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The biggest misconception affecting the IT end user community is the true cost to provide business critical applications and the day-to-day operations required to support them.

There are environmental, hardware, support, personnel, software costs and a large majority of end users in businesses of all sizes who are removed from these costs because there has never been an easy method to show them actual costs. Take for example, a typical user request for a software title. The user would email or call the support desk and request the title. The user doesn't care about licensing, the cost of the software or the time and effort it took to package the software in a format that could be delivered electronically.

The user isn't aware of the time he is taking away from the helpdesk admin to assist him when he asks for the software. It's not that the cost of IT doesn't matter to the user, he just doesn't have any idea of what is actually involved. However, with a Self Service portal the user can see how much it is going to cost his company or even his department to provide the software he wants.

Some questions to answer:

1. Will showing the costs of software enable end users to search for less expensive software or free software?

2. Will putting the cost of IT as a line item in each service catalog entry in the self service portal (software, hardware and other IT related services) illustrate to the end user that IT services are not free as well as illustrate IT true value?

3. How can I get my helpdesk to be more proactive than reactive order takers?

4. What is the estimated amount of time my helpdesk spends on 1-off software request?

5. How do I justify the cost of the self service portal?

The struggle that CIOs, managers and IT department heads have is how to provide the cost associated with IT to the end users so they can make the best decisions, keep costs down and maintain or increase productivity. But here's a potential answer: an ITIL-certified service catalog connected to a self service portal that makes it possible (and even desirable) for users to handle the majority of their IT needs by themselves.

Let's examine several typical scenarios:

1. Mary needs to view Microsoft Project files as part of a Windows 7 migration project she is working on. With the company's self service IT portal, Mary does a search on the software in the service catalog and finds MS Project and MS Project Viewer. The cost of MS Project is, for example, $99.00 and MS Project Viewer is free. Mary reads the detailed description of the software in the self service portal and determines that she only needs MS Project Viewer. She completes the order and it is routed to her manager Dave. Dave gets the request, approves it and the software is automatically provisioned and deployed by the IT department's centralized systems management software.

2. Let's stay with Mary and Dave. Now Mary needs software she can use to save and send documents that cannot be altered to customers. In the self-service portal there are two software titles available to perform that function. Normally Mary would order the name brand software; however, software 'A' is $50.00 more expensive than the generic brand software 'B'. Based on the detailed description of the software, Mary selects 'B' because it does everything she needs and being fiscally responsible she knows it will save her company money. She submits her request and it is approved. Again her software is provisioned, deployed and installed automatically on her computer.

3. Dave's company has also deployed a self service portal. Dave has determined that he will empower all new employees to receive $2000 for the purchase of hardware, software and other IT related services needed for their job requirements for the year. Dave has worked with IT and procurement to put together bundles of hardware, software and other equipment needed for his group based on job requirements. Based on the $2000 Dave can now budget for each new employee and knows that he will be within his constraints.

These are just a few ways a self-service portal can align IT as a service.

Now we'll turn our attention to the ways an end user portal can assist the company's helpdesk and save money by allowing the Service Desk team to be more proactive.

Whether the help desk serves 500 users or 5,000, several issues are always the same: deploying software to multiple users through an automated platform is an easy task, even for thousands of users. But for every organization, it's the "one-offs" that overwhelm the helpdesk and require the bulk of the hands-on IT support. Systems management company Matrix42 recently ran a survey of IT managers asking the question: What percentage of your service tickets are for one-off software deployments? Of 407 respondents, more than 50% of respondents said that 25% - 80% of their service tickets were related to one-off software deployments.
It's actually possible to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of a self-service portal in months, not years. In the scenarios above, Mary saved her company of 5000 employees $150 apiece on just two software requests. The savings are in addition to the costs she avoided by not calling the helpdesk to fulfill the request. Imagine saving $150 for every user over the course of 6 months. In this example, the company would save $750,000.

  • Number of employees = 5000

  • Estimated cost of software = 37.80 per user

  • Total cost of software for the enterprise = $189,000.00

  • If every user saves as much as Mary = $750,000.00

  • Savings of $561.000.00 for the IT budget
By empowering end users to request software, hardware and other IT services, IT managers can make the value of IT completely transparent. In the current business economy, I maintain that IT will meet its fullest potential when it becomes IT as a Service, making software, hardware, services and costs entirely transparent, and as available as possible for users to secure for themselves.



About the Author

Travis Davis is the Director of Technical Services at Matrix42, a leader in configuration and change management, service desk and service catalog that provides solutions for small and large organizations. Davis was a contributing author for Windows 2000 Security Handbook and the technical editor for NT Server 4 in the Enterprise and other MCSE topics from Que Publishing. For expanded information on self-service software portals and IT as a Service, visit www.matrix42.com.

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