You’ve got your discovery and inventory processes sorted, you are confident that you have complete visibility of your entire IT estate, so what next?
Well, for some, this is enough and that’s OK, there is huge value to be had from having this up to date and accurate view of all your assets in a single view. For many though, the chance to use this intelligence to drive efficiencies into IT and other processes is a huge opportunity. One advantage of leveraging discovery and inventory is in the ability to allow end users to self-serve.
Before exploring how, it is worth considering why you would want to allow users to pick their own services. This world of ever more dynamic IT, more flexible work practices by users and the prominence of mobile devices drives ever higher end users’ expectations of what IT does for them. They want the latest and greatest, they want it faster and if IT can’t deliver, they will look to circumvent the processes that they will see as stopping them doing their jobs.
This is not malicious behaviour but just a desire to get stuff done in a way that works for them.
Self-service should not be a reactive and defensive strategy. It should be proactive, allowing end users some choice and to request change that can be delivered quickly without impacting IT significantly and ensuring compliance. It will lead to better control of IT, free up resource to – manage new projects, implement that new technology and advise the business on new initiatives to better support the growth of the business.
Not only that, offering a managed self-service facility can lead to a happy end user community, who are more prepared to do things the right way.
AUTOMATION IS THE KEY
To enable self-service, two things are needed. An accurate inventory of your current estate is essential and the ability to automate processes that support self-service is critical. Both ensures that offering these services to your users does not mean you need to double the IT workforce.
In fact, self-service and automation, done correctly, frees up IT resource from the drudgery of repetitive user requests.
And it doesn’t need to be complicated.
There are many opportunities for automation, but we will pick a few obvious ones here to demonstrate what and how.
At the heart of IT from an end-user’s perspective is the software and services they have access to. Being able to manage and automate software delivery and enablement will have the biggest impact for your users.
Software Approval Workflows
Allowing users to request the software, applications and services directly, with integrated workflow management to approve, decline or change requests frees up your IT staff from repetitive tasks and delivers quickly to your users.
But this comes with challenges. How do to manage this? What do you manage? How do you remain compliant? How do you ensure your users are using safe software?
So many questions and without inventory impossible to answer.
The first task has to be to normalise your software estate. Using effective discovery and inventory with the addition of software recognition you can start to get a handle on this. Knowing what you have allows you to start to decide what you want, which PDF Reader will become standard, which version of WinZip is acceptable and whether the expensive installs of MS Project Professional are being used.
Knowing what your policies need to be, you can now start to enforce. You could allow users to choose the software and services they want from a business approved catalogue or ensure that unapproved software is removed automatically.
To achieve this, you will need advanced software packaging and deployment, rules and systems. Being able to integrate other processes in the workflow, such as license entitlement checks and actions and integration with Active Directory is the enabler of automation. Software deployment should be able to automate all the steps needed when deploying either a physical piece of software or enabling an account in a hosted platform.
With a clear view of all your installed software, and the added value of being able to identify multiple versions and applications used for the same purpose, you will be able to create a optimised application environment.
Having your common software and services wrapped up into software deployment packages you can now start your journey towards self-service. Publish your standard applications to an accessible portal to allow users to find and request the software and services they need.
Integrating workflow and approval checks streamline the deployment to the point where the entire process can be fully automated, with no manual intervention from IT whilst ensuring control over what is deployed to who and when.
When building software deployment processes, you need to be able to cater for any number of situations and take appropriate action depending on the circumstance at each step.
Target machine configuration. Does it meet the minimum requirements of the requested software and if not create a service desk ticket.
Are there available licenses? If yes automatically update the license, if not, notify the responsible person, maybe even create a purchase order based on a standard asset profile, and keep the user updated with a service desk ticket.
Does this application or service need physically deploying or is it delivered as a service? Deploy the software to the target machine or enable the service directly from the package.
Is this user’s machine on the network? If not ensure the package can be delivered regardless of where the user is located, on the other side of the planet or in a coffee shop just down the road.
When does the user want the software installed? Allow the user to interact with the process, ensuring their working day is not disrupted.
Flexible Deployment Designer
Build intelligent software deployment packages to automate common tasks. Implement with rules and you have a completely automated software deployment process. Automate the update of out of date software and removal of unwanted software, and you have the basis for a completely managed software estate.
Being able to cover these, and many other questions will allow effective delivery to your end users, whilst keeping you informed and in control.
Support the Business Silently
Not everything will be a request from a user, sometimes change needs to be enforced, whether that be upgrading to the latest version, or ensuring that that piece of unwanted application appearing on the network is automatically removed whenever it is discovered.
Being able to automate, based on rules, will keep your software estate in-line with policy, reducing the burden on support and keeping your estate secure.
Software delivery automation is one, very visible benefit, but there are many more opportunities for automation and self-service.
New employee processes, allow a new starter process to be initiated via the service desk, allow the requester to select the new user’s role, the hardware they will need and access to the services, files and network resources they require based on their role. And when you have this, the ability to execute all of the tasks needed from a single interface with integrated processes will enable this to be completed quickly and efficiently.
On the flip side, and one that can be easily forgotten is when a user leaves the business. Being able to quickly identify all assets such as hardware, software, services etc. allocated to the user is essential.
Software deployment or perhaps this should be called “service enablement”, should not only enable delivery of software and services, it should also facilitate the reclaiming of software and licenses, removal of access and rights. If the discovery and inventory process included details of the services and software being used, this should be made significantly simpler and bring confidence that the business has not been left exposed.
We have talked about automation and how it delivers a better user experience whilst maintaining control and without being a hinderance. The key to this is the initial and ongoing visibility of the IT estate.
We have all heard of the saying “Eat the Elephant one bite at a time”, a truer statement has never been made towards IT automation and the enablement of self-service. If you tackle the elephant in one go, you will have a hard time. If you take it one bite at a time you will more likely succeed, just make sure you pick the right utensils.
DeskCenter Management Studio is designed to support the entire process from discovery and inventory, software deployment automation, process automation from the time you get that latest and greatest new piece of kit, to the point you need to send it off for recycling.
To learn more about how the DCMS can help you achieve your goals and deliver a world class service to your users get in touch.
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