There seems to be continuing confusion about what access management means. In layman’s terms, accessing an application implies the process of authentication — i.e., opening a browser or accessing a link — where you may be prompted to enter your credentials. If the user provides the right set of credentials, he or she gains access to that application — simple as that.

On the other hand, access management of an application relates to authorization, like what a person can view, change or delete within an application. Using an application or system usually involves requesting entitlement/permission and then gaining access after approval. In identity and access management (IAM), we call that managing access life cycle.

A Painful Process

In many large corporations, requesting access to an application or server is a painful process. Users frequently complain to system owners and administrators about the need to use multiple systems to gain access to the applications they need. Once granted, however, users keep access as long as they are employed by the company — in some cases, even after they leave. Talk about a compliance and security nightmare.

Your organization’s access approver must answer the following questions:

  • Do you have a view of all your employees’ accesses?
  • Do you really know how employees’ access impacts the corporation?
  • Do you know whether an access could lead to a data breach?

Simply put, it’s a difficult task to ensure your employees have the right access. Often, access approvers simply don’t know the answers to the questions above.

Finding an Access Management Resolution

With all the modern tooling and sophisticated security requirements we’ve adopted, why haven’t we been able to solve these problems? Some corporations may claim they have, and many times over. In some cases, single organizations adopt more than 100 solutions, from simple to very sophisticated compliance tools. Users must work through this labyrinth of siloed solutions to gain access, which is one of the key reasons user satisfaction is low. This splintered management also leads to a lack of visibility and introduces risk that could lead to data breaches.

As corporations rapidly embrace the digital era, it’s more important than ever to find an access management resolution. Today, corporations are consuming and/or providing services differently, using models such as software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). This proliferation of identity data into different flavors of cloud environments makes it impossible to gain a good handle on access data. We simply need to do a better job than we are doing now.

Battling Bimodality

While this certainly is a fast-growing problem, we must also consider legacy solutions — financial applications, for instance — that rely on mainframes. Such severe bimodality coexists in the enterprise, so it’s hard to have a single unifying access management resolution that delivers all desired goals for both old and new IT footprints.

Additionally, some lines of business do not tolerate disruptions — nothing should impact or impede the growth of the business. It’s critical that we jump onto this fast-moving digital train, elegantly manage our heritage systems and transform without disrupting our business.

There is a brighter side, however. I’m excited to announce the IBM CIO Identity Services initiative, which aims to unite all access information in a single hub. We’ll cover the ways in which this strategic initiative can help solve our cybersecurity problems in my next blog post.

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