IT leadership is a constant balancing act, especially as you must look for ways to advance your department as an engine for growth rather than a cost center. Unfortunately, time and resources for revenue-stimulating, strategic IT initiatives are often in short supply, thanks to the demands of mundane, but critical, day-to-day tasks. Of the day-to-day tasks that often become major resource drains, user identity and access management (IAM) is not only one of the most crucial to get right, but can also be one of the most problematic.
One of the first-to-market IAM solutions from a brand like Novell, NetIQ, IBM, Oracle, CA, Microsoft, or Sun—may have been innovative in its time, but is showing its age now, as enterprise needs, performance requirements, and budgets continue to evolve.
You may be unsure if now is the right time to examine your IAM solution and potentially push for a change, but things aren't perfect and you've managed thus far, right? The problem is, you may have temporarily solved issues as they've arisen, but over time, you've added unnecessary complexity and cost to a system that already offers limited benefits.
If you still aren't sure if the time has come to migrate to one of these new solutions, read on and ask yourself if any of the following signs apply to you.
1. Your team can't keep up with its growing application integration queue
Your company's employees expect to have access to the latest and greatest technologies, and the C-suite supports that. But it falls on you and your team to enable those technologies. For every application, you integrate, three more show up on the list, and you just can't keep up.
Modern IAM solutions address these problems by providing far quicker, more secure, and more cost-effective ways for you to add and remove applications and services to your business environment, including applications and services that are cloud-based and/or solely dependent on identity data for authentication and user access.
2. You have at least one business-critical system outside of IAM control
Despite all the efforts that your team invests in your legacy IAM system, there's likely at least one older or proprietary on-premises application or system that's still in wide use at your company, but outside the control of your existing IAM system.
Where this is the case, your department will run into a variety of problems. The most visible is the toll that it takes on your team. Unintegrated systems require your team to manually tackle any identity and access tasks across more systems and to use more workflows than they should. Manual deprovisioning raises the likelihood of open or orphaned accounts; they're easy to miss. And, when signals are crossed, breaches can happen.
3. Your legacy IAM vendor stopped innovating years ago
You may still pay licensing fees and/or maintenance and support on the aging technology, but what you get out of that expense no longer seems to include a product roadmap that highlights any meaningful innovation. These days, the product roadmap lists existing product tweaks and bug and security fixes.
Unfortunately, that's just not acceptable for today's businesses. The modern threat landscape and increasingly strict and complex regulatory environments demand more robust and more comprehensive identity and access controls and technology. Legacy IAM systems haven’t been keeping up with changing compliance requirements, security threats, or the needs of external user groups and partners.
Modern IAM solutions proactively develop support for things like social log ins and next-generation authentication techniques; they look ahead rather than simply around.
4. Your external users, such as partners, customers, contractors, and temps, are considered to be exceptions
Just as legacy IAM systems were designed for the more closed IT environment of the past, so too were they designed for the past’s more closed workforce. These older solutions may do fine at giving traditional, full-time employees access to the data and systems, but they fall short when it comes to provisioning access for external or temporary users. Today, cloud-based technologies have dissolved the enterprise perimeter and as a result, partner environments pose new IAM challenges - your partner’s weaknesses become your weaknesses.
Modern IAM solutions are platforms that can easily be configured and deployed to support external user groups, such as partners, customers, contractors, contingent workers, and even organization supporters or acquisition targets.
5. Your greatest fear is that you’ll be the next big data breach headline
Even if none of the above scenarios ring true for you, surely this one will: The environment of fear that developed when Target was breached has not lessened in the years since; nor has the threat landscape grown safer. In 2016, the average cost of a single data breach increased from $3.8 million to $4 million, while the average cost of each lost or stolen record containing sensitive information increased from $154 to $158.
If you aren’t in control of your environment and the credentials of everyone with access to your company’s data and resources, your organization—and your job—could very well be next. In fact, best practices encourage you to assume intruders are already in the network. Is your legacy IAM solution enough to prevent those intruders from moving around and finding their way to sensitive data that’s under your protection?
Time to Get off the Fence
When a major breach happens, even CEOs are held responsible, and you will be, too. The increased security that a modern IAM system provides can help keep your company safe—and your job, too.
Your business has changed, along with your user base and its needs. Without the scalability and reliability that you need to support a growing number of internal and external users, a plethora of cloud-based applications, and a multitude of corporate data, and without the controls and policies that you need to protect your organization, job, and career, you’ll never be able to dig out from under that mountain.
It may be time to examine your current IAM solution. A modern IAM solution is not a multi-year journey anymore. It isn’t as scary or as difficult as you might expect, and in the end, the squeeze is absolutely worth the juice.
About the author: James Litton is Identity Automation's Chief Executive Officer. With more than 25 years of experience in enterprise technology software and systems, James has led teams as an executive living and working in North America, Africa, Europe, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Immediately prior to joining Identity Automation, he was the Head of IT for Cray, a global supercomputing company.