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The Future Of IT: Self-Service IT Transformation Management

A few days before April Fool's Day 2015, Amazon announced its Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service — a service that allows Amazon Prime members to replenish frequently-used products at the push of a Dash Button. While some people were bewildered or amused at first, the retail giant was entirely serious.

The principle is simple: You buy Dash Button for anything you use often, such as paper towels, laundry detergent, pet food or baby formula. If you are running low, you hit the button and voila, your supplies will magically show up at your doorsteps a few days later. Since then, the company has increased its number of available buttons to over 100 and, according to Amazon Dash director Daniel Rausch, orders have grown by more than 75% in the past three months — Dash Buttons are used more than once a minute!

But Amazon isn't done yet. This is only the first step. The ultimate goal is to create a process without physical buttons and the need to order. In a not-so-far-away future, your order will already have left the warehouse before you know you are running low!

Why am I telling you this? Well, you could say that ordering household staples has gone "Business as Usual". And this trend isn't only about laundry detergent and pet food — this is just one example of how the world around us is changing.


(Image Credit: Amazon)

Macro-Trends Driving Major Tidal Shift In How We Approach IT Transformation

According to the Gartner's analysis of the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, there are three major macro trends. The world around us is becoming: 

  • Constantly smarter (think Artificial Intelligence)
  • Increasingly digital (e.g., Virtual Reality or Digital Twins) and
  • More meshed up (as in the Internet of Things).

As a result, people are getting more and more used to 'dumbed down IT'. In our world of IT Transformation and Evergreen IT estate management, you can think of the Amazon button as a big green button you would press to initiate the latest Windows branch upgrade, or order your new laptop. The world is starting to expect things to operate in this way — the old acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) has never been more applicable. Within the next two to three years, your end users will demand to manage their IT infrastructure at the push of a button using self-service. You could say, IT upgrade management will become user-driven.

But back in the real world, this requires a huge leap for most IT teams. Traditionally, they were in the driver's seat and the end user was dependent on them. Large initiatives, such as hardware refreshes or email migration projects, were planned and scheduled far in advance, and delivered by teams of supporting resources. These initiatives were something that was "pushed" (not in collaboration with) — with little or no input into the process from the end users whatsoever. We did not trust them to update their own operating system on time or even understand the implications.

However, this is about to change.

The Rise Of Evergreen IT

In the past 12 months, we have talked a lot about why Evergreen IT should be part of your long-term IT strategy, how to use Windows 10 and Office 365 migrations as stepping stones to achieving Evergreen IT and what steps you need to take before reaching that goal. But we have also mentioned that the technical implementation alone will not get you there.

Self-service is an organizational process that not only touches procurement, management, and finance, but also involves a rethinking in your end-user base. However, since your end users are experiencing this shift towards small, frictionless updates or improvements in their daily personal lives already, most likely they will quickly come on board or even demand this change at their workplace as well.

You probably have already implemented systems for your end users to submit a new request, or allow them to contact the help desk using a chat-based tool. But the change I am talking about is bigger: It involves the ability to trigger their own IT Transformation events.

Since you will need to still somehow control those requested changes, you will need to have appropriate guardrails and policies in place as well as a way to enforce them. For example, you will need an approval workflow and policies around which software can and cannot be installed. Therefore, application normalization and software asset management are critical components to success.

The Pros & Cons Of User Control In IT Migration Services

For many organizations, the transition to user-driven IT will not be a smooth one as it requires a fundamental shift both in how IT delivers services and how the end user initiates them. Today, there is commonly a hybrid approach that gives users control over small requests like a new application provision, while IT controls all 'bulk' change events like OS upgrades, hardware refreshes and common application rollouts.

The cons of self-service IT are often related to the processes that live behind the request, as much as the ability of the end user to initiate a self-service event:

  • User experience and usability of the interface used: Can the users easily understand what they are looking at and how to find what they are looking for? A poorly designed self-service interface can cause more confusion than benefit. 
  • Ability of the system to initiate and manage all of the activities required to deliver the request: Without these processes in place, users do not receive the service that they expect. For example, if I order something from Amazon Prime, my expectation is that it will come tomorrow. Amazon's internal processes need to support this expectation.
  • Relinquishing control from centralized management to end-user initiation can cause chaos if there are no limits on what the users can do.

But while there may be some bumps in the road to self-service IT migration adoption, the benefits can be significant.

  • For starters, the cost of running all of these projects should reduce dramatically. No more teams of scheduling resource, communications resource and deployment engineers — the process could be managed zero-touch with a light touch setup and configuration.
  • End-user migration initiation puts the user in control of the process. Therefore, less having things "done" to them, more having things delivered with them.
  • Finally, IT can become less a service, and more of a platform — much like your home PC. As an end user, the ability to see what is coming up and when it might impact you provides the kind of visibility that can only aid the perception of IT as an enabler.

What You Can Do Now To Start Your User-Driven IT Culture

While self-service IT migration is a concept that is only just gaining traction, there are a number of things you can do now to position yourself for the change ahead.

Let's think back to that Amazon Dash Button. It's effectively a green light to initiate change. I need something, so this is the easiest way to order it. Behind this button is a combination of people, processes, and technology that will deliver the product to you.  In the case of Amazon, much fewer "people" and much more "process and technology".

But think about some of the standard requests in your environment: a new hardware order, a new application provision, a request for a mobile device. These probably all sit within a system like ServiceNow, and are backed with a team of people that will pick up the process and manually complete it.

Now think about IT migration.  We need to deploy the latest feature upgrade to every machine. But how do we know who can press the button and who can not? This is the problem we can start fixing today. By having not only all of the information about all existing assets in one place but also the understanding of the criteria that defines a potential upgrade, we are starting to move towards the Amazon button for our enterprise IT.

Imagine a system that proactively identifies when the next hardware upgrade for individual end users is due, and then gives them the green light to press when and where they want. The same could apply to WIndows 10 upgrades and any other large scale deployment. Fewer big-bang projects. More getting stuff done in 'Business as Usual.' 

So, #1 on the to-do list is to start thinking about such tooling capabilities. And if you are already a Dashworks user, then congratulations — you are already half-way there! 

But putting the right tooling in place is only half the ticket. Systems are only ever as good as the people and processes that feed them. So, #2 is to begin documenting the standard approach you take towards upgrading anything within your end-user IT estate. By beginning to identify the criteria behind a successful upgrade request, you can start to build the logic chain and workflow that sit behind the request delivery. A good workflow diagram will help you simplify the process and identify those pieces of it that can be automated and those which cannot. The green light will only be available to those users for whom it is ready. 

With these two elements in place, you can start to think about the future. Here is just a sneak preview of what this will look like in our Juriba Dashworks software from a management perspective. We're really excited about this new direction — it's the future!

Dashworks Evergreen - Multi-Project.jpg 

Looking Further Into The Future

Allowing users to initiate IT Transformation upgrades is just the first step in a long avalanche of changes.

In the future, we see IT taking a similar path as Amazon does with its Dash Buttons. We will no longer need teams of people analyzing reams of data to figure out what should be happening. We will define general rules (e.g., if Refresh Cycle = 3 Years and Warranty Status = > 3 Years and OS = Windows 10 and Auto-Department Approval = ON, then enable 'Green Light for Hardware Refresh') that will automate much of the IT workload that we have to deal with today,

This might seem far off into the future, but as we see these technologies and methodologies start to gain adoption in the consumer space, there is no going back for us enterprises. Change is coming, and it is going to be constant. As you plan your long-term IT strategy, you need to make sure you can keep up!

Wondering how you can achieve and manage your IT estate as Evergreen IT? Download our IT Transformation Management Tool Buyer's Guide to learn more. 

Click here to download the Dashworks Buyer's Guide