Improving De-Provisioning Processes

Many organizations incur monthly charges for a wide-variety of IT services based on a number of subscription or other variables, such as headcount.  The provisioning of these services is typically unavoidable as new employees, contractors, interns, and other staff require access to e-mail, phone, and other IT services. Additionally, as organizations continue to rely more heavily on cloud or outsourced providers for services, the need for external provisioning of services is increasing. 

The issue that arises from an IT spending standpoint is that while services are frequently unavailable to a staff member without being added to the system or list used by the vendor for billing, there’s often no reverse trigger.  The fact that staff require these services creates the internal ‘noise’ (“I need a phone!”) to add the individual to the service or frequently creates an impetus for automating provisioning based on on-boarding processes. However, organizations often fail to implement straightforward mechanisms to de-provision these services when a resource leaves or they are no longer needed. Once the resource no longer needs the service, there is often simply no internal trigger, no ‘noise’ that tells the organization to pull the information from a variety of lists.

Given this frequent reality, organizations at a minimum may pay for services for departed or transferred individuals for months, and at worst may pay for those individual’s services until a spot audit is performed that identifies the charges as unnecessary.  This issue is often exacerbated by many vendors’ operating structures which may require an individual to work with multiple ‘service managers’ or complete multiple steps to cancel different kinds of services.

The introduction of a sound de-provisioning process, along with the identification of a mechanism for identifying individuals who need services de-activated can often reduce an organization’s cloud, subscription, or related types of spending. Ideally, de-provisioning processes are strongly linked to the organization’s human resource management system and processes. The system(s) should initiate a number of automated processes to terminate services. However, improvement of de-provisioning often requires:

  • Centralized service management within the organization, including the development and adoption of specific organization-wide policies associated with requisition and usage of provisioned services.
  • A mechanism for identifying the departure of staff and, if applicable, contractors and other temporary or transient resources.
  • A system and associated processes for notifying vendors and tracking services and their de-activation status by individual.

One mechanism for identifying services requiring deactivation is a lack of time charged for a specified duration in an organization’s time management system.  The absence of any time charged over two or more periods for example, would put the individual in a ‘research’ queue to determine whether de-provisioning is necessary. Additionally, a straight-forward system for tracking vendor charges, the metric upon which the charge is based, and the status of de-activation would ensure that services are terminated in as efficient a manner as possible.

Working with vendors to improve the de-provisioning process may be helpful as well. While many larger-scale vendors have taken steps to improve the provisioning process they often have not taken any substantial steps to improve the de-provisioning process based on a lack of explicit incentive to do so.