The State of Identity at Work: What IT Leaders Need to Know

Modern businesses have access to software services and platforms that target everything from general business processes and operations to domain-specific applications and IT services. This comes at a time when security threats and data breaches continue to grow. Additionally, regulatory pressure and organizational demands are increasing on business leaders and IT departments to protect access to corporate data and resources. But despite technological advances and the promise of better, more secure business functionality, enterprises are struggling to connect the pieces.

One crucial part of ensuring technology works together is by streamlining identity security and management tasks. This refers to a collection of business processes, policies, and solutions that facilitate the management of electronic and digital identities. Identity security solutions allow IT, managers, to control user access to critical information and services within their organizations. These solutions also enable organizations to secure access across any device or application at just the right time so productivity is not affected.

It sounds simple enough, yet in large part, organizations continue to rely on slow, error-prone processes for assigning and tracking user access. But why? The inaugural “Identity Management Survey” seeks to answer this. The research, which queried more than 500 knowledge workers—a majority of whom work in IT—explores the current challenges, key features, use cases, and emerging technologies shaping identity today. As the number of technologies, business applications, and regulations that companies must manage drives increased complexity, it’s important to understand emerging trends in the space.

Key Areas IT Leaders Should Pay Attention to

UX is Top Challenge: User Experience (UX) topped the list of challenges across most segments. One exception was respondents from small companies who cited cost as their top concern. Those that hold IT job functions cited user experience, cost, and time to access or fulfillment as the top three challenges. Without a seamless UX, productivity suffers, and so too does the overall business. Give your employees the tools and processes they need to succeed—this should be just as important as providing your customers with an optimal UX.

Users Opt for Multiple Identity Management Vendors: This finding may be a factor as to why UX is a pain point for so many organizations. Over half of the respondents with IT, job functions indicated that they work with several vendors for identity governance, risk, compliance, single sign-on, PAM, and/or security operations. Toggling between multiple, disparate systems for just security functions alone is a sure way to get frustrated users. This leads to increased Help Desk requests and insecure workarounds. Leaders should explore solutions that marry identity security functions within their existing tech stack for the best results.

Less Context-Switching Could Result in Productivity Gains: If the last two findings didn’t spell it out, we have proof: Respondents noted a benefit of reduced “context switching”—the need to shift between tools—if they could streamline the number of applications they use. In fact, 45% of respondents from IT job functions said they expected a high productivity boost from using fewer applications or systems, as compared to 41% of respondents outside the realm of IT. The point is, that less is more when it comes to the number of technical tools and apps we expect employees to use on a regular basis.

Email and ITSM Named Top Choices for Application Permissions and Entitlements: Respondents from medium and large companies cited IT Service Management (ITSM)/workforce management platforms as the most popular option for controlling permissions and entitlements. ITSM/workforce management platforms as the most popular options for managing permissions and entitlements. It’s encouraging to see the trend of more mature organizations managing identity within their ITSM platforms. But it’s equally concerning that email—insecure at best, harmful at worst—is the top method for controlling application permissions and entitlements. There are better ways, and enterprises shouldn’t wait until there’s a compromise or an audit to address archaic identity practices.

Google, Microsoft, and ServiceNow are Platforms of Choice: Over a third (35%) of respondents who work at large companies said their company uses ServiceNow. Regardless of the platform, enterprises would be wise to explore the features and applications built into their existing platform investments. By syncing identity management and security with processes and tools already in place, leaders can avoid the cost and complications of a major tech overhaul, curb employee learning curves, and have the assurance that tools will work together.

Conclusion

The exponential growth of software services and business applications combined with new security threats and difficulty keeping tabs on access and entitlements means that companies require more robust and more usable identity security. Due to the demands of scale, speed, varied use cases, and outside factors, like cloud proliferation and the uptick in remote and hybrid work, businesses must provide users with solutions that emphasize both security and usability. Accordingly, inefficient, and inflexible solutions for defining roles, policy, or attribute-based access control for identity will need to be reimagined.

By approaching identity through the lens of both security and efficiency, not only will enterprises prosper from more secure operations, but boost productivity that comes with better UX, business process automation, and less context-switching. In fact, businesses that invest in effective identity management and security practices may far even better than before. Especially as they prepare for the hundreds of business applications in use and employees coming, going, and moving within an organization. Both scenarios require continuous monitoring of identity-related activities.

Companies need to ramp up their investments in security in the years ahead as identity management challenges are poised to become even more complex. And as evidenced by the research, it’s clear that there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to keeping tabs on digital identities. But by understanding industry-wide challenges, use cases, and trends—good and bad—we can start to build a better, more secure future for enterprise identity.

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