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ServiceNow Virtual Agent looks to bolster AI strategy

ServiceNow's Virtual Agent technology is designed to automate routine IT tasks and free users and IT workers to focus on more important tasks.

ServiceNow has doubled down on its commitment to build AI into its core platform with an intelligent agent technology embedded into the product's next several releases through 2020.

The ServiceNow Virtual Agent, demonstrated this week at the company's Knowledge18 conference, enables corporate users to create bots to manage common employee requests in a conversational manner, and eliminate the involvement of IT help desks.

For example, in response to a new phone request, the technology automatically knows the employee's cellphone plan and carrier, helps customize the employee's specs and places the order, said CJ Desai, ServiceNow's chief product officer. The intelligent agent technology speeds up issue resolution and delivers a more personalized experience. The company anticipates Virtual Agent will reduce by 15% to 20% the number of requests made for everyday kinds of tasks, said Dave Wright, ServiceNow's chief innovation officer.

I see [ServiceNow] pivoting out of the IT department a bit, which has been an ongoing theme for them.
Meaghan McGrathsenior analyst, Technology Business Research Inc.

Users can create customized services using drag-and-drop technology to resolve issues that occur in larger volumes, a strategy which reduces development time. Organizations can then plug these services into their preferred messaging service, which includes web and mobile and adapters for applications such as Microsoft Teams and Slack.

"I see [ServiceNow] pivoting out of the IT department a bit, which has been an ongoing theme for them," said Meaghan McGrath, senior analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H. "They are moving towards business users, trying to tie them in closer to the broader base of enterprise users. Even [for] the requests that make it through to IT, the system points users back to the self-services resources."

ServiceNow will ship Virtual Agent bundled with a handful of prebuilt offerings. The first one is designed to help IT professionals with common help desk requests such as password resets and outage inquiries. A second will help HR professionals submit requests such as leaves of absence and updating employee profiles, and a third aims to help customer service professionals improve customer satisfaction.

In concert with the intelligent agent technology, ServiceNow has acquired startup Parlo, which specializes in natural language understanding. With Parlo, customers who use virtual agents can train bots to better understand jargon, and even accents, which will simplify many routine tasks and interactions. The company intends to integrate the technology with its intelligent agent over the next year or so, and bundle Parlo's tech into other offerings, but not sell it separately.

"We will incorporate this into an existing product as an enhanced capability. There is the full anticipation among users now that AI capabilities come built into other products," Wright said.

The future of Now

Responding to user requests for a more detailed roadmap for the company's Now platform, ServiceNow laid out its schedule for delivery for the next five versions at Knowledge18.

The next version of the Now Platform, code-named London, will be delivered in this year's third quarter. It will contain the ServiceNow Virtual Agent along with the Agent Workspace, which is essentially a command center for agents to prioritize and resolve pressing issues.

Also included in London will be Flow Designer and Integration Hub, both of which also appear in the current Kingston version of the platform. Flow Designer enables non-programmers and business analysts to create codeless workflows that can be shared around by workers in the enterprise. The Integration Hub is a framework to generate codeless integrations between ServiceNow applications and processes from third-party systems.

The Madrid release, coming in the first quarter of 2019, will add an Enterprise DevOps software development process to connect work between developers and IT operations, and integrate with teams' existing DevOps tools. The two subsequent versions, New York and Paris, will be delivered in 2020 and contain many of the same features planned to London and Madrid. Company officials did not list what unique features and capabilities each of those versions would contain.

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