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How Automated Onboarding Could Save Your Sanity

Aaron Yee
Aaron Yee
Group Product Marketing Manager

TL;DR: Giving users access to the tools they need is a challenge, and it’s getting tougher by the day. Automating that process could be the key to your success. Here’s why IT teams need automated provisioning, and how your own team can do it.

IT departments today face two main challenges: The first is that people are changing jobs more often—at a rate of every 4.2 years in 2018. That’s down from 4.6 years in 2014, and it doesn’t even account for people switching roles within companies. IT departments must keep up as they onboard new users, change permissions, and offboard old employees more frequently.

Another key problem IT teams face is that the employees who do stay with their companies are demanding more apps to support flexible working methods. According to a recent survey, nearly 90% of managers and business owners want cloud apps to support remote working. IT departments must keep up, or risk employees looking elsewhere for unauthorized cloud services that introduces more shadow IT to the enterprise.

Manually onboarding users and provisioning their accounts and access to apps is repetitive, time-consuming, and prone to human error. Just one slip-up is enough to risk orphaned accounts, misconfigured access, and the whole organization’s security.

The benefits of automated onboarding

Like many other IT processes, automation is the answer. When done right, automating user account and access management throughout the entire employee lifecycle offers multiple benefits:

  • Consistency: A centralized identity management solution standardizes onboarding processes across hundreds of apps and thousands of employees.
  • Time savings: IT departments are already time constrained. Automating an increasing time-consuming task can ease the manual burden and free IT professionals to work on other things.
  • Fewer mistakes: Automated onboarding reduces administrative errors and closes security loopholes.
  • Better service: Employees are not just users anymore—they’re internal customers. IT departments must maintain service levels, and onboarding users is no exception. Automation can improve service times when provisioning accounts.
  • Granular access: IT departments can build user segmentation into automated onboarding processes, assigning access privileges based on user roles for better information security.
  • Greater visibility: Auditing accounts manually across siloed systems is slow and expensive. Centralized IAM systems can audit and report on user accounts easily.

Automated onboarding can be complex

Even though automated user onboarding has multiple benefits, it also has many moving parts. Design and deployment teams must plan across several areas:

  • Identify the limits: IT teams must establish which applications or functions can’t be automated—some applications are simply too old to integrate with modern solutions, so IT can can only manually onboard users onto them. That said, a good solution can still make manual provisioning easier by teeing up user data for IT, creating alerts, and providing hooks that other apps can connect to.  
  • Define the scope: Teams must document the systems and user groups that the automation project will affect. The ideal would be to support them all, but deployment teams may stage rollouts, supporting systems incrementally.
  • Develop the workflow: Deployment teams must set up the process to create, change, and delete accounts for every application.
  • Defend the system: Early on, IT must secure the automated solutions from unauthorized access due to the critical role they will play in protecting their environment. These solutions must also log every action to ensure that access attempts can be traced and analyzed.
  • Design the migration: It’s essential to create a plan to migrate existing accounts into the centralized user lifecycle management solution, understanding any app dependencies along the way.

Deploying a solution that meets all business needs is a challenge for those opting to do it in-house. Manual onboarding is inefficient for all but the smallest of companies, while the use of in-house scripts and cobbled-together solutions is highly dependent on the creator remaining at the company. A far better alternative is to adopt an identity management solution that already offers all this functionality, resulting in many benefits for the company overall.

Get someone else to do the heavy lifting

Okta’s Lifecycle Management solution automates these provisioning and configuration tasks for both internal users (employees), who typically go into an HR system, and external users like contractors and partners. It offers hands-off, automated, real-time user onboarding and offboarding triggered by your preferred HR system or application. It also provides deep application integration that goes beyond only syncing users, with support for groups, contacts, and devices.

The solution complements Okta’s Universal Directory, which provides one place to manage all users, groups, and devices.

With Okta, the average organization sees time-savings of up to 30 minutes for every application provisioning request, an additional 30 minutes saved on determining and configuring user roles, and saves $20 per user in preparing for audit reports.

IT departments often can’t afford the time to both prepare their own automated onboarding systems and integrate them with all their existing applications, because they’re already spending too much time fighting administrative fires. A turnkey solution can cut through the whole tangled mess by giving them the platform they need to monitor, manage, and secure their environments today.

Read on to get more details about how you can automate onboarding across the lifecycle!

Aaron Yee
Aaron Yee
Group Product Marketing Manager

Aaron Yee joined Okta in 2012 as the company's first Professional Services consultant. In that role, he implemented Okta for many early customers and saw how they stretched Okta’s capabilities. He subsequently joined the Product Marketing Team to continue shaping the product for modern user lifecycle management requirements. Prior to Okta, Aaron was a consultant for civilian and DoD agencies in DC, where he designed & implemented solutions to manage user lifecycles. Aaron has a BA in Computer Science from Brown University and an MBA from the University of Virginia. He lives in San Francisco and enjoys sailing, snowboarding, tinkering with cars, and rooting for the hopeless 49ers.

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