Automate & Delegate: A Better Tier 0

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Customers are the worst. Not sorry. They know it. Everyone knows it. The worst part about technology is the customer.

But hey… Job security right? I hate that statement however true it may be. The reality is, there are different types of customers. While you may be providing a service (or multiple) to a specific subset of customers, as a technologist you too may be considered a customer.

That’s right. You get it. There are tiers of support and you may be sitting somewhere where even you don’t hold all the cards. Just like someone is always better than you, there is in most cases, someone with more administrative rights than you. Now you become the customer.

That’s the worst. Knowing exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. Completely powerless in being able to complete the task so you submit a support ticket. These are simple things too: Active Directory group membership, credential rotation, or a quick software install — to name a few.

I’ve been there many times; helplessly clicking refresh on my ticket status. Waiting to see when my request is complete so I can support a downstream customer. It’s sickening the time wasted and you think to yourself, “there has got to be a better way.” I’ve also been all the way at the bottom of a ticket request. Knowing if I just had ‘x’ piece of information or ‘y’ set of permissions I could have done this in 15 seconds.

There is a reason for all of it as frustrating as it may be. Standardization. Naming Convention. Configuration Drift. Change Control. The list goes on and on about why someone who is perfectly capable of completing a task can’t actually do so. All reasonably so. We get it. There are times when we really want to make sure the configuration of something is done precisely the same way every time. It saves support resources long term.

That’s where automation and delegation come in. 12 years ago at the beginning of my career, I spend the majority of my time not being able to automate very much. I didn’t have the power. Every few months, that power got further and further reduced. I understood. “Too many cooks will spoil the broth.” But as an administrator, I wasn’t left with the best automation tools to conduct the tasks I needed to in a static fashion, nor the documentation to properly be delegated the work. No matter how hard I tried, my methods of delegation failed as well. I didn’t have (at the time) the resources at my disposal to do either. Automation was next to impossible thanks to the level of permission being delegated to me.

Today, thanks to cloud platforms, inexpensive SaaS solutions, and enterprise automation tools, getting support as close to the custom as possible has never been easier. That saves oodles of time and money by freeing up your resources to work on the bigger projects.

I can’t express enough the importance of quality customer self-help documentation but I also have to be careful throwing stones when living in a glass house. Creating great documentation is difficult. Keeping that documentation up-to-date is even harder. Especially with DevOps deployment models, constant iterations, and feature additions or improvements. The best way today to support the customer is to automate and delegate the human aspect right out of the system. Let the documentation be the roadmap to proper submission and let the system manage all the request details.

This may sound like a no-brainer to most of you who use and understand tools like Terraform, Ansible, SaltStack, PowerShell DSC, or AWS CloudFormation, Service Catalog and Systems Manager but I’m not writing to you. I’m writing to the plethora of old guard who resists and fear change. I’ve spent my entire career working in organizations where those holding the keys in the tiers above me are satisfied in the old ways of business. The ways that cripple I.T. organizations creating rework, manual intervention, and excessive support queues.

It’s time for a changing of the guard. If you are in a similar situation I highly recommend you do all in your power to automation your position and delegate work down to as close to the problem as possible. Take back your time. Become the technician they’re afraid to fire.

Tactful Cloud is here to help. For starters, we’ve recently created a PowerShell script that will add Active Directory User Objects to AD Groups based on status in a Jira Service Desk Project. There are many more projects like this in the works. Anything we can do to help make I.T. organization better, more fluid, and effective.

After checking out v1.0 of our Jira-AD Group automation script, please join our mailing list to stay tuned for updates to it as well as many more projects in the works to help you be the best administrators in the business.

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