Executive Viewpoint 2013 Prediction: Tools4ever

By Dean Wiech (Profile)
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Thursday, January 24th 2013
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As the US economy slowly gains traction, IT budgets are likely to remain flat or only have modest increases for 2013. As such, IT personnel will continue to look for ways to make the organization and infrastructure run more efficiently. CIOs will definitely focus on projects that provide a substantial return on investment and on high visibility projects – those that have a significant impact on the most number of employees possible. Below are several areas I predict will be of particular interest to the technology departments in business, government, education and healthcare.

Employee Self Service

Any time a process is put in place that can eliminate calls to the help desk, it will result in a tremendous time savings. As such, the trend toward employee self-service will continue through 2013. HR departments started this trend decades ago when they allowed employees to look up benefits, vacation time remaining and other repetitive tasks without contacting a representative. The trend is continuing in the IT group with tasks, such as password reset and requesting access to distribution list, network shares and specific applications.

Self-service reset password applications have been around for several years now and continue to prove their value. Businesses and schools that have not already adopted this technology will do well to investigate in the coming year. Much like a banking website, end users enroll via a series of challenge questions and, should they forget their password, are able to reset directly from the network login screen or a website. This eliminates a call to the help desk and allows the employee to become productive immediately instead of waiting in the help desk phone queue. Two-factor authentication (2FA) enhances security in this area, as well. Delivery of a one-time use PIN code via SMS or email insures the person resetting the password is the actual employee.

Another area of self-service involves employees who need access to distribution groups, network shares or applications they currently cannot access. Normally this involves a phone call to the help desk or a paper process requiring multiple signatures that end up in the IT group. Using workflow processes, the employees can initiate the request from a web page on the company Intranet and, depending on the request, have it electronically routed to the individuals responsible for approval. In some scenarios, involvement from the IT department may not be necessary if an automated provisioning process is in place or may only need to perform the final step when notified via the workflow system.

Cloud Applications

As solutions like Gmail and Office 365 continue to gain traction in the corporate and education environments, being able to provision and de-provision accounts in a timely fashion becomes critical to controlling costs. While many companies have implemented identity management solutions for Active Directory, implementing a seamless process to these cloud applications can be a challenge. Though both Google and Microsoft offer tools to synchronize AD with their respective products, they reportedly fall short in many areas and can make account management a tedious chore.

Many vendors offer advanced tools to allow for painless synchronization and management of accounts in these, and many other cloud applications. As most cloud solution providers invoice based on the number of active users in any given month, insuring that user accounts are decommissioned in a timely fashion can lead to incremental savings.