The need for a robust Identity and Access Management strategy that can handle modern IT and user challenges has become an integral part of all businesses strategy, large or small, in all market sectors. Done right Identity and Access Management can enable such businesses to boost employee productivity, whilst also bolstering overall security. However, the growth of cloud computing and an increasingly distributed mobile workforce have made Identity and Access Management more complex every day.
IT teams in charge of authenticating user identities and managing access to business resources walk a fine line, ensuring that their business strategy has robust security controls in place while streamlining authentication procedures to increase user productivity. In the end, business is fundamentally about delivering value to all category of users (i.e. customers, applicants, students, staff, employees, external resources, Alumni etc), and Identity and Access Management is an essential part in ensuring that such users are both empowered to deliver that value and prevented from damaging the business’s reputation, security, or bottom line.
When considering adopting or changing an Identity and Access Management strategy, organisations must be aware of some of the most important trends in authenticating identity and managing access to business applications / web services. The general Identity and Access Management landscape is becoming increasingly complex and must continue to evolve with advancing security threats, posing specific challenges for both users and administrators. The most important elements of a holistic Identity and Access Management solution — including centralized access management, automation, reporting, and contextual application of security policies — can help organisations meet those challenges while accommodating dynamic growth.
Businesses rely on agile systems to adapt to continually evolving challenges and pivot to take advantage of new opportunities. Speed is of the essence, with pressure on IT staff to provision information resources quickly and seamlessly when required by users. However, in counterpoint to this desire for on-demand access are the very real security issues that keep IT managers up at night. Facing attacks on critical applications both inside and outside the traditional security perimeter, enterprises must make sure that access is tightly regulated to keep data secure.
Identity and Access Management strategies often live in silos housed in various departments, including information security, application development, and regulatory compliance. Because each department often customizes access privileges to best suit its business goals, organisational IT requirements are often left unenforced. This patchwork Identity and Access Management strategy can lead to awkward provisioning and de-provisioning of access, lost productivity, and even security breaches.
While implementing a comprehensive Identity and Access Management strategy can be much more complex than simple technology deployment, when done correctly, enterprises can realize tangible business value, including increased operational efficiency, simplified regulatory compliance, and enhanced employee satisfaction. However, to successfully deploy a robust Identity and Access Management solution, several problems must be overcome.
Today’s enterprise IT departments face the increasingly complex challenge of providing granular access to information resources, using contextual information about users and requests, while successfully restricting unauthorized access to sensitive corporate data.
Challenge: An increasingly distributed workforce
One way organizations can recruit and retain the best talent is to remove the constraints of geographic location and offer a flexible work environment. A remote workforce allows businesses to boost productivity while keeping expenses in check—as well as untethering employees from a traditional office setting. However, with employees scattered all over a country or even the world, enterprise IT teams face a much more daunting challenge: maintaining a consistent experience for employees connecting to corporate resources without sacrificing security. The growth of mobile computing means that IT teams have less visibility into and control over employees’ work practices.
A comprehensive, centrally managed Identity and Access Management solution returns the visibility and control needed for a distributed workforce to an enterprise IT team.
Challenge: Distributed applications
With the growth of cloud-based and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, users now have the power to log in to critical business applications like Salesforce, Office365, Concur, and more anytime, from any place, using any device. However, with the increase of distributed applications comes an increase in the complexity of managing user identities for those applications. Without a seamless way to access these applications, users struggle with password management while IT is faced with rising support costs from frustrated users.
A holistic Identity and Access Management solution can help administrators consolidate, control, and simplify access privileges, whether the critical applications are hosted in traditional data centers, private clouds, public clouds, or a hybrid combination of all these spaces.
Challenge: Productive provisioning
Without a centralized Identity and Access Management solution IT staff must provision access manually. The longer it takes for a user to gain access to crucial applications, the less productive that user will be. On the flip side, failing to revoke the access rights of employees who have left the organization or transferred to different departments can have serious security consequences. To close this window of exposure and risk, IT staff must de-provision access to corporate data as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in many organizations this means that IT must go through each user’s account to understand what resources they have access to and then to manually revoke that access. Manual provisioning and deprovisioning of access is labour-intensive and prone to human error or oversights. Especially for large organizations, it is not an efficient or sustainable way to manage user identities and access.
A robust Identity and Access Management solution can fully automate the provisioning and de-provisioning process, giving IT full power over the access rights of employees, partners, contractors, vendors, and guests. Automated provisioning and de-provisioning speed the enforcement of strong security policies while helping to eliminate human error.
Challenge: Bring your own device (BYOD)
To manage or not to manage — there really is no choice between the two for today’s organizations. Employees, contractors, partners, and others are bringing in personal devices and connecting to the corporate network for professional and personal reasons. The challenge with BYOD is not whether outside devices are brought into the enterprise network, but whether IT can react quickly enough to protect the organization’s business assets — without disrupting employee productivity and while offering freedom of choice. Nearly every business has some sort of BYOD policy that allows users to access secure resources from their own devices. However, accessing internal and SaaS applications on a mobile device can be more cumbersome than doing so from a networked laptop or desktop workstation. In addition, IT staff may struggle to manage who has access privileges to corporate data and which devices they’re using to access it.
Organizations must develop a strategy that makes it quick, easy, and secure to grant — and revoke — access to corporate applications on user - and corporate - owned mobile devices based on business guidelines or regulatory compliance.
In addition, technology shifts such as the trend toward an Internet of Things requires business IT teams to deploy solutions that can scale to meet the onslaught of devices looking to tax the organizations network.
Challenge: Password problems
The growth of cloud-based applications means that employees must remember an increasing number of passwords for applications that may cross domains and use numerous different authentication and attribute-sharing standards and protocols. User frustration can mount when they spend more and more time managing the resulting lists of passwords — which, for some applications, may require changing every 30 days. Plus, when users have trouble with their passwords, they most often contact IT staff for help, which can quickly and repeatedly drain important resources.
Organizations can readily make password issues a thing of the past by federating user identity and extending secure single sign-on (SSO) capabilities to SaaS, cloud-based, web-based, and virtual applications. SSO can integrate password management across multiple domains and various authentication and attribute-sharing standards and protocols.
Challenge: Regulatory compliance
Compliance and corporate governance concerns continue to be major drivers of Identity and Access Management spending. For example, much of the onus to provide the corporate governance data required by Sarbanes-Oxley regulations falls on the IT department.
Ensuring support for processes such as determining access privileges for specific users, tracking management approvals for expanded access, and documenting who has accessed what data and when they did it can go a long way to easing the burden of regulatory compliance and ensuring a smooth audit process.