Ben Demaree, Director of Product Management, SMA Technologies
It’s time to empower your end-users to resolve their requests themselves.
Before they became our clients, several organizations were facing the following challenges:
- Common user requests required excessive IT intervention
- Users accidentally made harmful configuration changes or deleted important data because they were improperly trained and had too much access
- Users with deep access created additional security vulnerabilities, particularly with remote offices and traveling employees
In the post-digital transformation organization, end-users need to be far more technology literate and capable of using a variety of applications to do their jobs. However, many of these individuals are not software savants and it’s likely a waste of time and money to train them on the intricacies of your software stack. It robs your IT team’s time when you must support this training and then frequently get requests from users who are stuck on some part of a highly manual process that could easily be automated.
A financial analyst doesn’t need to know how to use the 17 different backend applications your enterprise uses to aggregate the data they’re going to analyze; they only need to know how to request that data so that they can analyze it and provide value to your business. It should be very easy for them to access this data in a secure fashion that doesn’t leave your enterprise open to security risks. It’s your job as an IT leader to deliver a great experience to the end-user that makes it as simple as possible for them to do their job. You can do that by incorporation robust business process automation into your IT automation plan.
Implementing a unified access interface
The solution organizations are choosing to address this challenge is to use a “unified access interface”. I’m using a generic term here, as there are a ton of different names companies are using to describe it. At SMA Technologies we call our solution Self Service, for example. It’s a configurable end-user interface that allows users to do some tasks requiring communication with backend applications but doesn’t require them to have direct access to those applications. When properly executed, it provides a powerful tool for end-users while also eliminating several points of pain for IT staff.
So, how does it work? When the end-user hits the “Generate Transactions Report” button, for example, they’re initiating a workflow on an event-based workload automation platform (WLA). The WLA then proceeds to run the schedule of jobs required to fulfill the request. It communicates with the relevant apps in your enterprise, regardless of where they are hosted, and then feeds the output to the designated program responsible for hosting the report in a readable format. How detailed you want the results depends on your requirements. With PowerShell scripts, it’s possible to automate a lot of tedious steps to save your end-user valuable time. For example, you could script it so the “Generate Transactions Report” request pulls all the data into a spreadsheet -> formats the columns -> auto-populates desired formulas -> renames it -> archives a version of it, and then emails the finalized version to the requestor. Imagine how much time that saves your organization.
The example above illustrates the principles of a unified access interface. I bet you can think of a lot of different scenarios in your organization where some activity that’s currently tedious for end-users could be improved with a bit of event-driven automation. The key takeaway here is that the end-user doesn’t need to have direct access to your database, they don’t need to know how to query the different applications involved, and they don’t have to spend the time manually typing in the multitude of commands necessary to duplicate what can be performed automatically with the click of a button. Your automation team writes the workflow one time and can then duplicate it for any user who needs it. Once you have the principles in place, you can add more workflows and options for end-users to accomplish almost any task you can imagine through a tool like Self Service.
As a bonus to this, your information security team can breathe much easier because you have far fewer users with admin access to critical apps or direct links to your data storage. A unified access interface creates an additional layer of security between the end-user and the core network functions. It’s like having an ATM outside the bank rather than having the customer conduct their business with a teller right in front of an open vault.
A unified access interface is not a stand-alone solution, and it will require a very good WLA platform to execute the automation workflows for the end-user. There are several competing products that address the challenges I’ve highlighted in this blog. Do your homework to determine what’s right for your business, but I bet after you do your homework, you will find our solution is a strong option.
At SMA Technologies we’ve been able to leverage the power and flexibility of our WLA platform, OpCon, to build an incredibly useful unified access interface called Self Service. The interface works on mobile or desktop, so users are still able to initiate workflows even if they’re away from their laptops. Our clients have utilized self-service in a lot of innovative and interesting ways.
• Automatically route IT helpdesk requests and assign techs
• Control data center functions like initiating failover and disaster recovery operations
• Extract and distribute complicated reports that pull from multiple apps and data centers.
If something can be automated with a workflow, we can help you build a Self Service button for end users. We’d love to show you how we can help your organization, so please don’t hesitate to use the form at the bottom of the page to request a demo.
Client highlight: Camaïeu
Camaïeu’s previous automation tool, IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler (TWS), was struggling to keep up with the volume of processes. TWS had minimal flexibility, provided no organization to their workflows and was difficult to integrate with other applications. Besides finding something to address the obvious problems, they also knew they wanted to integrate a Self Service portal to reduce the number of requests to the IT department.
About the author: Ben Demaree is Director of Product Management for SMA Technologies, where he bridges the gap between the clients and the development team to make sure that the clients have the best tool possible to meet their automation demands. When he's not at work, Ben spends his free time with his wife and four children and an interesting variety of pets.