Why identity data can be the key to digital transformation success. 

The process of digital transformation has been on the mind of nearly every organization over the last two years. Whilst many enterprises have made exciting plans in order to revolutionize their business models, making them a reality hasn’t been so easy. 

Many of the difficulties organizations experience during their digital transformation projects relate back to the issue of identity management. For decades, businesses have scattered their identity data across multiple sources such as LDAP, AD, SQL, and web services, creating a siloed infrastructure which is near-on impossible to manage, and poses a serious cyber risk. 

Identity management strategies can be the deciding factor between the success and failure of a digital transformation project. Organizations need a single source of identity data, which can offer efficiency, accuracy, and security, and drive digital transformation. 

How poor identity management can be the barrier to success

The main aim of digital transformation is to create a more efficient and flexible business model. However, the fundamental issue within many organizations is the inability to figure out who’s who within the business. 

Large organizations often have multiple identities for an individual spread across different sources, which don’t necessarily work on the same application or protocol, and therefore cannot communicate with each other. This means that, you don’t know if “Joe Bloggs” in one database is the same “Joe Bloggs” as in another for IT teams it is like trying to figure out the Gordian knot. 

With IT teams having no clue which identities belong to which users, organizations usually end up with redundant, unmanaged, and overprivileged accounts – the perfect concoction for threat actors. The sprawl of identity data creates huge attack surfaces, which in turn makes it harder for security teams to maintain full visibility and provides security gaps for cybercriminals to exploit. 

On top of this, siloed systems that fail to remove past employees with high-level privileged access can then be exploited by threat actors, causing significant damage to an organization’s network, while the security team is oblivious to it. 

It is not only a security issue, but a usability and financial issue as well. These siloed systems cause endless frustration for employees, who have to remember multiple usernames and passwords in order to access different applications. Research conducted by Radiant Logic showed 64% of tech executives said users are frustrated that they need different credentials to access different apps. 

In addition, an IT team somewhere around the world could be going through the painstaking process of trying to move hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts to their new digital system. However, the business could be spending both money and time on accounts which are no longer needed. 

With issues like these, digital transformation projects soon turn out not to be so efficient, flexible and cost-effective. Therefore, it seems quite confusing that organizations would allow for this chaos to happen. However, it’s not as simple as it looks. 

Turning a blind eye to the identity management crisis

Uncovering decades-worth of identity data and technical debt can be an extremely nasty shock. For some large enterprises, the task of trying to build a single source of truth for identity can be a multi-year project, and it is simply easier to bury yourself in the sand and ignore the problem. 

Even organizations that have attempted to control their identity data have hit huge challenges. 67% of organizations have a modern access control and governance solution, but a lot of apps and users are left out. Many identity and access management solutions were not built to unify and synthesize identity stores on the scale of modern enterprises. As a result, businesses tend to ignore the cracks, and will only solve the problem when the dam eventually bursts. 

However, this is a common theme in the cyber world. Even from my own experience, I worked with a financial company that was still using a mainframe as its core infrastructure. They were happy to rework the interface layer and keep the legacy technology running, because they didn’t want to risk the expense and disruption caused by switching to modern technology. 

However, modern cyber issues need modern cyber solutions, and we cannot allow the identity management crisis to continue. Organizations need their own version of Alexander the Great’s sword in order to solve their modern Gordian knot. 

Creating one single source of identity data

To truly solve the identity management crisis, organizations need a single source of truth for identity data, and this can be achieved through an Identity Data Fabric approach.By unifying identity data into one resource, applications can access identity data in its preferred format and protocol, regardless of whether it’s stored on-prem or in the cloud

Unlike most other Identity Access Management approaches, an Identity Data Fabric focuses on the data layer instead of the application layer. Through this single pane of glass, systems are able to access identity data on-demand whenever and wherever they use it. 

Identity data is updated in real-time, which means that IT and security teams can have complete control of user access and have full visibility across their entire identity space. Ultimately, this will help close existing security gaps of inconsistent identity data across organizations. 

Efficiency, accuracy, and security are the three components of a successful digital transformation project An Identity Data Fabric builds a valuable foundation which can serve digital transformation projects in both the immediate and long-term. 

Chad McDonald

CISO at Radiant Logic

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