How AI is helping IT managers do their jobs better right now

There is a huge amount of concerned conversation going on about AI, largely due to the noise made about ChatGPT and the use of the technology to generate fake news. Not to mention deepfake videos. But AI also has massive potential to enhance work, including for for IT managers.

We’re not talking about any kind of consciousness from machines here, or Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Current AI applications won’t be posing a threat to humanity anytime soon. The perception of danger to certain types of job is also premature. For the time being, AI can provide additional features and functions that make key areas of IT management both easier to do and more effective, rather than replacing people.

Data analytics

One of the key workloads where AI and machine learning (ML) have been paying dividends for some time is in data analytics. Data volumes have been growing exponentially, particularly as Internet of Things edge devices and sensors now contribute a wealth of new inputs. But a lot of this data starts off unstructured, and this is where AI/ML can contribute massively.

Unstructured data could be, for example, customer feedback, social media posts mentioning your company, or market data from third-party websites. These can all be incredibly useful to inform decisions, but only if delivered in a discoverable way. This enables a company to gain valuable insights about customer and market perceptions of its products. (Read our separate articles about the importance of customer experience and journey mapping.)

In general, AI/ML and data management now go hand in hand. The application of the former can greatly enhance the latter through its ability to perform cognitive tasks automatically, such as robotic process automation (RPA), insight delivery and engagement.

Through RPA, an AI system can take information from email or call centre systems and enter it into a database automatically. Using Natural Language Processing, it can extract information from legal or technical documents, so this can be presented without the need to actively search through or read the whole text manually. NASA has been employing RPA successfully since 2018.

Cognitive insights

Cognitive insights from AI can provide customer behaviour predictions and detect credit card fraud more effectively. It can monitor the performance of mechanical systems, for example automotive fleets, to provide predictive maintenance suggestions. Businesses that already use a lot of statistical modelling, such as the insurance industry, can enhance the accuracy and detail of these models by drawing on a wider range of information.

Advanced enterprise search tools such as those provided by Sinequa similarly utilise AI to aggregate information from across a corporation and external sources, delivering richer results with greater breadth, thanks to a deeper understanding of the related meanings of a search term. IT managers can add considerable value to their business’s infrastructure by deploying AI-enhanced search to empower employees.

AI and security

Security is another area where AI/ML is paying significant dividends. The rise in remote and home working due to the pandemic led to a significant increase in cybercrime. In large part, this was due to the potential vulnerability of employees and their devices functioning outside the protection of the corporate perimeter-based security around the office premises network. The answer to this conundrum is the drive towards a Zero Trust Security model, where no device or user login is accepted by default. The base mode is considering all activity a potential threat.

A major component of implementing a Zero Trust Security model is harnessing the power of AI/ML to help safeguard devices, corporate services and users. One thing that AI/ML is very good at – and more consistently so than human beings – is spotting the signs of vulnerability and cyberattack. A comprehensive Zero Trust implementation will harness AI technology for threat detection and prediction.

For example, AI/ML will form models of user and service access behaviour, so activity that diverges from the norm will raise a flag or increase security credential requirements. This is similar to the way your credit card company might send you a security alert if your card is used in a foreign country or location you don’t normally travel to (and this may also use AI to improve detection). Likewise, Zero Trust will add authentication factors when a device is used remotely rather than within the office premises. It could also send an alert to administrators when unusual traffic volumes or behaviour is detected through a corporate service.

Beyond signatures

Although security systems have been able to provide alerts like this for some time, traditionally this has been based on detection of predefined signatures. AI’s ability to build its own models enables it to spot threats that haven’t been explicitly seen before, based on their activity rather than recognising the code they deploy.

AI-powered security is even being built into devices at the hardware level. Recent versions of the Intel vPro Platform include Advanced Threat Detection within its Hardware Shield security that are AI-enabled to provide live, proactive monitoring of attack vectors.

The great benefit here for IT managers is that it reduces the amount of work they must perform protecting the users and corporate systems under their responsibility. Not only will they not have to spend time actively monitoring systems directly, but the added protection will reduce the danger of cyberattack.

This means that IT managers don’t need to spend working hours, staff and budget fixing the results of attacks, and can instead devote more effort to developing new services that enhance company revenue.

False fears

Science fiction has raised our fears about AI/ML. Some of this could be warranted. The easier it is to create “deep fake” videos, the more disinformation will circulate on social media and the less we will be able to trust what we see online.

But every new technology poses a threat alongside its positive impact. For AI/ML, the benefit it can already give to IT managers far outweighs the dangers. It can take care of boring monitoring jobs automatically and do them better than a human being.

AI can extend the abilities of an IT manager and help them work more efficiently, making it an essential technology for the modern workplace.

If anything, you need to reverse the question: can you afford not to utilise AI? It’s already a huge market, valued at nearly $120 billion in 2022. And it’s expected to reach nearly $1.6 trillion by 2030 – around the GDP of Brazil.

Ignore AI at your peril.

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James Morris

James Morris is one of the UK's foremost experts in workstations. He is also Editor of WhichEV and Pathway Director of MA Interactive Journalism at City, University of London.