IT managers for years are pressed by the cliché of “doing more with less.” IT pros already have their daily tasks of user requests, incidents, maintenance issues, upgrades and infrastructure changes and plus they are asked to keep up with the new technology. But the headcount remained flat during the years. One of the things the IT managers do is to implement self-service where they can in order to have a breathing space for their teams. And surprisingly, the end users have an acceptance on self-service, too. Of course it does not work for every situation, but here are some areas where it is working.
If we are speaking about a large company with 1000+ users, user identity management is the first place to start. With user identity, I am talking about the user provisioning that starts with the hiring process, continues with onboarding until the employee finishes its contract. During the “corporate lifecycle” of the employee, there will be switching of departments, various password resets, new rights/permissions requests and the like. To solve this easy tasks, either the IT can deploy a self-service portal to fully or partially automate the tasks. This could by putting control and approval points in the workflow and complete everything automatically after all the approvals are complete (by using System Center Orchestrator or a similar automation tool) or having a template for the requesters to fill completely then have an IT staff take it from there to completion and send an automatic “completed” email to the requester once everything is done.
In a very similar way, the information lifecycle and data retention policies could be automated. Where the issues are not automated, the IT staff carries out separate long (and tedious) meetings with various departments – HR, production, finance, sales, operations and all others. What makes those meetings time consuming is that, the topics are pretty much very structured and only the changes are discussed. The main points of the meetings are
- IT records show that you have x, y, z data resources. Do you have any updates?
- Here are IT’s retention policies for the resources. Do you have any updates?
- Do you have any changes to existing policies?
And that’s pretty much it. Instead of going through these topics one by one in every meeting, IT can utilize the self service portal where the departments make any changes they require and then either automatically or by an IT administrator the changes can be applied. The logs will be kept for the auditors to check during the data governance audits.
Again, IT asset management can easily be automated. IT assets are purchased, registered maintained/repaired and then recycled. And IT is in control of all these steps. These can easily be automated via a self-service portal. The IT assets can be defined, and on a page they can be selected and requested, repair, maintenance and upgrade requests can be logged, user receipt documents/logs could be kept, warranty information could be made available to the users and any other information could be made available or logged. Requesting an IT package for an onboarding employee, sending service requests automatically to the vendors or partners when a user logs a repair request are the two examples that can be managed through the self-service portal.
The discussion so far assumes that the user can make a proper request that has all the information that IT needs. We all know that this is not always the case. In majority of the incident or request tickets the information presented by the user is not complete and the support engineer needs to call/email the user to have the remaining information. In many cases, the support personnel is not be able to reach the user in the first communication attempt. To avoid the time loss, IT can deploy service request templates in the self service portal so that the users fill in the necessary information. An example could be a restore request for a deleted file where the user specifies the filename, where it was located, when it was deleted and to where it needs to be restored. Then the backup admin can easily restore the file because she will not need any additional information.
Another self service area that can be addressed is the peak time resource requirements. Every business have their own peak times during a year. These times are sometimes anticipated like Thanksgiving, Christmas, back to school, year-end closing, can be planned such as promotions, new product introduction or sometimes they just happen. In all the cases a self-service portal detailing the requirements and asking for the additional resources will save time to both the IT and the requester.
The other use of self-service portal is where testing takes place. It will be convenient for the IT to setup test resources and user accounts in advance and deploy them automatically when the user requests it. This workflow will eliminate the phone calls and requests to access the test environments. If the testing is to be billed to the departments, then the request and usage reports can be generated automatically and sent to the relevant departments.
In many development shops, there are such testing workflows. However, they often lack a user-friendly portal for testing. Before the user tests take place, it will be better to setup a test portal for the users where they can log in, report their findings, log their reports and send back communications on their tickets – work in progress, fixed, scheduled etc. The portal can also route the requests to the appropriate IT person automatically. This overall setup will eliminate many communications that would normally take place and allow the IT staff to better concentrate on the work they have at hand.
The self service portal can also be deployed for pushing updates and publishing software catalogs. In companies where policies does not favor push updates, the users can be informed that the updates are available and that they can download from the self-service portal. Similarly the apps that are made available for the users can also be published on the portal, allowing the users to download and install the ones they need without calling in IT and waiting for the installation.
So, here is my list on the tasks that can be automated via a self-service portal. Have you found any other uses of self-service portals? Share with the Geeks community in the comments!
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