Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education’

Leaders Value These Key Identity and Access Management Automation Payoffs

  January 15th, 2021

Identity and access management (IAM) automation is an undeniable game changer in higher education, with countless advantages for colleges and universities. So, when we recently worked with Pulse to survey IT leaders in higher education, we were a little surprised by the narrow scope of some of the results. When asked what automation benefits they’re most looking forward to, most of the answers centered around three categories:

  • Reduced security risk
  • Boosted confidence in compliance status
  • A shift from reactive to proactive threat detection

All of these are certainly key benefits for higher education; however, the payoffs for colleges and universities go well beyond these three. Automation can increase efficiency, resiliency, and accuracy in a number of ways.

More Time for Strategic Initiatives

While just over a third of respondents showed interest in this benefit, the importance of time saved cannot be overstated. Institutions that no longer have to spend time manually managing IAM can instead dedicate those resources to more innovative projects. Whether it’s app development, streamlining processes across departments, or focusing on end user experience, removing the more time-consuming parts of identity and access management allows colleges and universities to devote more resources towards strategic thinking.

Improved End User Experience

With so many other priorities to manage, user experience can get left behind. Our recent survey certainly reflected that: only 13% of respondents noted it as an expected benefit. Overlooking this vital piece of the IAM roadmap may expedite processes in the short-term, but poor UX can create extra work (i.e., onboarding challenges and overall usage issues) down the road if neglected for too long.

Simplified Workflows and Streamlined, Modernized Processes

Never underestimate the power of simpler processes. These automation bonuses may have only sparked excitement in around 10% of our IT leaders, but these streamlined workflows can make all the difference for universities. This is especially true for larger institutions who are tasked with identity and access management across multiple departments and colleges where automation can save countless hours.

Hurdles That are Holding Back Critical Growth

Unfortunately, due to obstacles faced by much of higher education, that automation panacea is still a ways off. The following hurdles are holding back critical growth for identity and access management in higher education and overcoming them will be crucial for success in the future.

Budget Constraints

Pre-pandemic, higher education was already facing budget cuts. Now, Covid-19 has only further intensified financial constraints. IT departments at colleges and universities, in particular, have been faced with unforeseen challenges as they were forced to quickly adapt for remote learning and then strengthen these swift solutions as the pandemic stretched on. Of course, this increase in internal IT demand had its own financial outlays and was simultaneously coupled with schools needing to tighten their budgets even further.

In our survey, all IT leaders agreed that budget is a primary roadblock for identity and access management automation. While there’s no easy solution for these financial hurdles, clearly communicating the full value of IAM automation (long-term cost savings, more efficient processes, fewer errors, etc.) will strengthen efforts to implement these essential processes and solutions.

Existing Infrastructure Investments

Legacy systems make those budget constraints even more challenging to overcome, as many schools have put significant amounts of time and financial investment into these systems and processes. Making the switch to a new automated system is about more than the financial cost, it’s also the time needed to onboard and implement that new technology — especially training teams and getting them up to speed with the new IAM solution.

All IT leaders we surveyed selected this as an impediment on the road to automation. Understanding that the investment — both time and cost — is worth the increase in efficiency, security, and so much more will allow colleges and universities to expedite their automation journey.

Executive Buy-in

Ultimately, automating identity and access management in higher education requires that IT leaders achieve buy-in from all decisions makers. While those in the trenches of the IT department may have a clear understanding of the benefits of automation, communicating that with the C-suite can present its own challenges.

While three-quarters of respondents identified executive buy-in as an automation hindrance, for schools struggling to convince decision makers of the value, it can be the sole roadblock to automation. As is the case with budget constraints, presenting the ROI of automation (time saved, decrease in human error, and as a result, reduced long-term costs) will be key in convincing leadership to commit to this essential evolution.

All of these challenges certainly present stumbling blocks on the path to IAM automation for colleges and universities. Clear communication of the return on this investment will be critical as higher education IAM moves forward.

Reputation Is Everything

Most end users may not be a decision maker at any colleges and universities, but they’re still certainly stakeholders when it comes to identity and access management. Whether it’s a student needing to reset their password from home or a new research project that requires specific entitlements, the process needs to be seamless, simple, and secure.

Clunky processes can create frustration for the end user (at best) and serious system vulnerabilities (at worst). It’s also worth noting that ultimately, when it comes to IAM processes, the opinions of end users can and do influence those who make the decisions.

End User Experience Also Has Pull

For many of these questions, the results matched the trends we’re witnessing in IAM for higher education. However, a few categories had some surprises, among them, end user experience (UX).

While only 13% of higher education IT executives cited the improvement of end user experience as a main benefit of IAM automation, two-thirds rated the influence of UX over the IAM roadmap as at least a 4 (on a scale of 1-5). End user experience isn’t driving IAM automation, but it still has plenty of pull when it comes to automation. Understanding its influence can help higher education better incorporate UX into automation plans moving forward.

Amplified by Remote Access

While remote access has always played a role in UX, the pandemic has made it a priority. Our survey reflected that 98% of those surveyed said UX improvement has risen in importance following the mass work-from-home migration and the broad swath of resources being accessed remotely. Remote access has also added another dimension to UX with IT teams needing to account for how remote students and faculty can reach support (for password problems or more serious issues) when the need arises.

Lighten the Load

While the end user is the focus of UX, higher education IT teams will also reap some of the benefits. Seamless, simple, secure IAM that’s easy to use and incorporates support solutions that users can access remotely, will ultimately remove many of those tasks (password resets, permission updates, etc.) from the IT team’s to-do list. Fewer user issues means less problem solving for your IT team, freeing them to focus on more strategic initiatives — further improving processes, application development, or whatever innovation is next.

User Experience Smart From the Start

UX may not be the driving force for higher education IAM automation, but IT leaders still need to keep its impact and influence in mind when plotting out their identity and access management roadmaps. When higher education IT leaders incorporate UX into IAM automation strategies from the start, they can stay ahead of any complications and ensure IAM automation benefits all stakeholders.

Get our one minute whitepaper to read the full results of our survey and learn more about IAM automation challenges and benefits for higher education in our resource:

Higher Education IT Leaders Are Looking to Complement Access Governance With Automation.

Join Hitachi ID and Pulse for an upcoming webinar to learn more about how higher education is using automation to complement identity and access management governance in their zero trust strategies to protect data against cyber security attacks.


UCSF Higher Education IAM Case Study

  January 12th, 2021

In higher education the challenges of identity and access management (IAM) are many, and for the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), they had the usual obstacles: ever-increasing number of users with changeable and overlapping roles to account for (students, professors, faculty), plus the need to secure all of their personal data, data related to research projects, and federally funded grants. In addition an aging mainframe system sat at the core of their IAM environment and retiring it was of utmost importance since administrators with expertise in it were retiring quickly!

However, because UCSF is both a university and a hospital (with its own interlaced medical teaching needs), the IAM security environment is even more complicated. Multiple data sources combined with loose affiliations for members including students, teachers, staff, residents, nurses, doctors, researchers, guests, volunteers and contractors made the quality of the data unreliable.

That’s why after 20 years of coping with these mounting challenges, UCSF knew it was time to modernize its decades-old IAM system. The challenge? How to replace a legacy identity system that was deeply entangled with core business processes while keeping the older systems alive and minimizing risk to the university. Of course, there’s no easy answer, but ultimately it came down to finding the right approach:

Do the Research

Understanding what the best solution for their IAM challenges was a multi-step process unto itself. UCSF knew it needed one data source to automate provisioning, synchronize systems of record, and streamline appropriate access through the identity lifecycle with a highly secure yet publicly accessible identity solution. They also knew they needed to not only solve current challenges, but also plan for the future with a system that was capable of scaling and evolving to meet them.

Kevin Dale, senior manager of identity and access management at UCSF brought the project from concept to completion and conducted thorough research of the vendor landscape before beginning this critical transformation. Casting a wide net not only allowed him to vet potential vendors, it also brought to light what capabilities are being offered in the marketplace. Demonstrations and discussions with peers and reference clients helped validate the decision, making the next step infinitely simpler.

Prioritize Projects

For colleges and universities, an IAM upgrade is an enormous, multi-faceted project that impacts nearly every department. It’s not a solution that can be simply switched on. Implementation takes time and coordination to ensure that risk was mitigated to the greatest extent possible. That’s why UCSF knew it needed to prioritize the features and technology that were most critical.

For UCSF, the prioritized must-have features included password management and good connectors, including one for Active Directory supporting group management, identity lifecycle, access management and governance. Identifying these must-haves allowed the university to more clearly map out its roadmap and assisted in the vendor selection process by eliminating those who didn’t fit those needs.

Get Everyone on Board

With multiple departments, colleges, and the hospital to coordinate, having complete buy-in was an absolute must. Nine departments worked to promote adoption across the campus. The effort was spearheaded by the IT team, which outlined concrete deliverables: replacing the mainframe, introducing Hitachi ID Bravura Identity, production deployment, automating and standardizing provisioning and deactivations, and more.

By frequently communicating prioritized outcomes linked to timelines, the stakeholders helped foster partnerships with staff and kept the project on track and on budget. That included the critical step of training everyone on how to use the new Hitachi ID solution and augmented skills as needed.

With a modern Hitachi ID identity solution, UCSF simplified and improved data protection and access while reducing security risk. Improved control has better positioned UCSF to provide access for its members today and ever growing population into the future.

Hitachi ID is the only industry leader delivering password, identity, group and privileged access management across a single platform to ease implementation as your IAM and PAM roadmaps evolve. You can learn more about the IAM challenges UCSF faced and the solutions Hitachi ID implemented to overcome them here: UCSF IAM Case Study


The Top Trends in Higher Education IAM According to IT Leaders

  November 19th, 2020

Higher education institutions face numerous challenges when it comes to identity and access management (IAM), and this year has only intensified them. From the volume of resources and data to the unique lifecycles and access challenges presented by students, staff, and alumni, the cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities are many. 

IAM for higher education has only been further complicated by a new batch of challenges brought on by the pandemic: an increase in layoffs, additional security challenges created by the influx of remote access requirements, and budgets that are even more in flux than they already were. Finding the right solution requires an intimate understanding of this complex case. 

To understand the landscape better, we went straight to IT leaders in higher education for their thoughts on IAM. Our survey, conducted by Pulse, focused on changes in priorities, emphasizing reducing the risk of using fewer resources. 

Their responses highlight some key themes and trends in higher ed IAM and provide not only a big picture of the state of higher education IAM but a clearer view of the best route forward for colleges and universities.

Automation vs. Governance?

Automation — a key business enabler — is becoming paramount for IAM success and the survey results reflected that with nearly all leaders reporting they plan to automate most or all of their IAM processes. But another result regarding governance seemed to stand in the way of these automation goals: 99% said they consider identity management governance (IGA) to be the best approach to identity and access management.

Furthermore, 97% also claim that IAM automation is necessary to maintain compliance — this brings to light a conflict between what respondents have implemented today and what best practices truly are. It’s long been a misconception that governance must precede automation to achieve IAM success, but automation is always a critical tool in achieving governance success. 

While governance is a critical success factor, prioritizing it over automation can actually slow the progress of both goals. Moving forward, colleges and universities should see automation as a tool to support governance, not the next step after compliance is taken care of.

4 Expected Benefits of Automation

Although automation is on almost every to-do list, higher education IT leaders have a slightly broader view of what the top benefits of automation will be. Reducing institutional security risks is a top priority for 69%. Just about two-thirds of respondents hope automated IAM will boost confidence in compliance status. 

Still, more than half hope to see a shift from reactive to proactive threat detection. Surprisingly, 37% look forward to reallocating resources to strategic initiatives. Luckily, automation can help higher education achieve all of these and more as IT initiatives and priorities continue to shift.

The Impact of 2020

Across all of higher education, the pandemic has threatened most institutions’ IT budgets and significantly slowed automation momentum. In fact, all of those surveyed reported that budgets and existing infrastructure investments are preventing full IAM automation. 

Other 2020 challenges have also shifted some automation priorities. For instance, there’s been a significant increase in layoffs and furloughs within colleges and universities since the start of the pandemic last spring. As a result, 93% of respondents say managing the provisioning and de-provisioning of entitlements has become more challenging without automation as a result of a smaller workforce. Nearly all of these executives say that automating IAM processes that specifically handle off-boarding for the increasing number of layoffs, plus the resources privileged users can access, would help them boost their organization’s productivity and security.
For IT leaders in higher education, IAM has always presented unique challenges. The pandemic not only heightened existing difficulties, it brought to light unforeseen problems as well. The good news is, automation can help solve many of them, but it needs to be prioritized. You can learn more about how automation can streamline identity and access management (while improving governance) in our free resource: Higher Education IT Leaders Are Looking to Complement Access Governance With Automation.