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Five Strategies to Simplify User Onboarding

Aaron Yee
Aaron Yee
Group Product Marketing Manager

Scaling organizations have a problem. While an influx of new employees is always reason to celebrate, it also comes with added management overhead as all the new users are onboarded onto the company’s applications and systems. As every ambitious company knows, IT’s time is best spent contributing to projects that will shape the future of their business, and manual onboarding stands in the way of that.

And how does manual onboarding usually get done? HR informs IT, through emails, file dumps, tickets, and phone calls, that a new employee, partner, or contractor has joined the organization. IT then needs to create an account for each new user, in every application they require. The door is wide open for human error, to the detriment of both productivity and security, not to mention the potential headaches it can cause for future audits. In some scenarios, this can lead to understandable tension between HR and IT teams.

The truth is, the fault lies with neither team—it’s a symptom of outdated processes. We know there are high stakes to getting user onboarding right, so we’ve put together a list of strategies to simplify the process. Putting these into place will help you become more efficient, better manage security risks, and stay abreast of compliance requirements, all without compromising the user experience.

How to simplify user onboarding

  • Connect HR with IT to automate internal users’ lifecycles

We’ve said before that enterprise security is a “tale of two teams,” and the same is true of user onboarding. HR and IT are in constant communication around onboarding, but email chains and phone calls can’t effectively bridge the gaps between siloed systems. A better process? Integrate your HR system with IT to automate user onboarding and offboarding. That way, HR can continue to work as normal, and IT resources don’t become strained. Any new activity results in automatic changes to user permissions and groups.

  • Automate external users’ lifecycles, too

Growing organizations often deal with a large number of contractors and partners. While a small number of these external users may be in the company HR system, the majority won’t be, making it difficult for IT to administer their access, and to offboard these users in a timely manner. This can be a major security pain point, as well as cause confusion down the line for auditors. When did the contractor leave? On the date of their last invoice, or when their permissions were revoked? To reduce overhead and ensure security compliance, IT teams should set automation policies that control access (for example, removing the accounts of contractors after their contract expires, or after specified periods of inactivity).

  • Automate access assignment

Automation also offers organizations a smarter way to manage user access. It’s possible to set automation policies that grant users access to the most relevant apps based on their role profile. For example, if an employee is in Sales Operations, you may configure their account to have access to apps such as Salesforce. If they move to, say, Accounting, you can auto-revoke their access to Salesforce and grant permissions to the company’s accounting software instead.

  • Automation keeps things centralized

Centralization is at the core of many security issues related to on- and offboarding. Without a consolidated view of user permissions, IT teams can’t assist security teams with audits to verify that the right users have access to the right apps and files. Automation requires an integrated system, and that holistic management approach allows IT and security to become more proactive in making access-related changes. It also lets them close security holes such as orphan accounts and shadow IT.

Speed up authentication

From day one, most employees are required to learn numerous new apps and accounts. From company-wide to job-specific apps, new users have a ton of information to take in—including an array of login details. Forgotten passwords freeze user productivity and drain IT’s time, but organizations can avoid this by using single sign-on (SSO) solutions. SSO consolidates multiple app logins into one credential to rule them all—and by speeding up authentication, you free up IT’s time for more important onboarding tasks.

Creating better onboarding with Okta

Okta Lifecycle Management lets you put all these strategies to work. By automating control of user identities, the solution lets IT confirm that users have the right levels of access, saving a minimum of 30 minutes on each onboarding request. It also integrates your HR system and IT resources for seamless interaction, and can manage the lifecycles of users stored outside of HR. Paired with Universal Directory, admins get a single pane of glass to manage internal and external users alike, while Okta Single Sign-On makes it 50% faster for users to log in and use new apps.

It’s often said that first and last impressions are the most important, and that also goes for on- and offboarding. Time, productivity, security, and employee satisfaction are all on the line, as users, HR, and IT try to do their jobs as smoothly as possible. Manual onboarding handicaps all parties, but automating the process makes working life easier and more efficient for everyone.

Want to know more about automating user onboarding with Okta? Watch our How to Automate Onboarding and Offboarding with Okta video to get up to speed—in just one minute!

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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