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Jan/Feb 2003    by todd swensen

Building the Business
Case for Secure Identity Management

the right approach with Novell Security and Identity Solutions

The concept of integrated secure identity management is relatively new, and has generated the usual jockeying among competing vendors to define the space, position offerings and stake claims in this promising new market. The resulting noise has created some understandable confusion over exactly what secure identity management is and what it can offer, but a few simple facts have risen above the fray. First, analysts and industry experts agree that a complete secure identity management solution has to consist of a directory-based framework that gives people access to all the tools and resources they need–inside or outside an organization–based on business roles, responsibilities and relationships. These same experts almost universally agree that there is a strong, irrefutable business case to be made for this kind of secure identity management solution. But despite this consensus, relatively few businesses–only around 25% according to one recent survey–are planning to implement integrated secure identity management solutions in the near future.

This disconnect between the business value secure identity management can offer and the number of companies actually investing in secure identity management solutions translates into an opportunity for your business. The right kind of secure identity management solution has the power to transform the way you approach security, access management, CRM and other key processes; solve some of the most critical business problems your organization faces; and give your businessa distinct competitive edge (See Figure 1).

How do you go about building a strong business case for secure identity management? In these cost-conscious times, what's the best approach for convincing yourself and other members of your executive team that it makes sense to invest in this relatively new concept? And what kinds of information and arguments will resonate best with all the decision makers in your organization?

feeling your pain

First, it's important to understand that the most convincing arguments for secure identity management don't hinge on the technology. They don't revolve around capabilities, features or product comparisons. Instead, successful business cases start with a thorough understanding of the basic business drivers that keep you and your fellow executives up at night–along with concrete information about how a secure identity management solution can cure that insomnia. These identity-related business drivers may vary from company to company, but there are a number of common themes. Most businesses feel constant pressure to form closer, more productive connections with the people who fuel their growth and success–without opening themselves up to additional risk. Many organizations are working to meet government regulations that require them to prove only authorized people can access their private information. And virtually every company is searching for ways to lower costs and improve productivity. It's impossible to build a convincing business case for secure identity management without first understanding who is being affected by these kinds of identity-related business drivers–and then showing them exactly how a secure identity management solution can offer them relief.

return on investment–the bigger picture

In most cases, this involves translating the business drivers you and the rest of your executive team care about most into the language you understand best–the language of return on investment (ROI). Traditionally, businesses have defined ROI in terms of concrete reductions in hard costs. Secure identity management solutions are certainly capable of delivering those kinds of hard-dollar returns, but that's really only part of a much bigger ROI picture. Many analysts and experts agree that it's still easier to develop a secure identity management business case from softer value versus hard-dollar savings. When you present the ROI potential for secure identity management, it's important to consider some of the more strategic benefits a secure identity management solution can offer. It's useful to ask (and answer) questions such as, "How will this solution affect our competitive position?" or "How much is an integrated, identitybased security system really worth to my organization?"

Basing your business case on this expanded definition of ROI allows you to showcase the many different ways a secure identity management solution can relieve the biggest pain points in your business struggles. For example, an integrated, directory-based secure identity management solution makes it easy to grant people inside and outside your organization safe, controlled access to your corporate resources over the Internet. This can improve your supply chains, shorten order response and fulfillment times, and allow you to create more personalized, productive business relationships with your customers, partners and suppliers.

Productivity is another area where secure identity management can make a significant impact by giving new and reassigned employees faster, automatic access to all the tools and resources they need to do their jobs.

The same foundation can reduce the security risks you face by making sure people outside your organization have access to the resources and information you want them to see–and nothing else. That can be a daunting prospect in businesses where thousands–or millions–of people need access to dozens of different systems. But the right kind of secure identity management solution links all of your applications, databases and directories–and allows you to centrally store and manage security policies across all your systems. This eliminates mistakes, seals security holes and makes it easy to grant, revoke or modify access rights in real time. And because all your applications leverage the same central security framework, you can make new applications available to people more quickly and cost effectively. Identitybased access security falls outside the bounds of traditional, hard-dollar ROI. But how much could a serious security breach cost your organization? And how important is it to you that former employees and customers no longer have access to any of your systems?

Secure identity management can also play a pivotal role in increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction by giving your service reps a complete, integrated multisystem view of your customers–and offering them self-service capabilities that allow them to manage their own profiles and preferences. Again, traditional ROI analyses don't address customer loyalty, but most business leaders would agreethat happy, loyal customers translate directly into increased revenue and market share.

Productivity is another area where secure identity management can make a significant impact by giving new and reassigned employees faster, automatic access to all the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. They can be more productive in less time. And a secure identity management solution makes it much easier to add auditing and reporting capabilities that track transactions across different systems and provide an accurate record, so you can comply with stringent government regulations.

These kinds of soft ROI benefits may make up the bulk of your secure identity management business case, but that's not to say that there aren't any traditional ROI benefits to consider. Hundreds of companies have already tied significant reductions in administration and management costs directly to their secure identity management investments. These solutions have allowed these organizations to enter information about users one time and have that information flow automatically to all the different systems that need it. This eliminates the expensive, time-consuming practice of manually creating user accounts on multiple systems (See Figure 2). It also allows companies to shut down expensive accounts and services–like cell phone accounts, company fuel cards and conference call services–much more quickly. And single sign-on and self-service capabilities give IT departments new tools for lowering help desk and support costs.

the right solution for better results

Understanding the major identity-related business drivers in your organization, tying them to the specific pain points you and your fellow executives care about most, and translating those pain points into tangible, convincing ROI benefits form the foundation of a successful secure identity management business case. But your ultimate success depends on finding and implementing a solution that can actually deliver on all those promises. You need a secure identity management framework that can meet your immediate needs–and provide a flexible, capable foundation for the future. There are many different offerings to choose from, but according to Gartner, Novell is a leader in providing a comprehensive solution. In a recent Gartner report titled Metadirectory Service Market Magic Quadrant, Novell is the first vendor to enter the Leader Quadrant. The report defines leaders as companies who are performing well today, have a clear vision of market direction, and are actively building competencies to sustain that leadership position (Gartner 2HO2 Metadirectory Service Market Magic Quadrant, J. Enck, August 2002). See the full report at www.gartner.com/reprints/novell/109261.html.

There are a number of important characteristics that set the Novell secure identity management solution—Novell Security and Identity—apart from the crowd. First, Novell Security and Identity is more complete than other secure identity management offerings. It manages user accounts across different systems. It provides a complete Webbased access security framework. It's designed to support and simplify your evolution to a Web services model. And it offers an impressive list of identity related services like single sign-on and self service. Novell Security and Identity is also the most modular solution available. That means you can choose the pieces that solve your most pressing needs first, then use the same foundation to add additional capabilities when it makes sense. And finally, Novell Security and Identity is designed to enhance—not replace—your existing technology investments.

In the end, a profitable secure identity management business case for your company boils down to a few simple ideas. The right approach to secure identity management squarely addresses the business issues you and the rest of your executive team care about most. It promises a solid, indisputable return on your investment–in both hard dollar savings and softer strategic benefits. And it uses a flexible, modular approach that enhances your existing technology, improves your processes and unifies your organization. The business case for secure identity management is clear and compelling. Now you have the opportunity to prove it–by applying all the benefits, advantages and savings to your business.


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