Creating a service offering through a self-service portal part 1: Introduction

December 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm in Uncategorized by mikeresseler


A few days ago, I was having a chat with my friend Alexandre Verkinderen (@AlexVerkinderen) about the private cloud.  One of the key points of the private cloud is offerings through a self-service portal.  As usual, because we are all technical people, we immediately started to talk about provisioning Virtual Machines.  However, at a certain moment I wanted to discuss other offerings.  While provisioning virtual machines is a pretty cool thing to demo, I wanted to demo something else that proves the value to business people.  At that moment, we came to HR.  Because both Alex and me believe that many of the requests that HR does to IT can be automated, we thought to start there.  In this series I want to demonstrate (with a very simple example) how easy it is to create such an offering with system center 2012 and how easy it is to convince your management with a simple example.

The example

In every company I worked, I saw a ton of requests at the service desk for adding a user to a group.  How cool would it be to offer that through a self-service portal and then automatically execute it without the need of a service desk or IT-guy and still keep a track record of it.  No 20 emails anymore for asking for approval, no “lost” jobs or delays.  In our example, HR is the decision maker and requests it through the portal and a couple of minutes later, it is done.  We are also building other specific offerings such as create a user, update a users data (such as home address, phone number, title etc.…) but for this series, we will use this specific example.

The series

In this series we will start from nothing besides the base infrastructure.  We do already have a domain controller, a service manager server (with the portal installed) and an orchestrator (and a SQL of course to host our databases).  We also have created the connection in Orchestrator to AD. So our base infrastructure is up and running, and now we need to get started.

This first post is the introduction.  I’ll walk you through the high-level steps.  Explain what we exactly are going to do and what the end result will be.  After that, in the next couple of days, the following posts will follow:

The end-result

Of course you want to know how this is going to look… Well, here goes, this is what the end-user will see (and that is (after all) the most important thing)


This is your Service Portal.  You have a few categories (things we build before and things that are imported through management packs) but we are going to focus on the Human Resources and then Human Resources again Smile part of the portal

When we click on the Human Resources part, we go to the next screen


Here you can see that we have created 1 offering.  This offering is to add a user to a group.  That’s it, nothing more, nothing less, but again, if you ask inside your service desk for a report on how many time gets wasted with these requests…. When we click on that offering (ad user to a group) we get the next screen


Because we want to make it complete, and because we are working with end-users here, we want to make it complete.  This means a KB article as well, and some icons on it as you can see in the screenshot.  Now we click on the Go to Request button and we can start filling in the request


In this request (as we will see throughout the series we want the end-user to give us 3 answers:

  • Which user
  • Which group
  • The Reason

Which user and which group is important to automate this and the reason is to keep a track record of why this user has been added to the specific group.

In the first screenshot, you see that the end-user can pick a user out of a grid and can also use a search to find that specific user.


In this screenshot, you see that the user can select the group from another grid that contains only groups (please note that this is all on the same page and that he needs to scroll)


Finally the end-user types in the reason and then presses the Next button


He can now review the request, and when everything is ok, he can press the Submit button



Now I know I could extend this demo by adding notifications and stuff but there is some really good information on Technet on that subject already.  So if you want to do that, have a look here:

Finally, I wanted to have a track record to view in Service Manager


And that’s it.  It is simple, understandable and doesn’t require a lot effort from the HR person.  And more importantly, it is done after a few minutes and IT didn’t do anything Smile

Oh yeah, for those who are wondering… Yes it is perfectly possible to make sure that HR can’t add users to schema admins or domain admins or whatever…

The High-level steps

Now how are we going to build this technically:

First we are going to do some pre-work.  We are going to create a management pack where we will store all our work in.  We are also going to write our knowledge base article already in front.  This is optional, but like I said, it adds an additional “plus” to your solution.  (Not to mention in real-life, less calls to your service desk if the article is well written)

Second, we are going to build an Orchestrator Runbook.

After that we are going to create a connector from Service Manager to Orchestrator and synchronize it to get the runbooks into service manager.

From that runbook that has been imported, we are going to create an automation template.  This is an activity that we can use in change requests and service requests.

Again, we are going to create a template, but this time a service request template and add the automation template in it.   This way, we will have a template with pre-filled in fields that contains the steps that need to be done to get the job done.

Finally, we are going to create a service offering (the HR part in the portal) and a Request offering (add a user to a group) and add that last request offering (or better connect it) to the service offering. 

Still with me?  It will all become clear in the next posts Smile

Stay tuned