Guest Blog | June 13, 2019
Improve Security Strategically to Support Transformation

For companies looking to improve business efficiency, boost customer engagement and increase revenues, digital transformation is a top priority. This transformation is driven by the migration to the cloud, more remote workers, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and new customer demands. In its scale, scope and complexity, this digital transformation is entirely unique—bringing increased value and risks.

Successful businesses are built on trust, but that trust can be diminished with just one security breach. Protecting data is vital to a company’s continued success, but ensuring security and mitigating risk has gotten far more complicated and difficult. In the past, protecting data was more straightforward. Organizations generally knew where their data lived and typically had a clear idea of who had access to it and how it was being used.

But now, data governance and protection is more complicated because data no longer lives safely within the fortified walls of a corporation, accessible only by a highly defined group of internal users. Today, not only is data being created at a volume and velocity we’ve never seen before, it often lives in multiple private and public clouds. In this environment, a serious breach can be caused by a malicious hacker, a business partner who hasn’t instituted adequate controls or even just a careless employee.

Traditionally, IT has provided data protection by building a better “wall” and exercising strong identity and access management (IAM) controls. In the past, companies introduced IAM solutions tactically as new processes, projects or systems required. Each implementation solved specific security issues, but that approach ultimately led to fragmented infrastructures that lacked the integration needed to operate and secure a business effectively. Point solutions and siloed processes made businesses more fragile, not less—an effect that is only compounded as companies try to scale.

The reliance on various, tactical IAM solutions requires that each product be deployed, updated and managed separately, which is costly and time-consuming. This ad-hoc or siloed approach also creates security gaps that expand companies’ threat surface, leaving them at risk of data breaches or non-compliance with federal and industry data-handling requirements.

Data doesn’t reside in secure data centers anymore, and it has to be made available to a constantly shifting universe of users that includes employees, contractors, partners, vendors and customers. It lives on more devices than ever and is accessed by more people and in more ways than we’ve ever seen. It’s also accessed by a fast-evolving range of technologies and applications—like smart devices, IoT networks, data analytics applications at the network edge or partner collaboration tools—each of which represents potential vulnerability and risk.

Data is also being created more quickly than we’ve ever witnessed. Protecting it requires a comprehensive identity and data management program to manage organizational risks. Giving the right people access the appropriate data ensures trust and compliance in business while also strengthening security.

In an ever-changing digital environment, you need a strategic approach to an identity governance program that integrates with the greater cybersecurity landscape. Traditional approaches can’t effectively track, manage and protect identity, data and access in this dynamic, perimeter-less environment. Siloed solutions are roadblocks that slow down digital transformation initiatives, preventing the business from modernizing. Old rules about data, apps and access leave critical data unprotected, and companies are exposed to unexpected threats or fail to meet important regulatory requirements.

To truly mitigate risks in a world moving at the speed of digital transformation, businesses need a new approach to identity and data governance that aligns with an effective model for risk governance. Companies must re-examine their IAM programs through a lens that focuses on speed and agility so their transformation efforts aren’t derailed. Because of this need, industries that are thinking and planning strategically are moving from IAM toward identity and data management (IDM).

The effective execution of digital transformation initiatives requires that companies are aware of the additional vulnerabilities and threats that are inherent in the way data is delivered and used in the new environment. Understanding and mitigating those risks is critical, and a strategic data governance and protection approach is the only one that can keep pace with transformation. In a business environment in which data lives in more and more places and is accessed by a broader range of users in more ways, this new approach to data governance and protection allows organizations to make better-informed decisions, identify and respond quickly to vulnerabilities and incidents, and remain competitive.

Successful digital transformation depends on a strategic approach to IDM that integrates data governance and protection and lets companies effectively measure risk and proactively address vulnerabilities and threats in real time. Strategic IDM is deployed using a holistic, structured approach, beginning with a detailed assessment of the current environment—including an unflinching catalog of pain points, challenges and red flags. Companies must evaluate their current IDM program in the context of the five pillars of identity:

  • Identity program and governance
  • User lifecycle management
  • User self-service
  • Access and data governance
  • Data discovery, classification and protection

The results from this initial assessment are used to develop a strategic IDM roadmap that outlines an integration and implementation plan to align security goals with current investments, wherever possible. The roadmap covers short- and long-term objectives, along with milestones that will lead to a fully mature IDM program.

Companies that undertake to elevate IDM will speed their digital transformation efforts by securing access across all their operating environments. They’ll improve the customer experience and increase employee productivity through streamlined access and centralized user-lifecycle administration. And they’ll be better equipped to fulfill compliance and reporting requirements.

Most importantly, taking a strategic approach to IDM reduces costs. Removing unnecessary legacy IDM point solutions, simplifying licensing and eliminating redundant management tasks will undoubtedly save both time and money.

Data is a company’s most valuable asset. As data breaches and non-compliance issues occur with increasing frequency, protecting that data is more critical than ever.

Fragmented, siloed IDM solutions leave security gaps and create unnecessary complexity and expense. It’s time to take a more strategic approach to govern IDM. Companies should evaluate their legacy IDM solutions, optimizing or replacing them with new technology that’s built to fulfill a strategic identity governance and administration vision across the business. This will also allow them to fully support their transformation goals and allow for a seamless user experience.

Kara Miller
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