Self-Service: From the Living Room to the Enterprise

By Robert Doswell | 5/18/15

Self-service is something we have come to expect in today’s consumer world. It’s now common practice to perform a variety of banking tasks from home. You also can arrange insurance with one click. You can buy virtually anything desired from anywhere in the world with a simple swipe. Now, variations of this type of self-service are being introduced increasingly within organizations. Since their most significant driver is to cut costs and enhance efficiency through these solutions, what developments might you expect in enterprise self-service? Below is a brief summary.

E-HRM and Facility
Many suppliers of HR self-service solutions currently offer a self-service portal where staff and managers can arrange their own HR affairs 24/7. So, for example, staff can schedule their own vacations or call in sick, and managers themselves can introduce a new staff member into the HR system, keep track of progress interviews and can set or review the salary of an employee. Most HR processes can, thus, be handled online rather than by the HR department. And that makes a difference to staffing in the HR department.

For facility management, employees now have the ability to arrange things themselves without the intervention of the facilities department. This might include requesting a parking space for a visitor or applying for an access card for a new staff member.

These two types of self-service are instilling more awareness of the movement where employees are taking on their own responsibility for many issues within the company. Often they know better than the HR or facilities department just what’s needed. These basic forms of self-service also are a nice springboard to even more self-service within the enterprise, such as authorization management.

Authorization management
Where the self-service portal of HR suppliers stops at personnel administration, it’s also possible to assign the management of authorizations in the organization with identity and access management software. Using a self-service portal, for instance, employees can request access to applications, network shares, functional mailboxes and distribution lists. The manager who must approve the request receives a notification (often by e-mail) that a request must be evaluated. And after approval the software can ensure that the request is processed immediately in the network.

In this way, alongside HR processes, the organization takes on its own responsibility for the authorization management process, and the ICT department is no longer burdened with these duties. That saves them a huge number of hours, and accordingly a great deal of expense. Their time can be better used for innovation and improvement projects. This should also yield a more secure environment because the organization knows better than the IT department which staff members should have access where to be able to perform their work.

True self-service
A next logical step and the only way to offer complete self-service is to work with an umbrella system; a so-called identity vault. An identity vault is a system over the individual systems for HR, facilities and authorizations mentioned above. In the identity vault, the information from these different systems is combined and synchronized, and relationships can be established. The possibilities that then arise are legion. For instance, a relationship can be established between the job of an employee and the applications he needs to be able to carry out this job. In this way a new employee is always assigned the rights he actually needs — and never too many, which is unfavorable in information security terms.

For an employee who is leaving the company, a manager can see immediately which facility resources (phone, laptop, etc.) the employee still holds and must thus hand in on his last day at work.

A final example: When an employee requests access to an application, it can be decided automatically who should approve the request on the basis of the organizational hierarchy, which is known in the HR system. And so there are very many more tasks that can be arranged completely automatically and independently by the organization, without the intervention of various departments.

Cost awareness
An important requirement for being able to implement true self-service is that the organization is aware of the costs associated with an operation that they do. If they don’t know this then they simply approve everything without investigating the costs involved. So, these costs must be made transparent for the responsible owner. With an identity vault the costs are easy to chart. Because all the systems are interlinked, a manager can see which employees he is responsible for, which applications these employees use and what the total licensing costs are for that usage. 

The application of self-service within organizations is advancing by leaps and bounds, and you can also familiarize your organization with the possibilities, from e-HRM to full self-service. Whatever step or steps you choose, the benefits will be immediately noticeable in your organization.


Robert Doswell is managing editor of Tools4ever UK, a division of the global provider of identity and access management solutions.


Robert Doswell is managing director of Tools4ever UK. Visit for more information.