Self-Service for Developer Game Changer

2021 04 02 head

Often, I hear complain that the IT department is not reacting to developer’s needs. They are slow, clumsy and too administrative. Harsher words state they are incompetent.

I have observed a clear trend in Switzerland since around 2015 to solve these tensions.

Standard IT services such as docker images, database instances or internal domain names are provided through self-service kiosks.

What are the advantages of this approach?


The advantages to providing a self-service kiosk for users in an academical or industrial environment are:

  • Improving data quality and strongly reducing the error rate. Kiosk services must be standardized before being offered.

  • Improving response time and access to resources outside regular office hours without additional human resources,

  • Saving of costs,

  • Relieving the personnel of the IT department of repetitive and mundane tasks,

  • Increased capacity for working on strategic tasks,

  • Involvement of employees in human resource management processes. The kiosk solution must be connected to the on-boarding and off-boarding processes.

  • Increased personal responsibility and independence of employees,

  • Transparency and traceability of the approval channels,

  • Access to the system independent of time and place,

  • Contribution to employer branding,

  • Reduction of printing costs as processes are handled digitally.

Similar gains are achievable for employees working for smaller or bigger commercial companies. The real gains are less animosity and more respect for the IT professionals.


The provided self-service products shall cover at least 80% of customer’s needs. The products must be standardized and do not require manual actions for setup and deployment. This quality of service is achieved through tracking of requests through a ticketing system and application of the Pareto distribution.

You must track and document all requests for services. Avoid fulfilling all requests and concentrate on optimizing the most often requested services. You still need to provide a workable approach for special requests. The simplest solution is to advocate using a commercial offering.


I am working with teams developing software products in academic and small-company environments. The needs boil down to

  • Provide docker images to developers. The images shall be accessible from the company Intranet and often from the Internet.

  • Provide virtual images only exceptionally.

  • Provide git repositories.

  • Provide development tools such as GitHub, GitLab or Bitbucket solutions including Pages for documentation.

Most often, virtual images are only needed when the user needs a Microsoft or macOS environment. All Unix related requests are serviced through docker images.

A need trend is the need to provide GPU capabilities for machine learning, artificial intelligence and visualization products. The image approach is still working. The current major challenge is the immaturity of the software solutions to share efficiently physical GPU. I expect viable standard solutions will be available in the next two years.

Next Steps

Implement a kiosk self-service solution for all regular requests of collaborators and students.

Implement a prototype for self-service access to GPU capabilities.

Track acceptance of provided approaches and implement improvements.