End users not ready to cut the cord, resist self-service IT

Self-service IT administration could lighten the workload for IT admins, but it also raises security issues.

HOUSTON – Enterprise IT shops that want to lighten their workloads can give end users self-service administration, and while some employees readily oblige, others want no part of it.

But the movement to self-service IT requires a transformational change, and some administrators here this week at the Microsoft TechEd conference say end users are not ready to take that on.

Providing a self-service managed IT model could enable end users to receive faster support but also create headaches for IT.

"What I'm seeing is a bigger push for non-corporates and non-IT [workers] to run managed IT," said Steven Hosking, consultant engineer at Vigilant IT in Australia. "It's great for empowering the end users, but it makes it difficult for the IT guys," he said.

Traditionally, information workers waited for IT to push applications, but the onset of mobility and bring your own device has changed the mind-set toward self-service to some degree. Business users can now download apps to their smartphones or tablets to get their jobs done, and they expect IT to provide this kind of support just as quickly.

Today, there are a number of cloud-based self-service portals for providing IT resources to users quickly. Progressive organizations adopt self-service models because their business units are moving to the public cloud, according to a Microsoft spokesman.

How to push end users out of the nest

For a self-model to work, end users' mind-sets must shift from always relying on IT admins.

"It is a necessary step," said Hamid Kavian, a solution architect at Phat Consulting GmbH in Hamburg, Germany. Even if end users resist the self-service model, he believes it is his role to get them moving more aggressively toward this kind of support.

This will depend on how well IT implements the process.

IT must explain the technology and offer hands-on training, said Reiner Lange, owner of Lange IT Consulting in Soest, Germany. If there are processes to build a self-service manager, and IT teaches end users, they can go to a website and make their selections, he added. 

Companies such as ABM Industries Inc., which has a diverse set of businesses, said it's up to IT pros to promote the self-service model to their end users.

"Most IT organizations don't communicate well," said Andre Garcia, assistant vice president of global infrastructure at Houston-based ABM. "There are opportunities for many different places to be touch points between motivating that culture and adoption."

"Part of the problem is that self-service websites use a complicated name, and it has to be simple access and accessible for a corporate intranet," Garcia said. If IT shops publish monthly or quarterly updates on the services they provide, these actions could help the organizations, he added. Or, a help desk recording could simply remind users to change their own passwords.

Reinforce the education on a regular basis, he noted.

The self-service security dilemma

While self-service may free up time for IT, security problems could arise from giving users administration rights.

Approximately 31% of IT users had administrator access privileges, according to a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute of more than 500 IT administrators. The growth of users with administrative rights is due to the proliferation of mobile devices and the cloud, as well as the inability to control app use.

"Many organizations give them access because it's easy," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, a research firm in Traverse City, Mich.

While a self-service model could make IT more efficient and allow it to retain control over corporate environments, IT still needs to maintain them with management tools such as Microsoft Intune or System Center Configuration Manager because those are tasks end users cannot perform on their own.

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