The Self-Service Approach to Collaboration

By Christian Buckley posted 05-29-2014 19:43


IT Departments are used to multiple requests for support. And these requests run the gamut from desktop support to connection issues. All too often appeals for certain reports are included in these requests. This means when a user needs some data as a report or to create a report, IT must get involved and run the queries to collect the data. This can be extremely time-consuming, especially when it is multiple users making multiple requests, and frequently for the same data set.

Another by-product can be a significant time delay, as well. Information worker roles can be very demanding, and the turn-around time on IT projects must be quick to keep up with the pace of the business. It can be very frustrating when end users must wait for IT to gather and send reports or build out solutions. In the typical IT scenario, work is put on hold until the user receives the information they need to continue the task at hand.

Collaboration platforms such as SharePoint provide an alternative. It is known as a “self-service” approach to information. Rather than a centralized "command and control" approach to collaboration, this empowers the user to access the desired data in real time for them to finish their task at hand. This self-service approach can take many forms.

Example 1: The most common example in the self-service approach to data is for reporting. By utilizing items like calculated fields, users can quickly create useful data for the team and management. As users create views to surface this data, a report can be automatically created allowing parties to see data at any time. This grants access to data when users need it without requiring additional resource time. Perhaps the sales manager wants to keep track of how many items are sold per quarter, and the VP of sales wishes to track gross sales year to date. Views can be created granting people direct access to this information. Permissions can also regulate who can see which views ensuring people are only seeing what they need, while the user can post all information and views to the same place.

Benefits: Once IT staff has configured the system to meet the self-service needs of the user, IT  can now focus their time on more urgent user support and business critical tasks at hand. This will also create efficiency in time management of the user and management as they can create and access important data at the time they need it.

Example 2: It is open enrollment time for company benefits. Forms that users need can be posted in a document library so users can access these when they need to – either during the day or even after hours when they may be evaluating potential enrollment changes.

Benefit: Users have access to form that they need when they are ready to work on the task. It can also reduce organizational costs such as mailing. Another time saving benefit is that HR staff will not have to spend time responding to lost form emails and sending out duplicate forms to users.

Example 3: Users need to access their HR information, such as remaining vacation, sick leave, etc. This information can be configured and made available via a web part on a user’s My Site, for example. This data can then be accessed by users when they need to see this information. IT and HR can control access to this information through permissions to maintain privacy, but users now have this important information available at a glance.

Benefit: This will save on time for HR staff fielding requests for this data from multiple users. Also, users will have real time updated data and not have to rely on stale data from their last paystub.

Most of these self-service options are available out of the box from SharePoint. The remainder is a collaboration between IT and user need. As the SharePoint environment is being planned the needs of the end users and their necessary access to data should be accounted for within the configuration of the environment. This will, in the end, create a smoother transition to a self-service approach in the organization. Otherwise there may be quite a bit of re-work in obtaining a satisfactory SharePoint environment to meet the needs of users and management.

Another advantage of a self-service approach to data is a cost savings across the enterprise. IT staff time is reduced by allowing users to access information normally accessed only by IT staff. Resource time across departments is better managed as people will not be using time to respond to multiple similar requests. Resources now have more time to work on important business tasks. Plus other savings can be realized such as reduction costs in mailing, communication and infrastructure.

It can sometimes be thought that IT should hold the power to access data (command and control). The thinking is that this model keeps the data more secure -- and it can also be seen as a vehicle for job security. But times are changing, and organizations that restrict data more often than not find that their end users go around IT to get their jobs done.

Business is moving at a quicker pace and access to information in a timely manner will support an agile business approach, granting users access to information they require at the time they require it. And in the end, which would ensure job security – time consuming generation of multiple reports (often the same reports for different departments and users), or the ability to execute on business objectives and goals driving business forward and enhancing growth?

#governance #Collaboration #SharePoint #reporting #InformationGovernance #sharepoint #selfservice