In today’s competitive online market place, creating an excellent user experience is one of the most important tasks for eCommerce sites. It can be the defining reason why customers choose one vendor over another. Along with good customer service and prompt delivery, it can help you compete against stores that charge lower prices. Here, we’ll …
IT Managers: Here Are Your User Management Headaches
Identity, access, BYOD issues are surely a thing in an IT Manager’s daily routine. However, these are not the only things that need to be managed. There are the various different systems, different networks and different applications which are the veins and the neurons of the enterprise.
IT managers need to squeeze some time from their daily routines and find time to face, analyze and solve these problems. Fortunately there are really simple solutions and we discuss them in detail.
Employee self-service is the place to start. There are a lot of areas where it is a waste of resources for the IT department to support users where, in fact, they can solve their own problems. One of these areas are the password resets. In one of my clients, the analysis of the (ITIL) request data revealed that close to 70% of the calls to the help desk involved Windows password resets. We have worked with the company and selected Microsoft’s Forefront Identity Manager application to enable the users to reset their passwords. We have coordinated the launch and told the employees that they have to register themselves to the self-service portal and no more password requests will be fulfilled by the help desk. It worked magically, the help desk took additional responsibilities and the user support team (who were resetting passwords) focused on other, more important areas.
When talking about password resets, let’s also talk about the user provisioning. There are two types of provisioning: onboarding and offboarding (transfers between departments can be considered as offboarding from the old and onboarding to new). To overcome the various tasks, the first thing to do is to speak with the Human Resources department first and set down the workflows. It is best to start the workflows from the HR because their records are accurate (due to payrolls, social security and other legal issues, they have to keep accurate records). When the onboarding workflows are clear with the HR, speak with the other departments and see what the employees are using – for example the sales department, whose employees are using Salesforce application, and therefore need to have Salesforce.com accounts. When the workflows are clear and standardized, use the identity manager application to automate the flows. Not only you will save time but also eliminate the security risks of active accounts of former employees.
Then there are the shifting demands of the workplace. Other than the very traditional and conservative businesses, it is hard to imagine a company who does not have mobile employees and who does not have someone who “didn’t bring his/her own device.” This leads to a couple of additional workloads for the IT department such as accessing corporate resources, mobile device security, shared file access and the like. Again, the workloads can be defined, agreed upon with the senior management and automated. In case of mobile access permission revocation or suspending a user account, automation applications such as Microsoft’s System Center Orchestrator will dramatically help IT departments to reduce the workload. The automation applications have many plugins (some written by 3rd parties) to work with other applications, such as Forefront Identity Manager, being able to manage Salesforce accounts.
Of course there is also the issue of rights management. I find it hard to understand why almost none of my clients do not employ Active Directory Rights Management or a similar tool for managing who has access to what. It is not only automating access control but also about complying with certain legislation (plus, in some cases, procedures such as ISO 27001 – which is about information security). Of course it is not always possible to fully automate every task but at least common tasks can be consistently covered with workflows. For example, one of my clients required to have an Active Directory, Exchange e-mail, Lync instant messaging account for each white collar employee. Although this looks like a trivial task, one help desk, one user support and one Exchange administrator needed to work on every white collar employee, both in onboarding and offboarding. Of course the requirements changed for various departments but automating at least these issues saved significant time.
All these discussions have one crucial point: the directory service must be consistent and up to date. Whether it is Active Directory or the OpenLDAP, all directory data must be in top shape. I frequently discuss this issue of keeping an up to date directory with my clients. Almost all the time it comes to the HR department as I have discussed above. Keeping the directory clean can also be accomplished by ending the onboarding, offboarding and inter department transfer workflows in the domain administrator’s task pool so that he can once again check that everything is in place and finalize the workflow.
Considering how much time all these tasks take individually and how they add up brings up the importance of an identity management and automation solution. The required investment both in terms of money and time will have returns sooner than you can imagine. Especially if you further consider using the time saved from these mundane tasks in more productive projects.
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End User Support: Excuses From The Userland
No matter where you worked in IT support – enterprise, remote, online, consultant, friend, whatever – you have heard many excuses from the end users. When you thought that you heard them all, they begin to be the same over and over again. Only the person who says it differs.
Let’s work the list together.
I didn’t do anything (same as “it was like this when it started”). “Yes, you didn’t do anything. When you were sleeping we came to work, booted up your computer, did all these fouls and shut it down so that we will have a support call in the morning.” is what you want to say, but is it always the truth? After working as a system support engineer, I cannot say that it is always the user’s fault in all of the cases. There are many cases when the computer is improperly installed (using the same image for every different brand/model, anyone?), drivers not installed, computer not configured for the intended use (user’s application(s) not installed?) and in case of rebuilds, backups are not properly restored. The list can go on and on, but you get the point. It is not always the user’s fault.
What/where is the start button? (same as “what is a web browser?”). It is obvious that we are dealing with a user that is at the bottom of the computer literacy scale. The user may be thinking that clicking a shortcut and doing his work in this specific application is all about using a computer. They may have made their way to their desk (they said they know how to use computers in their job application, didn’t they) but this does not change the fact that there is also a responsibility on the corporate side. The IT training should cover everything from the basics – from the start menu to the web browser, and there should be a shortcut in every desktop that launches the support tool/the support site with a click.
This started after I received my computer from you (same as “this was not happening before” or “it wasn’t happening before”). I have to admit that I reach Nirvana when I could not kill the user who said that. I have spent hours on that PC, did your best to get it smoothly working and now I am blamed. And this is one of the times I hate working in support. After all the emotional burst, sometimes I realize that it may be my fault as well. Did I test the computer thoroughly? Is there anything I missed? Did I have the user to test everything? The last question is the tricky part. Have the user make all the tests and confirm everything is OK explicitly, so that you can cover your back later.
I know my way around (same as “I am good with computers”). Imminent danger. This is where the issue is 100% with the user. End users who claim to know their way around are most difficult types of people, can be divided into two species: “I know IT too” user, which I discussed in my previous article and the “mad clicker.” Mad clickers usually click on many buttons in a hurry to show that they really know what they are doing (when they lose control, they perform 10 clicks per second to show that “it’s not working.”) They do not understand how support works, why the support has to understand everything at the first place to analyze things and so on.
I have antivirus installed. There are a couple of sides to that. First, check if the antivirus is a legit copy. I have seen many people that installed counterfeit versions of malware protection suites. Second, tell them that using a computer bears a risk of malware, one kind or another and having an antivirus is not the ticket to do whatever they want. I can say that this is a gray area, where users are not fully aware of the security landscape in today’s computing environment, especially with the drive-by downloads and the tricky questions to lure the user to the back streets of the Internet. IT can address this issue in the trainings.
I don’t do many things on the computer (same as “I don’t visit many websites”, often together with “I have antivirus installed”). It is not a matter of quantity but quality. The user may not be visiting “many” websites but if he is only visiting the dark back streets of the Internet, naively accepting everything he is asked, installing toolbars and Facebook goodies, he has already done his best to accept malware. End users have no idea about what these are and what troubles these bring. Before blaming the user, the IT has to train the users about safe browsing and possibly install a proxy server to block certain websites that are suspected to distribute malware.
Why is it always happening to me (same as “it is not happening to anyone else”). This is one other excuse that users present without having any clue about what they are talking. First, they do not have an issue tracking system to know whether or not many users are having the same issue. Maybe it is a common problem affecting many users. Second, the other users may not be making the same mistake. Third, the other users may not know how to use the technology to that extent. Again, as support people we have to find a way to deal with this, otherwise the next second it goes fully personal and out of control.
This is your job (same as “I pay you for this”). Yes, you do. It is my job to keep things working smoothly, considering that you will be breaking things again and again. However, it is your responsibility to tell the truth on your job application, where you state that you know operating computers and using certain applications. I also understand that you may have done something wrong and it is my job to correct it. Rather than being toxic and rude, try to be calm and kind.
Probably you have heard much more than this. If not, you will be hearing soon. Don’t be 100% sure of yourself all the time, sometimes maybe you have some part of the blame.