5 essential innovations to transform IT support management

5 essential innovations to transform IT support management

5 essential innovations to transform IT support management

5 essential innovations to transform IT support management

An innovative approach to IT support

An innovative approach to IT support

An innovative approach to IT support

An innovative approach to IT support

Explore dynamic technology support for an evolving IT landscape.

Explore dynamic technology support for an evolving IT landscape.

3 min read
01

IT device discovery and support management

IT device discovery and support management

IT device discovery and support management

IT device discovery and support management

Automate asset discovery and management for a clear picture of your IT environment.

Automate asset discovery and management for a clear picture of your IT environment.

5 min read
02

Remote support with augmented reality

Remote support with augmented reality

Remote support with augmented reality

Remote support with augmented reality

Enable real-time technology support from virtually anywhere.

Enable real-time technology support from virtually anywhere.

5 min read
03

The next-generation virtual assistant

The next-generation virtual assistant

The next-generation virtual assistant

The next-generation virtual assistant

Drive authentic support experiences with AI virtual assistants tailored to your business.

Drive authentic support experiences with AI virtual assistants tailored to your business.

5 min read
04

Simplified technology service requests

Simplified technology service requests

Simplified technology service requests

Simplified technology service requests

Automate complex tasks to streamline the entire service request process.

Automate complex tasks to streamline the entire service request process.

3 min read
05

Analytics on demand

Analytics on demand

Analytics on demand

Analytics on demand

Turn your raw data into meaningful insights and opportunities for innovation.

Turn your raw data into meaningful insights and opportunities for innovation.

3 min read
06

5 essential innovations to transform IT support management

01

3 min read

An innovative
approach to
IT support

IT management professionals have more responsibility than ever. Enterprise IT environments are getting more complex with the adoption of hybrid cloud and need for open-source support, while the demand for IT availability—and related maintenance costs—is on the rise. Any disruption in service can result in significant loss for your business.

Two technicians working in a datacenter

As the technology in your IT environment changes to better meet the demands of customers and employees in the digital era, the way you support your IT environment must evolve just as quickly.

IBM® Technology Support Services is revolutionizing IT maintenance with innovations in analytics, AI, augmented reality and automation. The following five innovations are designed to streamline operations, reduce complexity and inefficiency, and decrease the overall cost of IT support management while providing visibility and insight into your environment to help you make good IT decisions.

Automated IT device discovery and management shine a light on your data center.

Augmented reality enhances remote technical support.

A next-generation virtual assistant, powered by IBM Watson® technology, reduces support call volume and wait times.

IT maintenance service request process is streamlined with automation.

Advanced analytics transforms your raw data into meaningful insights.

02

5 min read

IT device discovery
and support management

IT inventory and availability management—the task of identifying potentially thousands of data center devices along with warranty and support status for each of them—can be overwhelming.

Researching the latest updates, tracking your inventory with spreadsheets and reconciling mounds of support contracts can be so time-consuming that the results are stale and inaccurate as soon as you finish. Many hardware problem tickets already have fixes available, but first you have to know which versions of code are running on each of your specific IT devices.

Making good IT decisions starts with having a clear picture of everything in your data center and on your network in real time, even when your systems come from a mix of providers.

Automate IT device discovery

What if you could accelerate device discovery speed and improve inventory accuracy while reducing your manual effort from months to hours?

The IBM Technical Support Appliance is a device discovery tool designed to eliminate the knowledge gaps in your inventory of IT equipment and operating systems. The Technical Support Appliance helps by gathering IT device information and analyzing support-coverage status for the devices in your data center.

Shine a light on your data center. Discover both IBM devices and devices from other equipment manufacturers. Schedule IT asset discoveries as often as you’d like and build a library of all your devices. Intelligent discovery and analytics can help you plan code updates and system administration assignments.

Get details about your systems. Identify firmware and operating system (OS) levels, as well as details for some warranties and services from other equipment manufacturers. Make sure patch and version levels are up to date for the specific systems that you administer.

Reduce costs and reconcile assets. Get precise start and stop dates for your supported equipment to help reduce coverage gaps and overpayments. Identify redundant equipment for removal.

Reduce unplanned outages. Proactive code comparison and recommendations highlight out-of-date code so you can act before it causes a service outage.

Data is your defense against potential downtime. The Technical Support Appliance discovers vulnerabilities like out-of-date OS and firmware levels, expired support contracts, and even hardware that has reached end-of-support status. It then provides an inventory and maintenance report, including a list of discovered devices, IBM maintenance and warranty status, system descriptions, machine type, model and serial number, firmware levels, operating system code levels, versions and fix levels, and code currency recommendations for select platforms.

Once you have a clear picture of your data center, Technical Support Appliance analytics generates a consolidated view of support coverage. This overview perspective is useful for addressing service gaps that can lead to support renewal fees, as well as identifying costly coverage inefficiencies.

Automate IT maintenance

Of course, IT inventory challenges don’t stop at discovery—you also have to manage your IT inventory and keep up with the warranty and maintenance status.

Streamlining hardware and software support contracts can help you save up to 25% on maintenance and support spending.¹

— Forrester Consulting study

Streamlining hardware and software support contracts can help you save up to 25% on maintenance and support spending.¹

— Forrester Consulting study

The IBM Client Insights Portal is designed to enhance and expand the IT support management experience through data insights and personalized recommendations.

In a single dashboard, you can:

Track assets and improve control. End-to-end asset lifecycle management through an online dashboard shows you what you have, where it is, and related contract and warranty information.

Save on time and support costs. Access an overview of your inventory in a single dashboard. User-friendly filters help you find the information and insights you want to see.

Connect to the Technical Support Appliance. Access and download your reports to spot preemptive support opportunities.

Smart tools that work with your business

Both the Technical Support Appliance and Client Insights Portal inventory asset management tools are available at no cost to all IBM clients. And the workloads and business information of your IT devices aren’t visible or recorded, so you can enjoy a single source of truth for your IT environment while safeguarding your business data.

Let’s talk

Citations:

¹ “IBM Multivendor Support Services (MVS) Reduces Data-Center-Support Costs and Complexity,” A Forrester Consulting Total Economic Impact™ study commissioned by IBM, March 2019

03

5 min read

Remote support with
augmented reality

The road from disruption to recovery can be a long one. Checking hardware support information, describing the problem to a support representative, waiting for a field technician to arrive, hoping the technician will have the right parts with them to resolve the issue… the time really starts to add up.

“The most recent industry surveys have shown that the average enterprise estimates that there is an impact of approximately $8,851 for every minute of unplanned downtime in their primary computing environment.”²

— Gartner, Inc.

“The most recent industry surveys have shown that the average enterprise estimates that there is an impact of approximately $8,851 for every minute of unplanned downtime in their primary computing environment.”²

— Gartner, Inc.

To accelerate this process without sacrificing the firsthand observations and guidance of a technical support expert, an increasing number of businesses are embracing augmented reality in the form of remote technical support.

Unlike virtual reality, which immerses the user in a digital world, augmented reality superimposes graphics and other media on top of a user’s real-world surroundings. By displaying guidance over the physical environment, augmented reality support uses visual guidance to drastically reduce the effort needed to relay instructions, the number of errors and even the time required to look up service information.

Get real-time technology support from virtually anywhere

Powered by remote support experts, IBM Augmented Remote Assist is an application that connects field technicians and clients with the service expertise they need to perform complex diagnostics or repair actions.

Within an encrypted system, the Augmented Remote Assist app accesses the camera on a user’s mobile device and its advanced computer vision techniques recognize the hardware that needs support. Remote support agents can then overlay 2D and 3D annotations on the hardware to engage in real-time collaboration, complete with on-the-spot instructions.

Remote support for field technicians

Imagine you’re a technician. You arrive at a client site and discover your client uses an old mechanical tape drive for backup, but you’ve never seen one before. No need to panic—you just pull up your augmented reality app to connect with a support agent for a walk-through of the procedure.

In technician-to-technician interactions, field technicians get real-time, step-by-step guidance from an IBM expert for all types of support scenarios to increase first-time fix rate and remotely resolve more than 70% of problems.³

Remote support for clients

Why wait for support to arrive if you don’t have to? When a problem doesn’t require a field technician to come to the physical site, clients can use the app to get real-time, step-by-step guidance from IBM remote technical support experts. In technician-to-client interactions, remote support agents guide clients—even those with little to no technical background—through repairs with the help of instructional overlays.

Throughout the process, the remote agent can see what the client is doing and overlay virtual elements to provide guidance. These elements can include arrows to warn them away from a hot piece of equipment, a circle around the screw that needs to be undone and even which direction to turn the screwdriver. The client sees this guidance in real time, superimposed over the real environment.

If a visit from a field technician turns out to be necessary after all, the app helps ease the process by relaying information so that the technician already knows the problem and can bring the right parts for repair.

Few IT environments are filled with technology from a single brand or manufacturer, and juggling support contracts for hundreds of different products and third-party maintenance providers can complicate the technology support process even further. To address this complexity, Augmented Remote Assist is designed to support essentially any product—IBM or otherwise—in your IT environment.

Let’s talk

IBM Augmented Remote Assist is not available in all geographies.

Citations:

² “Ensure Cost Balances with Risk in High-Availability Data Centers,” David Cappuccio, Gartner, April 1, 2019

³ Based on IBM client data. Actual results may vary.

04

5 min read

The next-generation
virtual assistant

Today’s customers are more connected than ever, and likely to measure your customer service experience against not only your competitors, but also the best experiences they've had with other brands.⁴ So it’s safe to say if a technical support issue isn’t resolved in a timely manner, it can seriously damage your company’s reputation.

As the number of products that require support grows exponentially, traditional technical support methods struggle to keep up. Support agents often find themselves working with incomplete customer information and transferring calls in the hopes that another agent will be able to solve the problem. Customers experience long wait times and become frustrated by having to explain their problem, again, every time they’re transferred.

Many companies have implemented chatbot platforms; however, only about 21% of those platforms offer highly personalized experiences specifically tailored to the interests, context and behaviors of the user.⁶

AI and machine learning fuel the next generation of virtual assistants

A next-generation virtual assistant can do more than follow a script. AI virtual assistants empower both the customers and support agents by having answers at the ready to shorten response times, minimize the number of tickets that require a human touch and streamline the overall IT support experience.

Powered by industry-leading Watson™ AI technology, the IBM Virtual Assistant for Technical Support communicates in natural language to improve the support experience for agents and customers alike. And it isn’t just a single virtual assistant—through a self-service support portal, you can create many virtual assistants at scale to help manage the wide array of IT support cases that your agents handle.

A next-generation virtual assistant can help with both sides of your IT support experience.

Self-assist: The virtual assistant interacts directly with the customer—an audience with presumably no technical background. The customer can ask the virtual assistant questions in natural language and receive clear, concise answers.

Agent assist: The virtual assistant helps human agents to be more effective in customer interactions, serving as a one-stop shop for agents to get to the information they need and deliver the right answer to the customer.

Procedure automation: The virtual assistant handles elements of the support experience, such as greeting the customer, automatically gathering information like serial number and machine history, and guiding the agent through internal procedures and resources.

Many companies have implemented chatbot platforms; however, only about 21% of those platforms offer highly personalized experiences specifically tailored to the interests, context and behaviors of the user.⁵ By handling procedure and lower-level requests, an AI-based virtual assistant can also help you shorten wait times and deliver a proactive, personalized service experience. Your human agents are free to address more complicated issues with the confidence of a virtual assistant at their fingertips.

Let’s talk

Citations:

⁴ “The Three Customer Service Megatrends In 2020: Fuse AI And Agents To Drive Better Experiences” Forrester, January 2020 (link resides outside of ibm.com)

⁵ Based on IBM internal testing. Actual results may vary.

05

3 min read

Simplified technology
service requests

In any technical support situation, time to resolution is critical. Traditionally, your IT administrator must first discover the error—meaning your business likely feels the effects already. The administrator then has to spend time on the phone with the third-party maintenance provider while an operator manually entitles the call with the appropriate service and IT support information. At this rate, it could be days before the error is resolved.

Closeup of a server

Automate technology support service requests

The IBM Electronic Service Agent is a hardware problem-reporting tool that proactively monitors your IT environment for errors. By automating complex service request tasks, the Electronic Service Agent can help you streamline the entire service request process.

Increased system availability: The Electronic Service Agent is always on duty, continuously monitoring the environment to catch small problems before they become big ones.

Faster problem resolution: By accelerating the error detection and service request process, the Electronic Service Agent helps reduce the time to resolution from days to minutes.

When the Electronic Service Agent detects known problems, it automatically provides action plans that don’t require human intervention. When it encounters an unknown issue, the Electronic Service Agent helps support engineers get to work determining a cause and resolution without the need for any reactive involvement.

For serviceable events, it uses its “call home” feature to notify IBM support engineers. And when the Electronic Service Agent calls home, it automatically entitles the call and transmits the error text and additional diagnostic data directly to IBM.

Let’s talk

06

3 min read

Analytics on demand

As more and more innovative technologies enter the market, it can be tricky to determine which ones are right for your unique IT environment. For unbiased recommendations about what to implement in your business, it all comes down to data.

Enterprises around the world already sit on virtual goldmines of IT support insights and may not even realize it. An estimated 41.6 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices alone will generate 79.4 zettabytes—that’s 79.4 trillion gigabytes—of data in 2025.⁶

Types of data

  • Inventory data: Configuration, location, unique identifiers
  • Service tickets: Problem root cause, fix description, classification, timestamps for different stages of the ticket lifecycle
  • Event logs: Errors, warnings, notifications, information messages
  • Transactions: Transactions processed, type of transaction, status, use of consumables

All that data is full of valuable insights that can help you identify and seize opportunities to streamline IT maintenance, drive down support costs, improve the effectiveness of your service activities and stay ahead of issues that cause disruption. From retailers dealing with unexplained card reader behavior and unexpected reboots to banking companies looking to understand the failure patterns of ATM and recycler devices, IT professionals in any industry can benefit from better understanding their IT environments and identifying opportunities for AI and automation.

You need to know where to start in the context of the problem, otherwise it’s like buying a sports car in separate parts and having to assemble it yourself.

— Milena Arsova, IBM AI and analytics leader

You need to know where to start in the context of the problem, otherwise it’s like buying a sports car in separate parts and having to assemble it yourself.

— Milena Arsova, IBM AI and analytics leader

Turn your raw data into meaningful insights and opportunities for innovation

IBM Analytics on Demand transforms your untapped data into data-driven IT support insights, using cognitive intelligence and analytics to help improve the availability and efficiency of your IT infrastructure.

Two women consulting about a project

While standard monitoring solutions may reveal topology information, real-time status, maybe even open support tickets, Analytics on Demand allows you to view your IT environment holistically and understand the trends, correlations and other non-obvious insights it uncovers.

  • Discover operational insights specific to your environment.
  • Get unbiased recommendations on automation and other innovations.
  • Identify inefficiencies in IT maintenance processes and outcomes.
  • Reduce the time to root cause identification.
  • Decrease incident lifecycle times.

Analytics on Demand is part of IBM’s larger commitment to understanding our clients’ environments, challenges and potential for future transformation. In addition to identifying opportunities for innovation, the insights uncovered can help you transform your IT support practices and optimize business processes across your entire enterprise.

What’s next?

As the call for streamlined support rings louder each year, innovations in augmented reality, AI and analytics can help you respond with reduced repair times, decreased maintenance costs and tailored operational recommendations. When implementing these solutions for your business, it is important to consider a support partner with experience and longevity.

IBM has a legacy of investing in new technology and innovations, with 25 patents filed for the technologies outlined in this paper alone. Our innovations are backed by 25 years of simplifying IT support management for enterprises, ongoing training to stay on the cutting edge, and development from one of the world’s largest industrial research organizations, IBM Research.

The technology support industry will continue to change as the demand for efficient support increases. Build a strong foundation for the future with innovative technologies and a single-source support partner—so you can focus on driving the next wave of innovation.

Let’s talk

Citations:

⁶ “Worldwide Global DataSphere IoT Device and Data Forecast, 2019–2023” Carrie MacGillivray and David Reinsel, IDC, doc #US45066919, May 2019 (link resides outside of ibm.com)

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