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Microsoft Readies Self-Purchasing Capability for Power Platform

  • Update 11/1: Microsoft changed course and now permits the blocking of self-service purchasing by IT pros via PowerShell. They can block it starting on Nov. 19 (see this story).

Starting in November, Microsoft will allow end users to effectively bypass their IT departments and make direct purchases related to the company's Power Platform.

Traditionally, IT departments have had control over such purchasing with regard to Office 365 subscriptions. However, starting Nov. 19 in the U.S. market, Microsoft will kick off a "self-service purchase" capability for end users in organizations. It'll permit end users to separately pay for Power Platform subscriptions (PowerApps, Power BI and Microsoft Flow apps), independent of the organization's Office 365 purchasing. IT departments can't block this coming capability.

Microsoft's Monday announcement was confined to the Power Platform, which aims to give business users the ability to create ad hoc applications with PowerApps and even chain processes together using Microsoft Flow.

The announcement seems to have only been published in the Message Center, which is a segment of the Microsoft 365 Admin Center that's used by IT pros to manage Office 365 subscriptions. The full message, though, was shared by Twitter poster Phil Worrell in this post.

Self-Purchasing Details
Here's what's in store for end users with coming the self-purchasing option:

  • Starting on Nov. 19, end users in the United States will be able to buy Power BI directly.
  • Beginning on Dec. 4, there will be an option for end users to buy PowerApps and Flow, too, and Microsoft expects to broaden geographic availability at that time.
  • End user purchasers will have access to a "scoped version of the Microsoft 365 Admin Center that is limited to their purchases."
  • Billing and licensing assignment will be in the hands of the end users making the purchase, but they won't have access to the organization's subscription information.
  • End users making such purchases "will be able to create support cases and get support directly from Microsoft."

Here's what IT pros can expect with the arriving self-purchasing capability:

  • The end user self-purchasing capability will automatically arrive for organizations with Office 365 subscriptions.
  • The self-service capability will "not be configurable, so there's no action you need to take."
  • IT pros will have "a view of all self-service purchases within your tenant," showing how many licenses were purchased, plus the licensing assignments for all "Azure Active Directory-enabled users." However, this view will only be visible when using "the new admin center."

There's one limitation to self-service purchasing: It won't be available to "customers who are eligible for Government, Nonprofit or Education offers," the announcement added.

IT Skepticism
Based on Twitter posts, there's a lot of skepticism about the new self-purchasing option, which challenges traditional IT controls. One comment stated that it's "almost as if Microsoft is endorsing shadow IT." Shadow IT, where business users download and use apps not approved by IT departments, is deemed to be a potential security risk for organizations. Microsoft even markets solutions to help IT departments track such app use in order to quash the practice.

Other posters wondered about the resulting mess for organizations if they end up having siloed data to track, especially if users leave an organization. Inadvertent data releases also could occur, given that no data loss prevention solutions will be in place. The self-service purchasing option will generally bypass IT governance controls, another Twitter post suggested.

Update 10/24: In reaction to the governance questions, a Microsoft spokesperson offered the following comment about the self-purchasing option:

Microsoft remains committed to enabling data governance and compliance with self-service purchase capabilities for Power Platform offerings. IT maintains control over what services and products are enabled within their tenant based upon their data governance and compliance requirements. Additionally, all data management and access policies, which the organization has enabled, will continue to apply to self-service purchased enabled services. Data created from products purchased through self-service is owned and controlled by the organization.

Another objection, as mention in this Microsoft Tech Community post, is that self-purchasing by end users can undermine organizational purchasing, which may be taking advantage of group discounts. The lack of an opt-out switch for IT to block the coming self-purchasing capability appeared to be a common complaint.

Update 10/28: Microsoft recently published an FAQ document on self-service purchasing. It affirmed that end user prices "may differ" from organizational prices. It mentioned that IT pros have a way to centralize the purchases made by end users, but there's no turn-off switch to block them from making the purchases. Possibly, the Power Platform represents the start of a self-purchasing trend. For instance, the document stated that "at this time, the Power Platform family of products are the only services being offered through self-service purchase."

Meanwhile, a request is already open on UserVoice to block Power Platform self-service purchasing.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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