I’m going to switch gears on the automation topic now. It’s natural to think of scripts, packages, images, tools, triggers, and actions when you think of automating IT tasks. We automate our technical things with more tech. But what if we removed ourselves from the equation some other way? Are there tasks that we are holding onto that we could use to empower other, non-technical humans to do instead?

 

Don’t rush off to outsource your monitoring checks to someone on Fiverr. Instead, we’re going to talk about what we can get our users to do for themselves, without breaking anything.

 

Self-service password reset - In a cloud SaaS world, we’re used to a lovely little “Forgot your password?” link that will send a reset link to our recorded email address. For better security, you’d want 2FA or some secret questions as well. Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory lets you enable this for your users and, for a change, it’s not on by default. If you have directory synchronization and password write-back turned on, presto! Your users have just reset their own on-premises AD password, too. If your AD isn’t connect to the cloud, a ton of third-party vendors jumped on this need to create paid tools of their own to achieve this for you. Might be worth a look if you have high help desk stats for password resets.

 

AD automation – While we’re on the subject of AD, how manual is your process for creating new user accounts? Have you played with CSVDE or PowerShell as a scripted input method? Could you take that to the next level and wrap a workflow around it that gets HR to enter the correct data (first name, last name, role, department, etc.) that could then feed into your script and run an automation user creation process? There are third- party tools that handle this, including the workflow and an approval step.

 

Azure Active Directory Premium also offers dynamic group membership. You can set attributes on a user object (such as, Department) and have a group that queries AAD and automatically adds/removes members based on that attribute, for access to resources. Now, if you could automate HR submitting a web form that changes the Department value in AD, you are now hands-off. Sounds good in theory, but is anyone using it?

 

Chatbots as help desks – We've previously talked about chatbots saving the world (or not). They are good at providing answers to FAQ-style queries, for sure. Facebook for Work and Microsoft Teams certainly think it’s important to support bots in their collaboration tools. Has anyone replaced their help desk with a bot, yet? Are users helping themselves with this modern day Clippy replacement? Or is this tech gone mad?

 

Aside from the bots, are we seeing collaboration tools enabling users to help each other with questions they may otherwise call the help desk for? Are we using those tools to communicate current IT known issues, to reduce incoming call volumes? Is it working?

 

Let me know if you’ve managed to automate yourself out of a process by enabling someone else to do it, instead.