Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: JP Morgenthal, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Gordon Haff

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.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Here’s a novel, but controversial statement, “it’s time for the CEO, COO, CIO to start to take joint responsibility for application platform decisions.” For too many years now technical meritocracy has led the decision-making for the business with regard to platform selection. This includes, but is not limited to, servers, operating systems, virtualization, cloud and application platforms. In many of these cases the decision has not worked in favor of the business with regard to agility and cost...
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists peeled away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud enviro...
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and containers together help companies achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of Dev...
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, ...
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Robert Doyle, lead architect at eCube Systems, will examine the issues and need for an agile infrastructure and show the advantages of capturing developer knowledge in an exportable file for migration into production. He will introduce the use of NXTmonitor, a next-generation DevOps tool that captures application environments, dependencies and start/stop procedures in a portable configuration file with an easy-to-use GUI. In addition to captur...
Docker containers have brought great opportunities to shorten the deployment process through continuous integration and the delivery of applications and microservices. This applies equally to enterprise data centers as well as the cloud. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Jari Kolehmainen, founder and CTO of Kontena, will discuss solutions and benefits of a deeply integrated deployment pipeline using technologies such as container management platforms, Docker containers, and the drone.io Cl tool...
We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of developers than there is about other groups. There’s a focus on improved and less isolated developer workflows. There are many discussions around collaboration, continuous integration and delivery, issue tracking, source code control, code review, IDEs, and xPaaS – and all the tools that enable those things. Changes in developer practices may come up – such as developers taking ownership of code ...
"We provide DevOps solutions. We also partner with some key players in the DevOps space and we use the technology that we partner with to engineer custom solutions for different organizations," stated Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
"We're bringing out a new application monitoring system to the DevOps space. It manages large enterprise applications that are distributed throughout a node in many enterprises and we manage them as one collective," explained Kevin Barnes, President of eCube Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
I’m told that it has been 21 years since Scrum became public when Jeff Sutherland and I presented it at an Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications (OOPSLA) workshop in Austin, TX, in October of 1995. Time sure does fly. Things mature. I’m still in the same building and at the same company where I first formulated Scrum.[1] Initially nobody knew of Scrum, yet it is now an open source body of knowledge translated into more than 30 languages[2] People use Scrum worldwide for ...
Thanks to Docker, it becomes very easy to leverage containers to build, ship, and run any Linux application on any kind of infrastructure. Docker is particularly helpful for microservice architectures because their successful implementation relies on a fast, efficient deployment mechanism – which is precisely one of the features of Docker. Microservice architectures are therefore becoming more popular, and are increasingly seen as an interesting option even for smaller projects, instead of being...
As the race for the presidency heats up, IT leaders would do well to recall the famous catchphrase from Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 campaign against George H. W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That catchphrase is important, because IT economics are important. Especially when it comes to cloud. Application performance management (APM) for the cloud may turn out to be as much about those economics as it is about customer experience.
When you focus on a journey from up-close, you look at your own technical and cultural history and how you changed it for the benefit of the customer. This was our starting point: too many integration issues, 13 SWP days and very long cycles. It was evident that in this fast-paced industry we could no longer afford this reality. We needed something that would take us beyond reducing the development lifecycles, CI and Agile methodologies. We made a fundamental difference, even changed our culture...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...