Self-service comes to System z

This week BMC unveiled Control-M Self Service,  an IT services catalog of sorts that runs on multiple platforms including System z. Notable about the product is the degree of business user friendliness it exhibits. It could even win new friends for the mainframe.

Control-M Self Service is part of BMC’s workload automation solution, except it delivers a service view to business users, not just IT. At a time when IT in general and mainframe data centers in particular are under pressure to be more responsive to the business by being more services oriented Control-M Self Service might prove quite useful.  It gives the data center a services catalog that business users can use to see the state of a given IT job. Through a browser, for instance, the CFO could see if certain critical suppliers had been paid just by clicking the appropriate service button.

In the announcement BMC presents Control-M Self Service as the industry’s first workload automation solution designed specifically with the business user in mind. IBM might quibble with that.

The service catalog component of IBM’s Tivoli Service Request Manager may have beaten BMC to it. According to IBM, it allows users to select services directly from a catalog. Options can range from simple end-user services like password reset to more complex services, such as provisioning a server or upgrading an application environment.

IBM also offers the WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR) , although that is far from business user friendly. WSRR provides what amounts to a service catalog for SOA developers and programmers.

Both BMC and IBM, however, are on the right track when it comes to user self-service, especially in regard to IT. Business users generally regard IT not merely as unfriendly but hostile. User-oriented self service products can begin to turn that attitude around. CA Technologies provides similar capabilities through CA Repository for z/OS but it is not business user oriented.

Business user self-service can be good for both the business users and for the mainframe data center. Through data center self-service business users get the IT services they want, when they want them, and without having to go through the help desk or submit a request ticket. For IT, self-service eliminates the need to respond to a considerable amount of routine requests that users can easily handle themselves, especially if they can use their browser, as is the case with Control-M Self Service.

But there is more going on here with IT services self-service. Innovation has emerged as a hot topic among C-level executives. It is the next big management fad following behind BPR, Lean, Six Sigma, and a slew of others.

User access to an IT services catalog enables innovation by workers, partners, and even customers. They can participate in what Gartner refers to as citizen innovation by building business apps for smartphones. This is where an inspired (or bored) worker whips up a fast iPhone or Droid app to solve some annoying problem but for which access to data, processes, and APIs managed by IT is needed. For example, a tech-savvy CFO could pull together an iPhone app that uses its browser to access the payment process through the Control-M self-service tool.

DancingDinosaur supports any effort to make mainframe data, processes, and APIs accessible to business users because it wins that many more friends for the mainframe.


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