Leverage your service desk to cut corporate provisioning costs and better manage software across your entire organization!
Linda woke up this morning with a great idea! She’d been working on an executive analysis all week … and she still hadn’t been able to find a way to control the data coming at her from all directions. But this morning she figured it out. All she needed to complete the analysis was a copy of Microsoft Visio 2010 (a great tool, by the way, if you’ve never tried it). So when she got to her desk with a topped-off latte, she was ready to rock some diagrams and knock the socks off the big guy upstairs.
But hold on … she doesn’t have Visio on her system. Some of her colleagues have it, so the company must be licensed. But how does Linda go about getting her own install? To borrow an age-old cliché … who’s she gonna call?
The Evolution of IT Help Desks to Service Desks – More Than Just a New Name
More and more, enterprises are leveraging an old friend – the help desk - to help with these questions. Of course, we’ve migrated away from such an old-fashioned term. These days, in keeping with the ubiquitous ITIL framework, we’re seeing the appearance of “Service Desks.” Whereas a traditional help desk focuses on solving IT problems, a Service Desk can be used as the central point of contact for ANY kind of assistance.
Need a new keyboard? Call the Service Desk. The lightbulb above your desk is burned out? Call the Service Desk. Someone hit the brew button once too often on the coffeemaker? Call the Service Desk. Need a copy of Microsoft Visio 2010 to complete your analysis? You get the idea.
Another difference between traditional help desks and Service Desks is what happens when you call. Since help desks were usually limited to solving IT problems (password resets, for the most part), an agent could be relied on to close a large percentage of the calls that came in. Service Desks, on the other hand, are designed to handle a wide range of problems and may serve only to trigger a completely non-IT workflow – getting that lightbulb changed, for example. One person is unlikely to have the breadth of skills necessary to address every task. The fact is, many Service Desk systems rely heavily on front-end technology – user-friendly, automated ticketing systems – rather than humans as the first point of contact.
Consolidation of Corporate Provisioning Tasks into the Service Desk Saves Time and Money
Getting back to our need for software, why wouldn’t your Service Desk play a role in serving that need? Provisioning a software license can be broken down into a simple workflow, particularly for those applications purchased through a volume license agreement, like a Microsoft EA. Every step in the process benefits from data input from a number of other systems, such as your procurement tools or a Configuration Management Database, and most of them can be automated. Other steps may require manual intervention. All of these are traits of the kind of workflows commonly served by Service Desks. And most sophisticated Service Desk applications, like those from Service-now.com, Altiris, BMC and others, include engines to supply the data integration and automation.
Figure 1 outlines a simplistic view of a software acquisition workflow. There are several components that will require some very sophisticated configuration. Others will require a manual process.
So, let’s use the Visio example to walk through the process:
Step 1 – Linda wakes up one morning and decides she needs this handy application to complete her project. Latte in hand, she opens the company’s Service Desk portal and logs a new request. It can be as simple as filling in a free-form text field or picking from a predefined list of corporate-standard applications. Clearly, the closer you get to the latter, the more automated the system becomes.
Step 2 – The Service Desk workflow now takes over. Is the user authorized for this application? Does an approval need to be obtained from his manager? As you can see, integration with an Active Directory structure or HR application can help with this stage. And the complexity of the process can differ depending on the software requested. Visio may be a corporate standard app approved for anybody with the title of “manager” or above. Oracle’s Primavera project management tools may be a special order requiring VP sign-off.
Step 3 – Once all the approvals are obtained, the system can leverage a license management system to find out if a license is already available.
Note – One of the most underutilized assets in many organizations is its backlog of applications that were recaptured from retired assets. The Service Desk process can make sure a license is available before it ever bothers someone in procurement. Only if there are no licenses available does the workflow engage with a procurement system to kick off the ordering process. Similarly, if the license is covered under a volume purchase agreement like an Enterprise or Select agreement that allows for monthly or annual true-up, the new license request may be logged but no actual order is triggered. These “tracking orders” can then be aggregated when it comes to true-up time.
This process can be engaged even for newer cloud-based applications. It really doesn’t matter to the system. It’s just as easy to kick off a workflow to provision a new user account for a subscription service like Saleforce.com or MS Office 360. More important, the user doesn’t know or care. One call to the Service Desk and she’s off to productivity nirvana.
Once the license has been procured, the final link is to a software distribution system, such as Microsoft’s SCCM or Symantec’s Altiris. Assuming it’s a corporate standard app, the software is pushed to the user’s machine and installed (or a virtual app is spun up and delivered). The user launches Visio, completes that complex analysis and closes that elusive “big account.”
It’s not far-fetched to imagine this entire process being completely automated and executed in a matter of minutes. Perhaps the automated portions are limited to the most common applications, while more esoteric apps are still handled manually. But imagine the efficiency gains if you can streamline delivery for just the top 20 applications in your environment. And at every juncture, you’ve checked that the proper information is captured to feed your ongoing Software Asset Management systems to ensure ongoing compliance.
Most important, your user community knows who they’re gonna call. Regardless of whether the software they need is MS Visio, Oracle Primavera or Rothwell PaleoGIS, their first stop is the Service Desk. From there, the sky’s the limit.
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