IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

AI Set to Benefit MSP Productivity, Bottom Line

As competition among MSPs increases and technology grows more complex, artificial intellience can be a key to future success. By Ian van Reenen

THE JURY IS STILL OUT on how or if computer-based personal assistants like Siri and Alexa are truly making our lives easier. But the opposite is true for the types of artificial intelligence that are currently available to help those in the managed services community.

Indeed, AI is already benefiting managed service providers by enabling them to meet SLA requirements more easily, reduce company expenditures, and enhance service offerings. Artificial intelligence is not only helping MSPs grow, but allowing them to improve client support and customer retention.  

Adding to the Bottom Line

On the IT side, AI offers MSPs some interesting advantages, starting with a benefit near and dear to everyone: saving money. One of the main advantages MSPs typically realize with AI technology is increased technician productivity.

For example, chatbots are intelligent services that can be used to automatically receive information such as news and weather, improve money management, and organize schedules. In the case of MSPs, chatbots can be employed to help clients submit, view, and update their support tickets. They can also facilitate immediate connections with technicians when urgent issues arise.

SupportBots LLC estimates that its chatbot can save MSPs more than $600 per month per technician. That figure is based on saving eight minutes per ticket at a $22.60 hourly rate for technical support. The company’s 28-hour-per-month reduction estimate is quite conservative considering that beta testing resulted in an average savings of 24 minutes per ticket.  

MSPs can realize additional cost savings from what are being called “predictive managed services.” That process involves using AI to detect possible issues when a system starts, so they can take action before a disruptive failure occurs. For example, cost-avoidance figures heavily into the value of data gleaned from smart sensors. Intelligent instrumentation shrinks the replacement asset value (RAV), the universal benchmark measure of operating asset performance success, by cutting down on unexpected downtime and premature parts replacement and extending regular maintenance intervals. This type of predictive managed services allows for MSPs to reduce clients' costs related to infrastructure and networks, and saves the MSP time and resources. 

Boosting Growth

While cost savings are great, growth is what MSPs need to turbocharge their businesses. AI can definitely help in that area, combining real-time data analysis with automated monitoring, classification, and resolution to ensure providers are meeting or exceeding their SLAs.

Their customers will feel the difference. Questions can be answered faster, issues won’t need to be “sent up the chain” as often, and the support person they talk to will have a better understanding of their specific business objectives. They’ll likely experience less downtime as a result.

Staying Safe

AI can play an interesting role in keeping networks and systems safe too. These technologies take an anomaly-detection approach to security, creating a model they define as “normal” and then assessing all unknown threats against that standard. Because AI systems can “learn” as they go, the model is dynamic. What the solution considers normal behavior can evolve as data is added to better reflect the current environment.

All of this is automatic, which frees support personnel to take on other tasks. AI-enhanced machines can assess threats and take appropriate actions, turning security into a near-real-time function and greatly reducing the time technicians spend responding to false alerts and other notifications.

Looking Ahead

MSPs are beginning to see the potential for AI. It can handle a large number of security-detection tasks and enhance many client-facing applications. In that way, AI can help them grow and strengthen client relationships.

As the MSP marketplace heats up and customers’ technology needs grow in complexity, all types of automation will be needed to ensure the survival and success of IT services firms. And that’s where AI comes in.

IAN VAN REENEN is vice president of engineering and endpoint products for Autotask Corp., responsible for driving the roadmap, development, and delivery of all endpoint products. Prior to Autotask, he was the founder and CTO for CentraStage, a remote device management solution.

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