI accomplishes this by adding new information to existing knowledge, enabling a machine to make deductions and inferences. As the knowledge builds, the machine learns and uses new information to make decisions. It’s basically what humans do.
In a managed services environment, this capability could be applied to various functions, from managing network traffic to healing machines without human intervention to predicting and stopping cyberattacks. These functions already are possible in some basic form of automation but will become refined as AI systems evolve.
As AI evolves, MSPs will still need a technical staff. AI and machine learning require experts to run the systems. Intelligent machines have to be trained to perform specific functions, and though they can learn without human interference, they still need new data fed to them. Humans and machines will be working as a team.
That, of course, creates another challenge for MSPs—and anyone else looking to leverage AI systems. The expertise simply isn’t available yet. CompTIA® named “AI/machine learning architect” one of the emerging job titles to watch in 2017. “Emerging” means it will take some time for the talent and expertise to become widely available.
And while machines will take over some technical functions, they cannot replace humans for certain activities. For instance, you’ll be able to apply AI to recruit staff or customer prospecting, but at some point in the process, it takes human intuition, creativity, and persuasion to complete the task.
So while AI will impact managed services, it cannot entirely replace people. You’ll still need the human touch.
Pedro Pereira is a Massachusetts-based writer who has covered the IT channel for two decades. Recognized as one of the first journalists to cover managed services, Pedro continues to track, analyze and report on the IT channel and the growing MSP partner community.
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