Who holds the keys?

Managing enterprise resource accessibility is a time-consuming and costly endeavour for many companies.

Consider the time lag for getting new hires into the system. (My informal survey revealed this can range from several days to several weeks at most companies.) Add to that the security risk of workers recently liberated from your employ. Now multiply that by the number of partners and vendors requiring network access for e-business functionality.

The number quickly exposes the importance of streamlining the process by which user access rights must be approved, provisioned, modified, and deactivated.

Enterprise user-access management solutions provide a means of reducing the administrative burden and time required to provision resource entitlements. By using a central repository for access privileges, the process can be automated across disparate IT systems via a single request.

The automation can reduce implementation turnaround to less than a day, allowing people to start sooner and preventing lapses in security.

When shopping for user-access solutions, look for products that integrate with existing groupware, database, and ERP applications. Be aware that not all software products provide sufficient customization capabilities out-of-the-box. Your solution should be able to support easy tailoring to current and future resource expectations.

Useful bells and whistles often include self-service features that allow users to modify passwords without administrator intervention, and reporting capabilities that help build audit trails.

A caveat to implementation is that the procedural advantages gained will ultimately be only as good as the procedures themselves. So do not try to take shortcuts in the process of policy building. Sufficient time should be taken in advance to hammer out access policies.

Although extranet access methods are frequently implemented differently, the differentiation typically concludes at the point where the controls are implemented (the point of entry vs. individual back-end systems). The end result and benefits, still occur, however.

I can recommend several vendor products to help you get on track with user access management. They include: Control-SA from BMC Software Inc.; Access360’s enRole; and the eTrust family of products, from Computer Associates International Inc.

Enterprise user management software may not prove beneficial in every circumstance. But if your company has frequent employee turnover and a large number of resources to secure, access management may be just the key you need to help unlock efficiency.

James R. Borck is managing analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center.

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