BT bets big on AI with ServiceNow to cut legacy baggage

Promises no pink slips despite service desk in crosshairs

BT Group expects to cut its use of third-party support staff in service desk roles after it has introduced GenAI technology from ServiceNow.

The UK-based telecoms and IT services giant said it was extending the ServiceNow service management capabilities to all units. The expansion includes use of ServiceNow's Now Assist for Telecom Service Management (TSM) part of its GenAI offering.

BT said that in a pilot Now Assist GenAI helped agents write case summaries and review complex notes faster, cutting both times by 55 percent. The average time to resolve cases also fell by 35 percent.

Speaking to The Register, Hena Jalil, managing director, business CIO at BT Group, said there were no plans to reduce direct employee headcount as a result. "A lot of these things are also being done by subcontractors… that helps our bottom line," she said. "We don't have to outsource as much, which helps substantially.

She added that the efficiency savings from GenAI would allow staff to focus on other so-called "value added" work that support staff would prefer to do rather than "the work that they don't get that much contentment with."

In May 2022, BT said it expected to save £25 million ($30.8 million) over five years by ditching some legacy applications and switching to ServiceNow workflow and automation technologies. It began to replace 56 legacy applications and 76 different ways of implementing service processes with a single ServiceNow platform as part of a large group-wide transformation program.

ServiceNow, which has worked with BT since 2019, introduced the Now Assist GenAI product line in in September last year, admitting that models could "hallucinate" or produce errors within a specific domain. It said the company would not be held responsible for the output of its GenAI software. A human would always be required to check the model's output.

Jalil said the BT's service desk model had been trained on anonymized data, improving its case summary output over time.

"You have to do that upfront work," she said. "When we started, I have to admit it wasn't as good but then what we saw was as it started learning, it got a lot better."

Nonetheless, after the LLM-generated summary reports, human agents were also required to check the output in a read-only view.

"We have that process at the moment because, as we're building confidence, we do need that validation," Jalil said. "There are certain things that we want to capture that we don't want an agent to change. We're doing random checks at the other end as well."

As well as introducing GenAI, BT is expanding ServiceNow's role across the business, including previously untouched functions such as HR.

"In 2022, there were certain areas that we hadn't, like HR as an example," Jalil said. "Now that we've tried and tested and we've seen the value [ServiceNow] delivering we see that the rollout has to be quite extensive and across every single part of the organization."

However, BT also has an extensive project with SAP introducing finance and HR enterprise applications. According to publicity material from SAP, this would provide "a single, unified, and self-service HR platform."

Across its application portfolio, SAP also provides workflow, the feature in which ServiceNow specializes.

"We launched a new HR system ... but there's always so much we can do with process simplification. That's where I think [ServiceNow] can really help us substantially," Jalil said.

Jalil explained that ServiceNow would be used in HR for raising incidents and managing tickets, as well as "having visibility across all areas." She said the direction of the HR project itself was managed by the corporate CIO team and outside her remit.

Taken together, the expanded use of ServiceNow in GenAI and additional business units would raise BT's expected savings from the investment above $25 million by 2027, particularly integrating it with the use of Google Cloud Platform and observability platform Dynatrace.

"We knew that we wanted to use ServiceNow platform, but now, when we've seen how we can bring the whole platform thinking together, it becomes super powerful … so we are more confident now that we've tried it that we can even drive more value," Jalil said. ®

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