Service desk automation is increasing our value to customers

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By Jamie Sayer on

At Silversands our Service Desk is always trying to provide the maximum value to our customers. This is an example where initiative and the application of automation means our team can use their time more effectively for this customer.

Background

The old mantra ‘time is money’ is as true in the IT service desk world as anywhere else.
Service desk managers are always on the hunt for any efficiency that can be made without compromising quality of service. When they see their service desk dealing with a significant number of similar simple and repetitive requests, these are prime targets for automation. Our own service desk manager is no different and in this case, it was myself. I’m a big fan of any opportunity to automate and generate a potential saving.

The Opportunity

A new challenge for service desks with the growing adoption of Office 365 is the requirement to assign SKUs to users and to manage the fine-grained control of the features enabled within a SKU. Silversands has assisted many customers in this area. Provided solutions range from tactical single-use scripts for Office 365 feature roll outs, to implementing Azure AD group based license assignments. In addition, a growing number of our customers have us to provide a Managed Service offering, which includes management of these features.

It was in this context that I noticed that we were receiving a growing number of requests from our Managed Service customers for the Office 365 SKUs. The steps our engineers were taking to fulfil these requests were well documented, but also simple and repeatable, and as such I decided could be automated relatively easily. While my motivation was in part – of course – to improve the efficiency of the service desk, it was also in part because I had been assigned a number of these requests myself!

The Service Desk Solution

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The requests of the type covered by the automation originate either in a queue within our customers own service desk products or are raised with us directly by email or phone. Our own service desk team raise these requests in our own native Service Manager system. Within Server Manager, our service desk team configures eligible tickets with the correct classification type and ensure the user name field is populated, before assigning the ticket to a member of our engineering team. After performing some simple validation of the request, the engineer then changes the ticket status to ‘Ready to Automate’.

This action triggers a PowerShell script within the Service Manager workflow engine. The PowerShell script in turn makes a simple HTTPS POST to one of a number of Azure Automation Webhooks hosted in Silversands’ Azure tenancy, depending on the request type. The encrypted payload typically includes the username to be processed. The triggered Azure Automation Runbook then takes up the strain and gets to work configuring the user within the customer tenancy. It does this by using credentials stored in a secure Credentials Object, making a connection to the customer’s Azure AD PowerShell API.

On completion, the Runbook sends an email with the result of the operation and diagnostic logging in case of errors. The email is consumed to the email based ticket update service in Service Manager. This attaches the output to the Service Manager incident, and changes the ticket status to ‘Automation Complete.’

Conclusion

The amount of time taken by Silversands engineers fulfilling these requests has been greatly reduced. This allows them to spend more time on more challenging issues our customers present us with. We continue to look at our own processes to see what other processes could benefit from automation. And we encourage our customers to do the same, especially if we can help them with the process! The possibilities are great and varied and often the only limitation is the willingness to innovate and invest some time.

How can Silversands help?

Silversands is ready to work with you to perform the analysis and implementation of automation for your IT processes. If you have any questions regarding Silversands Support Services, or Professional Services, please complete and submit the form below. Also take a look at our latest events and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up with our regular blogs and commentary.

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