Updated Microsoft has defended a policy decision for its "Power platform" – part of Office 365 – to let end users bypass Office 365 admins and make their own licence purchases.
Essentially, the change (which is now scheduled for 19 November) lets users within an Office 365 organisation purchase their own licences for PowerBI, PowerApps and Flow, covering business intelligence queries and visualisation, low-code application development and business process automation.
Power to the users? Admins be warned: Microsoft set to introduce 'self-service purchase' in Office 365READ MORE
Microsoft sees this as empowering business users. "As a result of digital transformation, traditional roles are changing," the company said. "As employees become more independent and better versed in technology, we've seen increased demand from both users and organizations to enable users to buy subscriptions on their own. The intent of the self-service purchase option is to enable users to develop their own solutions to unlock productivity and drive business impact, while respecting organizations’ data governance and compliance."
Coincidentally this will also enable the company to pitch these solutions directly to end users, bypassing IT admins who may be more cautious, perhaps less willing to accommodate the extra cost, or concerned about enthusiast users developing solutions that are not as robust or reliable as professional efforts.
The new self-service capability will not be available to government, nonprofit or education tenancies, Microsoft said, and there are no current plans to extend it to other Office 365 services. Payment must be by credit card and cannot be invoiced later. Admins "have full visibility as to who has made a self-service purchase and which users on their tenants have been assigned a license", Microsoft said.
Why are admins not able to disable this self-service feature? That is the key question, and Microsoft claimed only that "we're being responsive to our customers who have requested this capability", adding that "organizations can rely on their own internal policies, procedures and communications to ensure that those individuals making self-service purchases are complying with company policies".
You could argue for almost any relaxation of user constraints on the same basis. Another unusual aspect of this change is the manner of its communication, not through press releases or enthusiastic blog posts, but via messages in the admin portal and now by a low-key FAQ.
Microsoft said that "IT departments and partners aren't expected to provide support for products bought through self-service purchase. Microsoft will provide standard support for self-service purchasers." In practice, though, users may well channel queries to their internal IT support and this is something Microsoft cannot control.
There is also a look at what happens if a user sets up licences for a team and then leaves the company. That user may cancel the licences they have set up – potentially leaving colleagues without a service they have come to rely on. "Admins may choose to assign a centrally purchased license to users of the cancelled subscription," Microsoft said.
A Uservoice feedback request to add the ability to block self-service purchases has already attracted over 2,500 votes.
Microsoft could defuse this pushback by leaving the self-service capability in place, but implementing this request to give admins a way to prevent it. Currently the company is in effect stating that it knows better than IT admins what is best for their users. That this move is unpopular with those admins is unsurprising. ®
Updated to add
Since the publication of this story, Microsoft has yielded to pressure and given admins veto rights.