I’ll never forget the blank stares.
I had just walked out of a meeting with part of the IT executive team and ran into a couple of server team members talking about some issues they were fighting. “What do those servers support,” I asked off-handedly.
They had no idea. Whatsoever.
According to recent data and anecdotal conversations, AIOps seems to finally be picking up some serious adoption steam. Many industry observers attribute this growth to just the normal adoption cycle running its course. Others point out that increased complexity and criticality levels are leaving AIOps as the only recourse for resource-strapped IT organizations.
Both of these beliefs are most likely true.
But neither of them reflect the ultimate and lasting impact that AIOps will have on organizations or why I believe it will (eventually) change IT forever.
And it all goes back to what those two server engineers missed: it’s all about the experience.
As AIOps goes mainstream, there will be those that leverage it to gain some incremental value. And then there will be those that allow it to transform almost everything about how IT functions. And the difference will play a huge role in determining who wins and loses in the experience economy.
Finding AIOps’ True North
AIOps began as a way to solve the challenge of complexity and the management of overlapping management tools. Essentially, it evolved as a way for IT to leverage big data for its own operational improvement.
“AIOps can be defined as the use of big data, modern machine learning and other advanced analytics technologies to directly, and indirectly, enhance IT operations (monitoring, automation and service desk) functions with proactive, personal and dynamic insight,” said Alex Henthorn-Iwane writing for ThousandEyes. “AIOps involves the concurrent use of multiple data sources, data collection methods, analytical (real-time and deep) technologies, and presentation technologies.”
Organizations needed this new level of correlation because while you used to be able to deploy a manager of managers to consolidate monitoring and management information, IT’s technology sprawl simply became too complex as architectures became less and less monolithic. “Application disaggregation, the evolution to virtualized and containerized infrastructure, overlay and underlay networks, the ubiquity of cloud and SaaS-based service components communicating over the Internet in nearly every application, network and infrastructure means that correlation is devilishly difficult yet still critically important,” Hentorn-Iwane continued.
These challenges were ample enough reason to find new ways to manage the IT tech stack. But they also obscured the much more powerful reason that a new AI-powered approach to management was necessary: all of this technology was now powering the digital experience — and that was changing everything.
All Roads Lead to the Experience
While solving IT’s problems is a worthy enough mandate for something like AIOps to get budget and find a home, it misses its much more significant potential.
In my opinion, AIOps’ true north is all about the ability to deliver, optimize, and sustain digital experiences that win customers, employees, and partners. And not seeing it from that perspective means that you’ll miss out on its true power.
Retailers, who have been at the forefront of shifting customer expectations, are finding this out firsthand. They have been in a mad rush to leverage technology as a transformational tool to automate back-office functions, improve analytics and forecasting, and, as Sean McDermott of Windward Consulting writes, “adopt customer-facing technology to provide digital experiences commensurate with in-store experiences.”
The combination of these technologies improves the shopping experience, but at what impact on IT?
“It is important to acknowledge that every system, application or network used to create these new digital experiences is run by the IT Operations team,” says McDermott. “The influx of customers relying on digital products and services creates more data — so much data that it can’t be manually monitored. At the same time, retailers’ digital transformations and movement to the cloud have made the IT systems consumers rely on more disparate, interconnected and complex.”
This scenario is becoming common across almost every industry. Technology has now moved to the forefront of the customer experience, which means managing its complexity has become more than just an IT problem. It’s now a business challenge — and opportunity.
And it’s why AIOps may finally change the way IT functions from the ground up.
AIOps Gold: Solving IT & Business Problems at the Same Time
I’ve become increasingly bullish on the prospects of AIOps in the enterprise.
Part of this bullishness is due to the continued evolution of the technology. Outcomes and use cases have steadily improved and expanded and have been racking up positive enterprise proof points.
But more saliently, I’ve become bullish because AIOps has the potential to represent one of those unique technologies that simultaneously improves business outcomes while reducing IT operational costs and burdens.
“AIOps platforms lower costs by reducing dependence on multiple on-premise solutions, as well as eliminating outsourcing costs,” explains Sandipan Mukherjee writing in DevOps.com. “The technology allows organizations to scale infrastructure seamlessly, helping the entire service delivery ecosystem run more effectively and efficiently, and thus improving the customer experience…By intelligently automating operations, organizations can boost accuracy, predictability and ultimately, customer retention.”
The challenge, however, is that too many IT leaders — and the AIOps industry itself, for that matter — seem to only view it through the IT optimization prism. They focus all of their attention on the ability of AIOps to solve IT’s complexity problem.
That’s all well and good, but it runs the risk of missing the bigger, broader point: It’s the experience that drives value for the enterprise.
Optimizing operations and improving service reliability will always be necessary. But they will also be what I call below-the-line value, meaning that all they do is help IT meet existing expectations. After all, every organization already expects their IT operation to be optimized and reliable — no matter that doing so is becoming ever more difficult.
However, optimizing the experience is above-the-line value — something that delivers demonstrable and quantifiable business outcomes. The organizations (and vendors) that understand this and position AIOps as something that can deliver on both promises will be those that come out on top.
The Intellyx Take: It Takes a Leader to Harness the Ultimate Power of AIOps
AIOps will change everything in IT — for some. Its ability to help IT organizations reorganize around the various digital experiences they deliver — and manage against them — has the power to reorient the entire IT operational model.
But doing so is a choice to use this technology as a transformational agent.
It’s just as easy to take all of the power of AIOps and merely use it to lower costs and reduce IT’s burden. And that would be a shame.
I fear too many IT leaders — and AIOps vendors — will fall into this camp. They will see AIOps as something internal to IT. They will budget it and discuss it solely from an IT-centric context. And they will leave most of its potential on the table.
Organizations will only realize the full value from their AIOps investments when they view it as a transformational tool that helps them build the political, cultural, and procedural supports to reorient the IT function around delivering digital experiences that win in the market — and create a space where no one ever again wonders what that server is running.
This analysis was originally published on Intellyx.com. Image credit: Jamie Street.