Do Companies Need Self-Service for the Cloud?

By: Brian Gracely - Leave a comment

According to the NIST definition of Cloud Computing, the first “Essential Characteristic” is on-demand self-service.

In post

Image Source: NIST 800-145

Over time, many people have questioned if that was a necessary element of their cloud. On the surface, providing self-service capabilities to end-users will diminish the role of the IT organization. It’s a similar argument to when robots are being used to replace human workers in factories.

Let’s take a look at when self-service makes sense, and when it might be overkill for the task at hand.

Does Your Business have Software Developers?

Until recently, the growth of many public cloud computing services (IaaS and PaaS) has focused on making things easier for application developers. Startup companies drove some of this, and other aspects were driven by the inability of internal IT organizations to respond to developer needs in a timely manner (e.g. Shadow IT). These public cloud services, such as AWS, Heroku, IBM Bluemix, Red Hat Openshift, have established the user-experience that application developers have come to expect. The experience typically delivers a GUI, CLI and API, which allow developers to access resources that are highly automated.

If your business has software developers, enabling self-service access to cloud resources should be a top priority. Their expectation will be similar to the public cloud services that are readily available to them.

Does Your Business have Repetitive Tasks?

Every business has a set of tasks and procedures that nearly everyone in the company needs to perform. This could be a task such as onboarding a new employee, to ordering supplies for their desk, or coordinating transportation (e.g. flights, hotels, cars). All of these tasks could be codified and automated, such that employees could manage them in a self-service manner.

As companies begin to hire millennial aged workers, who are becoming used to ordering food from restaurants via a mobile app in order to avoid standing in line for coffee or lunch, the need to make simple tasks be managed in a self-service way will help attract and retain talent.

Does Your IT Organization have Repetitive Tasks?

Many IT organizations view self-service capabilities as being the first step in replacing their role in the company. But there are always going to be tasks that only IT needs to be involved with. There will always be applications, networks, storage and other resources that are required to make any business capability function properly. And some of these have to be deployed and updated on a regular basis (e.g. software updates to core applications; adding new user accounts to the WiFi network, etc.). These are not only areas where IT should be focused on automating the task, but should also consider adding them to the self-service capabilities of their cloud environment. This mindset will begin to get them thinking about automating every task possible, and removing the risk of human error on any individual task. There is no reason that an IT task should be delayed because the one person with knowledge of the application is on vacation.

Delivering self-service capabilities will force an IT organization to think about several critical functions that can be broadly beneficial to their business:

  • How to automate the underlying tasks.
  • How to integrate multiple systems to allow the automation to work properly (e.g. interact with APIs and across teams).
  • How to think about presenting various IT functions as “services” to en-users.
  • How to think about replacing repetitive tasks, visible to end-users or internal IT, with automated processes.

Self-service capabilities are a core element of any cloud computing environment, and with some expanded thinking, can benefit more than just application developers.

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About The Author

Brian Gracely

Founder of Cloudcast Media and co-host of The Cloudcast, Lead Cloud Analyst for Wikibon

Brian Gracely is the founder of Cloudcast Media and co-host of The Cloudcast @thecloudcastnet) podcast. He has been recognized a Top 100 Cloud Influencer by several publications. He has previously held leadership positions at Cisco, NetApp, EMC, and Virtustream. He holds BA / MBA from Wake Forest University.