Click here to close now.


Cloud Security Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Cloud Best Practices Network, Teresa Schoch, Marc Crespi

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.

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Today’s connected world is moving from devices towards things, what this means is that by using increasingly low cost sensors embedded in devices we can create many new use cases. These span across use cases in cities, vehicles, home, offices, factories, retail environments, worksites, health, logistics, and health. These use cases rely on ubiquitous connectivity and generate massive amounts of data at scale. These technologies enable new business opportunities, ways to optimize and automate, along with new ways to engage with users.
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at the same time reduce Time to Market (TTM) by using plug and play capabilities offered by a robust IoT ...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Can call centers hang up the phones for good? Intuitive Solutions did. WebRTC enabled this contact center provider to eliminate antiquated telephony and desktop phone infrastructure with a pure web-based solution, allowing them to expand beyond brick-and-mortar confines to a home-based agent model. It also ensured scalability and better service for customers, including MUY! Companies, one of the country's largest franchise restaurant companies with 232 Pizza Hut locations. This is one example of WebRTC adoption today, but the potential is limitless when powered by IoT.
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program, to be aired during the peak viewership season of the year, will have a major impac...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.