Microsoft Self-Service Lets Users Buy Subscriptions Without IT Approval

Beginning now next year in the United States (and more locations to follow), Microsoft will make available its Self-Service program. This is designed, as per Microsoft, to give “… users a chance to try out new technologies and enables them to develop solutions that will ultimately benefit their larger organizations.”

And it provides an avenue for Microsoft to target non-IT administrators for the sale of its Power Platform offerings.

But Microsoft reversed its earlier decision to bypass IT administrators. Previously, there was virtually nothing IT administrators could do about it. It was automatic and non-configurable. So, in order to effect this change, Microsoft has delayed the launch of this capability from November 19, 2019 to January 14, 2020.

The offering only involves Microsoft’s Power Platform:

  • PowerApps, an app building service;
  • PowerBI, for analytics; and,
  • Flow, for automatic workflows.

Whether this is good, bad, or just plain ugly is in the details. Some of these follow.

The Good

  • Self-Service enables users to buy subscriptions on their own.
  • Self-service purchasers don’t consume the hours from the Premier Support agreement.
  • IT doesn’t need to get involved in this purchase if the user and/or product is allowed to participate in the self-service program. Per an updated FAQ document from Microsoft, “If required for their organization, admins will be able to turn off self-service purchasing on a per product basis via PowerShell. Admins have the same data management and access policies over products bought through self-service purchase or centrally.”

The Bad

  • Per Microsoft, the “… prices may differ from the prices an organization pays when making central purchases or prices offered through a partner.”
  • Only purchases through credit card are supported; there is no invoicing for Self-Service purchases.
  • User training is obtained via the products’ individual websites, which feature guided lessons, product documentation, examples, and a portal to interact with other users. (Or they beleaguer IT.)

The Ugly

Despite the controls that Microsoft offers to IT administrators, this process can work against a sound Software Asset Management program. It certainly can make it more difficult to manage.

The IT administrators can view Self-Service purchases via his or her portal, they can restrict some users and/or products, and the data governance policies that are in place for the users will apply. However, while the organization itself owns the subscription, its payment – both initial and on-going – is the responsibility of the user.

Some of this might impact the ability of the license manager to track the subscriptions accurately. With Self-Service purchases, the license manager may need to gather information from multiple locations to verify the use of the product and even to determine if the subscription can be brought into the corporate agreement. Doing that – bringing the subscription under the corporate agreement – will require that the user cancel his or her own subscription. And this cancellation is something that will need to be verified by the license manager.

Conclusion

With the controls that Microsoft will put in place, the policies around whether to allow certain users to purchase certain products… or not… must be implemented, documented, memorialized, and codified in order to avoid a non-compliance situation. This is yet another step in the management of the license estate and the technical need to maintain coherent environments.

While the initial announcement had not met with many positive statements with some claiming it may be among Microsoft’s worst decisions ever, this reversion by Microsoft is viewed more optimistically. But IT administrators and IT managers must take the necessary precautions.