Whether you’re serving B2B customers or your internal staff, a stellar customer experience now includes self-service. DevOps teams, other creators, and teams like HR expect to have self-service IT capability to handle routine tasks, avoid help desk tickets and a wait time for resolution. With organizations looking to conserve resources and IT staff time, self-service IT has experienced a ‘wild west’ rush by teams who relish the autonomy and efficiency it provides. However, self-service IT, like any other platform that touches business and privacy data, needs controls to ensure security, data governance and budget accountability. The challenge is to strike a balance between user empowerment and putting these guard rails in place.

Self-service IT is well suited for activities that are highly repeatable and structured. HR and benefits portals, high-volume IT services such as password resets, software provisioning and knowledge sharing tools are typical use cases. More advanced uses include self-service provisioning of applications or infrastructure and AI-assisted troubleshooting.

A common misconception is that self-service IT can be managed as a “set it and forget it” operation. The reality is that users have varying skills related to automation. Ongoing training and support must occur, with clear instructions on using automated tools. This will enable users to satisfactorily resolve issues and achieve results.

Sometimes self-service tools don’t provide the desired solution. In these cases, users can be left feeling frustrated and isolated (e.g., “I just want to talk to a person who can help me”). There must be a clear and seamless escalation path for users, giving them the option of human support.

To further a CX-level experience, any self-service platform must have a product owner and support team which proactively seeks user feedback and fine-tunes automation processes based on that feedback.

Taking an omni-channel approach is also important. Just like consumers, self-service IT users want to use chat, SMS, and traditional voice bots, among others. Meeting their customers where they need to be at that moment is key to success with self-service.

Challenges and Controls

It is imperative that IT leaders don’t confuse self-service IT with DIY. While it is valuable to allow users and customers to interact with IT (provisioning, usage, support, etc.), these interactions need to be executed in a carefully constructed and automated fashion. Setting up guard rails enables users to get what they need quickly and easily, while maintaining critical controls. Otherwise, organizations risk self-service IT becoming another version of Shadow IT, which can lead to a security breach, unauthorized network interaction and cost overruns.

As part of implementing controls, self-service platforms should include robust monitoring and analytics related to activity. This allows organizations to get a complete picture of IT support activity and needs.

One example of finding balance between innovation and controls is the recent emphasis on platform engineering (part of the continual evolution of DevOps, DevSecOps, SRE, etc.). A foundational tenet of DevOps is the concept of developer self-service: choose your tool, build it, and run it.  In many cases, however, this has created challenges around security, governance, resiliency/scalability, and cost management. Platform engineering aims to strike a better balance (with modern processes and tooling) that provides the developers the flexibility and agility they need (self service) with the controls that protect the organization. It can also address other aspects that an individual developer or team may not have considered.

The Benefits

Self-service IT helps the employee focus on higher-value tasks and avoid repetitive, error prone tasks that can easily be accomplished through computer aided automation. Its mission is not to reduce the workforce but to support employees’ happiness by giving them time to do meaningful work.

In an era of competitive digital innovation, it also promotes digital literacy among users as they become more adept at navigating automated IT systems.

From an organizational perspective, self-service IT can be a powerful aspect of ITSM, eliminating wasted spend on tasks that can be automated, allowing more time for creativity and innovation, and moving one step closer to a true digital, CX business.