Can it be Self Service without Automation?
Leading IT shops like to have a single pane of glass that is the IT storefront to all employees. This is a very noble goal. Having worked at a few large companies this is indeed a moving target as supporting the end user employee can mean a lot of different entry points, contexts and presentation technologies. When it comes to have a central location for ordering services it is very important to on board all of the employee based and data center services in a consistent fashion. Some of the key use cases include employee on boarding (and off boarding), virtual desktops, virtual machines and physical servers in the datacenter and access to applications. Typical IT departments may have several hundred orderable services, many of which are bundled (think of employee on boarding).
Interestingly some organizations first drive towards a common catalog and then automate what they can afterwards. At first you can take orders through the service catalog and then work the tasks to fulfill the request through manual process tracking. Alternatively I have seen some shops say that they will only put services in the catalog that can be automated. Then there are all the intermediate cases. Organizations deploying automated request management have many issues to consider and standards to be set.
Can we declare victory when a process is mostly manual but yet orderable from a catalog in four clicks? Perhaps…
Your end users are happy. They can see where their request is in the process flow. Kind of like going to fedex.com and seeing where that DVD is on its journey to your house. But that package took 3 days to traverse its journey.
Considered an automated fulfillment or provisioning process. In my above analogy, you are no longer dealing with DVDs shipping to your house but on demand video streaming. A simple click sets into motion many automated processes that deliver the movie to your device. For end user services this means your remote access is provisioned with a simple click, your Linux server and application stack is delivered in less than 15 minutes for use. Key to making that happen is a full automated process. Is that achievable in all cases? Perhaps….
In most cases what we are provisioning requires a northbound API (an programming interface above the fulfillment system) to accomplish the instantiation of the service. Oftentimes, in legacy environments the target system is so dated or under invested-in that an API does not exist. It is pretty hard to automate a process that can only occur through a human interfacing with the system.
People ask me the question: So What? We have found that by automating processes we can save on average 30% of the process cost. Multiply that by tens of thousands of requests and it will really add up.
Investing in Self Service requires investing in automation and in some cases, wrapping an API around a legacy environment in order to get the desire result: IT as a Service, delivered at the speeds needed by our end users.