Learn how a robust IAM Strategy can lower the risk of project failure.
Over the past 12 months, organizations have been forced to move a significant portion of their workforce to remote working arrangements. This has made a strong Identity and Access Management (IAM) system has become imperative. A correctly implemented IAM strategy puts identity at the center of every access decision while improving employee productivity and strengthening the organization’s overall security posture.
The primary goal of any IAM solution is to protect sensitive enterprise systems, assets, and data from unauthorized access or use. This overarching goal begins with the systematic management of user identities and supporting processes, including authentication, authorization, user provisioning and de-provisioning, advanced security methods, role-based access control, and centralized policy management.
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IAM solutions establish core functionalities such as user identity stores, definition of roles, password management, account provisioning, and deprovisioning activities and auditing capabilities. For an IAM solution to adequately address an organization’s unique challenges, a comprehensive strategy is required to align business processes, IAM technology, and the desired outcomes. When done incorrectly, IAM projects fail to deliver business value and may instead promote employee dissatisfaction and introduce new security flaws. Most organizations approach IAM projects from a tactical viewpoint, which is risky because it fails to consider how business processes must change to support identity lifecycle and often leads to project failure.
Having a robust IAM Strategy provides the following benefits:
1. Reduce solution complexity
The modern organization tends to have a complex IT infrastructure with a combination of legacy systems, homegrown applications, as well as Cloud solutions. The explosion in the number of applications and devices on the corporate network has only introduced more security vulnerabilities and requires a large number of IT staff to manage. Unplanned proliferation of systems and applications creates silos, where user accounts are not linked together, and individual systems are managed separately by different managers. A phased strategic approach for IAM eliminates these “islands of identity” and provides centralized management of access, policies, security, and audit. In short, IAM makes a system of many components seem fewer.
2. Mitigate the risk of project failure
As mentioned in our previous article: 6 Reasons Why Identity and Access Management Projects Fail, a common challenge with IAM projects is a weak linkage between the system implementation and the potential business value. The process of creating an IAM strategy begins by understanding the current business environment, the strategic drivers for the project, and an analysis of key challenges in user management processes. Incorporating the business perspective upfront mitigates the risk of IAM program failures by placing the business and the end-user at the center of the solution design. Developing a strategy also builds a shared vision for IAM among organizational stakeholders, which greatly reduces political risks.
3. Avoid unnecessary costs and optimize resource allocation
Developing a strategy for your identity management program should be a systematic and data-driven process to set program priorities, build stakeholder commitment, and efficiently allocate resources. Another important takeaway from this exercise is the identification of opportunities that bring the most value to your organization. If you’re familiar with the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule), approximately 80 percent of your benefits will come from 20 percent of your projects. It is important that we identify the top opportunities and allocate the proper budget to support the completion of those projects and optimize the time to value. By appropriately estimating the costs involved and resources required, a robust IAM strategy helps to manage and mitigate risks and ensures that the project is completed on time and within the allocated budget.
4. Communicate the plan and drive consensus
The assessment and strategic planning conducted during an IAM Strategy begins with interviews and working sessions with stakeholders across the organization from HR to IT. These working sessions are an opportunity to drive internal stakeholder alignment by evangelizing the benefits of the IAM program and driving consensus around assumptions and strategy as a project moves from concept to implementation. This task is notoriously difficult especially in large, complex companies and where IAM disrupts the status quo with new ideas that differ significantly from existing ways of doing business. Adding to these challenges are geographically distributed stakeholders, pressure to meet high customer demands, and a low appetite for risk. Securing buy-in from stakeholders is crucial to minimizing corporate politics where managers don’t provide the needed support. Without stakeholder buy-in, it is almost impossible for an IAM project to succeed. A well-defined strategy allows stakeholders to be involved in the project from the beginning, thus incorporating their feedback and ensuring maximum value can be obtained by all.
5. Enable rapid delivery of functionality
A strategy connects the concept of identity lifecycle management across HR processes, IT administration, applications, and end-user demand (e.g. self-service, on-demand provisioning) to provide rapid delivery capabilities. In response to business demands, the IAM program can speed up the process to upgrade and improve management of major business systems, and consecutively put projects into production on schedule like intelligent risk control, support new core systems (e.g. finance, HRIS, ERP), corporate cloud services, and provide new services in a more intelligent, efficient, stable and reliable manner. IAM offers the opportunity to make new breakthroughs in supporting novel business solutions and put them into operation; providing a safe, stable, and efficient environment for operation and maintenance of business services. From the perspective of resource intensification and capacity sharing, businesses can achieve agile support for and rapid launch of front-end business solutions by integrating reusable and shareable general capabilities built off their Identity Management Platforms. The key is to take a strategic approach.
Learn more about preventing Identity Management disaster in these posts:
- 10 Tips to Avoid an Identity Management Disaster
- Disaster-Proof Identity Management: Start with a Strong Foundation
- Prevent Identity Management Disaster with a Process Analysis
This article was written by Sajid Shafique, Cybersecurity Analyst at Idenhaus Consulting.
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