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Self-service in IT workload management: Is user control dangerous?

The concept of IT workload automation management is nothing brand new – admins have been able to adjust and maneuver computing resources to optimize workloads for a while.  But self-service brought into the equation – whereby a non-IT business user can make workload processing changes for business transactions – is a whole new beast.


Solutions like BMC Software Inc.’s Control-M Self Service aim to do just that – empower the business user with workload management powers to bypass the time that it would take IT departments to finish workload requests. But is this user empowerment dangerous?


“The question now becomes, ‘How much power do we want to give the end user and how much automation do we really want?’” said Bill Kleyman, director of technology at World Wide Fittings Inc., a manufacturer of steel hydraulic tube and pipe fittings. “There will be instances where giving a user control over a given workload may be in the best interest of the company.”


Examples of this include financial applications running on workloads that may require user attention several times a day between both financial and IT departments, according to Kleyman. With a self-service solution, the end user can modify the workloads his or herself, minimizing waiting periods from IT specialists’ work and allowing small changes for these applications to be made at one’s convenience – much like how a kiosk at a bank works — and saving a company much money in the process.

Even here, though, monitoring and some control on the side of IT seems to be the secret sauce.


“Proper security settings need to be in place so that the user doesn’t ‘accidently’ break something,” continued Kleyman. “On that note, empowering the end-user is a good thing, but to a degree. Since a typical PC user doesn’t fully comprehend the intricate process of allocating computing resources, giving them the ability will have to be a per-case basis.”


If not, opening permissions for say, a marketing person, to make changes to finance workloads could spell disaster, according to Kleyman. In addition, policy-based restrictions need to be in place. With an incorrect workload authorization, the door can be opened for users to accidently click an incorrect button or perform an irreversible action. BMC’s offering has restrictions that allow users to perform actions for only which they are authorized. And it’s these controls – a safeguard of sorts for the IT side – that don’t worry one client about using self-service workload management.


ConAgra Foods Inc. , a BMC Control-M customer since 2005, has plans to implement the product’s self-service version in the next 12-18 months.


John Murphy, IT manager with ConAgra Foods, said that they’d limit creating new jobs to in-house, and only allow the initiation of pre-existing jobs to be maintained. In addition to control via personal mandates, Murphy said that the product itself touts control by being role-based — ConAgra would have the ability to tailor the job menu specific to the individual business user, potentially limiting any “fallout” that could occur in a mistake.


“We like the control to be able to say, ‘these options are low-impact,’” said Murphy, who also noted that continuous education of the business users would also be vital, even with aids within Control-M Self Service that direct non-IT users to the linkages between jobs and provide a visual “map.”


Do you feel comfortable with non-IT users being left to workload management tasks, or do you think that with the controls mentioned, it could work? Sound off in the comments.


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