Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Manuel Weiss, Richard Moulds, Martin Etmajer

Related Topics: SOA & WOA, Java, .NET, Virtualization, Web 2.0, Security

SOA & WOA: 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.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
Cloud Computing is evolving into a Big Three of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud 360: Multi-Cloud Bootcamp, being held Nov 4–5, 2014, in conjunction with 15th Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, CA, delivers a real-world demonstration of how to deploy and configure a scalable and available web application on all three platforms. The Cloud 360 Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, an analyst with Gigaom Research, is the first bootcamp that introduces the core concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based on the workings of the Big Three platforms – Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Azure VMs. Bootcamp attendees will get to see the big picture and also receive the knowledge needed to make the best cloud decisions for their business applications and entire enterprise IT organization.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is a natural complement to the cloud and related technologies such as Big Data, analytics, and mobility. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Joe Weinman will lay out four generic strategies – digital disciplines – to exploit emerging digital technologies for strategic advantage. Joe Weinman has held executive leadership positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and Telx, in areas such as corporate strategy, business development, product management, operations, and R&D.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DevOps.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's “DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo,” which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. DevOps.com is where the world meets DevOps. It is the largest collection of original content relating to DevOps on the web today Featuring up-to-the-minute news, feature stories, blogs, bylined articles and more, DevOps.com is where the thought leaders of the DevOps movement make their ideas known.
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that allow marketers to cut through the noise and design their campaigns around strong, predictive signals, rather than arbitrary statistics. SendGrid sends up to half a billion emails a day for customers such as Pinterest and GitHub. All this email adds up to more text than produced in the entire twitterverse. We track events like clicks, opens and deliveries to help improve deliverability for our customers – adding up to over 50 billion useful events every month. While SendGrid data covers only abo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Web Host Industry Review has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 2000, The Web Host Industry Review has made a name for itself as the foremost authority of the Web hosting industry providing reliable, insightful and comprehensive news, reviews and resources to the hosting community. TheWHIR Blogs provides a community of expert industry perspectives. The Web Host Industry Review Magazine also offers a business-minded, issue-driven perspective of interest to executives and decision-makers. WHIR TV offers on demand web hosting video interviews and web hosting video features of the key persons and events of the web hosting industry. WHIR Events brings together like-minded hosting industry professionals and decision-makers in local communities. TheWHIR is an iNET Interactive property.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic networking and advanced communications platforms, Verizon Enterprise Solutions helps open new opportunities around the world for innovation, investment and business transformation. Visit verizonenterprise.com to learn more.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
"In my session I spoke about enterprise cloud analytics and how we can leverage analytics as a service," explained Ajay Budhraja, CTO at the Department of Justice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“We are starting to see people move beyond the commodity cloud and enterprises need to start focusing on additional value added services in order to really drive their adoption," explained Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at MetraTech, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"We are automated capacity control software, which basically looks at all the supply and demand and running a virtual cloud environment and does a deep analysis of that and says where should things go," explained Andrew Hillier, Co-founder & CTO of CiRBA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
All too many discussions about DevOps conclude that the solution is an all-purpose player: developer and operations guru, complete with pager for round-the-clock duty. For most organizations that is not the way forward. In his session at DevOps Summit, Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss how to achieve the agility and speed of end-to-end automation without requiring an organization stocked with Supermen and Superwomen.