Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Andy Thurai

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Microsoft Cloud, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security

Microservices Expo: Article

The Marriage of Tech and Business… and How to Prevent a Divorce

Best practices for organization-wide identity and access management

Evolving regulatory compliance requirements can be a major headache for the IT teams responsible for identity and access management (IAM). Sarbanes Oxley, the wide range of privacy regulations and other federal requirements, have transformed IAM from a problem that keeps the chief information security officer up at night into a true business concern shared by all company executives. Knowing who has access to what information within your organization - and whether they should have that access - is a deceptively complex issue that has the potential to drive a wedge between even the healthiest of relationships across the business.

On the surface, it may seem as though the nuts and bolts of IAM should reside in a company's IT department. This is because there are many islands of information stored in databases across the business that are managed and administered by the IT team. In addition, employee access to particular areas of the network is usually enabled and revoked by IT.

The problem is that these functions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to effectively managing your identity governance program.

IAM Is Driven by Business Requirements
It has long been recognized that identity and access management must be process-driven if it is to gain any longer-term traction within an organization. In fact, Gartner highlighted the importance of process in a 2005 research report, stating that "Identity and access management is not only a set of technologies but also a set of processes that address fundamental issues about handling the strategic asset of identity in any enterprise. Establishing a long-term solution for managing identity requires understanding these basic processes."

Why is the process so important?

Any change to the identity of an employee is triggered by the business. The identity attributes of an employee are created when they are hired (onboarding), changed when they are promoted or assigned new responsibilities (change in responsibility), and must be restricted when they leave the organization (offboarding).

A strong partnership between IT and the company's business divisions is essential to ensure that:

  • There is a process to capture all of the changes that happen to the identity of an employee during their life cycle within an organization.
  • The business has established and approved the policies under which employee access will be granted or denied.
  • Changes are processed within the identified framework (i.e., no one is given access "through the backdoor").

By involving business owners early in the development of your IAM program - including human resources as it traditionally "owns" the bulk of employee attributes, like name, address, social security number and banking information - companies will improve the chances of executing their IAM goals on time and on budget.

Create a Culture of Continuous Compliance
Traditional approaches to identity and access governance take a reactive approach to meeting compliance requirements. If the sole measure of success is the ability to generate an attestation report, the company will always be in "firefighting" mode. It is far better to prevent access violations from happening than trying to chase them down once they occur. At that point, the security breach has already taken place, inappropriate access has already been granted and the damage has been done.

The goal of an effective identity governance initiative should be to ensure that employees are only given the access that is assigned to them under a clearly defined set of rules in accordance with company policy. On the other hand, requests for access that would violate a policy (e.g., separation of duties) should be denied and the appropriate manager should be alerted that a request has been made that would violate company policy. By working with business divisions to set these proactive policy parameters up front, the company is able to create a true culture of continuous compliance.

Your IAM Program Should Deliver More than Compliance
Compliance is a necessary evil. However, if handled correctly, compliance can also create the opportunity for meaningful efficiency improvements and cost reductions throughout an organization.

By managing the identity of your employees centrally and establishing proper business processes to manage identities, companies are able to:

  • Shorten new employee onboarding time to less than a day: It is important to capture the primary attributes needed to create an employee identity during the onboarding process and feed this information to all related systems (e.g., payroll, HR, Active Directory, SAP). This approach gives employees the access and assets they need to be productive on their first day with the company.
  • Eliminate repetitive manual data entry: A large Canadian retailer recently identified more than 90 attributes that make up the identity of their employees. More important, it also realized that these attributes were being manually re-entered up to ten times for different purposes across the company. Once it began managing their identity administration centrally, the retailer was able to capture data with no re-entry, thereby eliminating hundreds of redundant entries per employee.
  • Lower administrative costs: Improving time to productivity, streamlining administrative functions, and simplifying audits will result in millions of dollars saved, depending on the size of the organization.

Learn from Past Failures
Many organizations have been down the IAM solution path before with varying degrees of success. The problem-solving responsibility has traditionally been handed off to - you guessed it - the IT department, which typically attempts to solve the issue via technological solutions. As discussed earlier, the challenge is that the IT department is trying to solve the issue when it doesn't own the information or the process. Attempting an IT-only fix, centered around third-party technology and buy-in from other departments, leads to annoyance at best and losses in time and capital at worse.

In spite of these challenges, there is hope for organizations looking for the Holy Grail of IAM. Below are some best practices organizations can employ to improve their internal IAM processes:

  • Solicit business involvement early: IT cannot solve the problem alone. They're the custodians and the business is the end user. IT must engage with business and HR in lay language and find common denominators.
  • Create an identity warehouse: Conduct a thorough cleaning of identity data housed by various internal systems so there is easy reconciliation and clear visibility into access granted to employees.
  • Fix the controls: Implement procedures early in the business process (i.e., during onboarding), and make sure they are followed, to derive the most value from your identity and access management program.
  • Process, process, process: IT spends a significant portion of its time and budget on the dreary work of managing identities. IT and the business divisions can realize measurable benefits from implementing processes that drive down wasted time and money.
  • Go paperless: Going paperless with IAM liberates employees from the stacks of paper on their desks. An electronic IAM system can lighten the load across divisions by identifying holdups and speeding timelines.
  • Prevention is the key: Get away from the "putting out the fires" mentality. True process control means that fires are prevented.

Conclusion
Approaching IAM in a process-oriented way allows organizations to deal with potential problems proactively. When implemented properly, these best practices can help streamline IAM processes across all organizational departments, resulting in shortened onboarding, reduced costs, increased efficiency and regulatory compliance. Those are goals the whole company can get behind.

More Stories By Jay O'Donnell

Jay O’Donnell is the CEO and founder of N8 Identity and spearheads the continuing development of N8 Identity’s industry-leading solutions. One of the early pioneers of the identity and access management (IAM) industry, he initially founded an IAM consulting business in 2000. After overseeing dozens of large-scale IAM projects, he led the development of Employee Lifecycle Manager® in 2007 to meet the need for a software solution that delivered pre-defined identity and access processes throughout the lifecycle of a user within an organization. Jay is an internationally recognized expert in information security, compliance, identity management, federated identity and directory services.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Predicting the future has never been more challenging - not because of the lack of data but because of the flood of ungoverned and risk laden information. Microsoft states that 2.5 exabytes of data are created every day. Expectations and reliance on data are being pushed to the limits, as demands around hybrid options continue to grow.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities - ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups.
As IoT continues to increase momentum, so does the associated risk. Secure Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) is ranked as one of the most important technology areas of IoT. Driving this trend is the realization that secure support for IoT devices provides companies the ability to deliver high-quality, reliable, secure offerings faster, create new revenue streams, and reduce support costs, all while building a competitive advantage in their markets. In this session, we will use customer use cases...