The Next Value Accelerator for Your Business is Identity and Access Management

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has made this a chaotic and challenging year for businesses. But it’s also increased user demand for digital adaptations and brought the value of accelerated IT practices right to the fore. 

Global executives and IT leaders are now seeing that a distributed—or dynamic—workforce can be a more efficient one, with increased productivity, reduced real estate costs and turnover, and a swift transition to the cloud emerging as clear benefits. As ISACA pointed out in their COVID-19 study, “One of the most significant lessons learned has been that remote work does, in fact, work.” 

However, some of this change happened so quickly that it led to network bottlenecks and connectivity issues. According to ISACA, 87% of technology professionals say that this year’s rapid transition had the adverse effect of increasing their data and privacy risks. 

Now that most businesses are remote (which may continue into the future), they need to ensure that their network security is keeping pace with their adaptive workforce. To mitigate these risks, more stakeholders are tracking their success against the identity and access management (IAM) maturity curve. In this post, we’ll speak to the stages the majority of businesses should address when accelerating value.

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Progressing along the distributed work IAM maturity curve

As a result of the pandemic, the majority of businesses have been ushered out of the traditional work environment and into Stage 1 of IAM maturity: enabling secure remote work. 

  • After migrating their traditional work environments, companies at this stage of maturity need to ensure their employees can remotely access digital resources and collaboration tools. 
  • Businesses can limit password sprawl with modern authentication protocols like OIDC and SAML
  • Single sign-on (SSO) facilitates seamless access to all integrated apps, while multi-factor authentication (MFA) provides additional safeguards to logins in Stage 1 of the maturity curve.

As organizations continue to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and implement best practices, many of them are looking to automate processes and leverage more sophisticated, context-based access controls, with rapid time-to-value. Take FedEx, for example.

This year, courier services experienced peaks in customer demand. FedEx retired a “spaghetti” IAM infrastructure that was causing friction for developers and users, consisting of legacy point solutions such as on-premises MFA, identity federation, and web access management (WAM). With Okta, 85,000 team members were successfully—and securely—able to access the company’s VPN on Day One of work-from-home. The delivery company also rolled out cloud-based SSO and MFA. Their security protocols now validate and customize a sign-in experience based on user, device, and context.

Enhancing productivity in Stage 2

Finding themselves in the later stages of IAM maturity, companies are looking to enrich the experience of dynamic work for their distributed teams. Businesses at this point in their maturity journeys can start to check off the following important action items:

  • Automate onboarding and offboarding wherever possible. According to GitLab, the long-term benefits of an efficient onboarding process include better team member retention, more productivity, managed expectations, and reduced anxiety. And cleancut offboarding ensures you haven’t left any doors open to threats once an employee has left the company.
  • Store non-corporate IDs (i.e., temporary contract) in cloud directories. Cloud-native user directories offer speed, performance, scale, and streamlined user management. They are also often easier and more cost-effective for managing temporary workers than traditional on-prem solutions.
  • Set context-based access policies and use high-assurance MFA factors. Relying primarily on corporate network context offers an incomplete picture of a user’s identity, whereas adaptive MFA can bring credential-focused attacks to a halt. Signals such as device and geolocation can be strong indicators of risk. 
  • Extend access controls to on-prem systems, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms, or APIs. Only 51% of technology professionals and leaders have high confidence that their cybersecurity teams are ready to detect and respond to the uptick in attacks this year. Access management can extend controls across all of these resources, as well as help to secure multiple technologies.
  • Increase organizational productivity. Companies can enable self-service password resets, which reduces the workload of the help desk. They can also use low-code or no-code tools, such as Okta Workflows, that free up developers and automate processes.

All of these practices will have the effect of enhancing productivity across a distributed workforce.

Achieving Zero Trust in Stage 3

Organizations in the final stage of IAM maturity take a robust approach to security, where “never trust, always verify” is the standard. Zero Trust security is an approach where all users, devices, and IP addresses are treated as a threat—until proven otherwise. 

Businesses in Stage 3 make their workflows even more seamless, and fulfill the objectives of Zero Trust access by:

  • Establishing risk-based access controls, rooted in identity.
  • Allowing passwordless access when the risk is low.
  • Reducing their reliance on VPNs.
  • Integrating with other Zero Trust partners.

To quote ISACA, we know that remote work does, in fact, work. Now it’s about working smart, with a modern identity platform. 

The benefits of the IAM maturity curve approach are clear:

  • Companies can accelerate app deployment and reduce help desk calls and tickets.
  • New solutions can be integrated, without a decrease in IT agility or risk mitigation.
  • The Okta SSO portal grants users seamless remote access to cloud and on-prem resources, so they can get their work done.
  • Okta Lifecycle Management and Workflows makes it possible for a company to exert sophisticated, customized, and even automated control over identities across lifecycle states.

Even the implementation of these solutions tends to be a highly productive undertaking, as most  Okta deployments happen up to seven times faster than other identity stacks. 

The even better news? Your business is already on an IAM journey. Accelerating to a new level of IT security is all about taking the next step.

Learn more about the IAM maturity curve in our whitepaper, The Next Value Accelerator for IT.