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What is eProvisioning?

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Tham Joon Nam

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Posted: 28 Sep 2001
 

Products: Novell eDirectory, DirXML, Novell OnDemand Services

Times have changed drastically since ten years ago when most corporations started to automate the way they transacted business with partners and customers. The Internet has driven an incredible shift in how business is conducted on a global basis. It has increased the potential efficiency for the supply-side of businesses and enabled companies to track and automate customer interactions.

This has paralleled a shift in the nature of the workforce. Employees have become much more mobile. Today, on average, employees change employers every 12 to 18 months; new employees require up to 12 months to be up to speed on new responsibilities, 18 months to become part of the company culture and 24 months to execute strategy.

Bringing a new employee on board entails a series of actions involving compensation, security, and physical assets. The right business practices are, of course, the most important element in effective life-cycle management of employees. Companies want to recruit, hire, compensate, retain, and reward employees based on how they contribute to the company's bottom line. But technology can play an important part in ensuring that business practices are implemented efficiently, cost effectively, and quickly. The new buzzword for this is eProvisioning.

Defining eProvisioning

Research firm Aberdeen Group predicted in February 1999 that full-scale directory deployment would be justified by high-function solutions. The report stated that eProvisioning was one of the emerging directory-guided IT solutions that automate the deployment of IT resources and services based on business requirements.

So what exactly is eProvisioning? In its basic form, eProvisioning is about getting new employees up and running as quickly as possible, while also ensuring that employees who leave the company do so efficiently, and with minimum security risk. But this is a much more complicated process than it seems. Most companies have vast number of databases and systems that different employees will need in different ways once they come on board. Getting an e-mail account, laptop, access to HR applications, room assignment, travel profile, and access cards is probably a several day task, if not more. For those in the sales department, getting access to the sales force automation database might add more time, while those in legal wait for access to their specialized data. Productivity suffers. And this process can drag out for weeks, or even months, in certain scenarios.

eProvisioning is using technology to fix these problems. Directory technology is best suited for these eProvisioning solutions. Directories centrally manage user identities, network resources, and information. They serve as the point of entry for an employee into the corporate network, and so are best positioned to provide the initial employee-provisioning role required for new hires. Data on a new employee can be entered into the directory once and populate all the company's other application-specific directories and databases. Directories can also manage role-based provisioning, so that a new employee in the marketing group gets what he or she needs automatically, while someone in human resources get a separate set of resources automatically provisioned. Since the process is automatic, it's fast, reduces redundancy and human input errors, and transparent to the user.

The Burton Group, another US-based research firm, said in a December 2000 report that 'provisioning' might become one of the most valuable directory-enabled applications. Rather than wait for applications to become directory-enabled, provisioning systems reach out to integrate applications with existing business processes. eProvisioning systems provide a platform to integrate security, administration, workflow, and other tasks.

Why eProvisioning?

In response to proliferation of the Internet, many enterprises are now reorganizing the way they do business. eProvisioning can help by significantly reducing the time it takes for the enterprise to change its physical IT infrastructure and associated systems. In addition, eProvisioning can extend outside the company as well by automating distribution of information and applications to partners and customers, depending on their relationship to the company.

eProvisioning solutions tie together all data stores (Web site, application, and operating system information about users and resources) and synchronize common data as changes occur. This eliminates the expense of updating those individual pockets of data and reduces the chance of data entry errors.

One of the reasons why B2B e-commerce has yet to live up to its much touted promise is that technological innovation has been aimed primarily at enabling transactions versus the much more basic infrastructure needed to control access and share applications. Today, many big businesses won't be willing to open up their applications to partners until its clear that both parties have built or outsourced automated systems that can strip terminated employees of all access privileges when they walk out of the door.

With eProvisioning, when an employee leaves the company, the directory efficiently removes the employee's access rights to applications throughout the enterprise. Corporate security is protected. Information about the corporate assets the employee has is centralized in the directory, making it easy to ensure that these are returned prior to departure. According to the Aberdeen Group report, this quick removal is a critical benefit because 70% of all security breaches result from disgruntled employees' actions.

Gaining ground

eProvisioning is gaining ground in the corporate world. A leading financial institution in the U.S. has used Novell's directory-based eProvisioning solution to significantly reduce the time it takes to get an employee ready for work. Using Novell's eDirectory and DirXML integration technologies, it has tightly integrated its Peoplesoft HR systems with the rest of the company's applications, reducing costs and increasing productivity across its 4,000 person workforce. Other corporations are moving in this direction.

For More Info

Novell is developing a series of new Jump Start solution offerings that combine the eBusiness solutions expertise of Novell's Cambridge Technology Partners subsidiary with Net services software, including Novell eDirectory, Novell DirXML and Novell OnDemand Services. With Novell Employee Provisioning, Novell will provide Cambridge consulting services to automate access control for corporate resources based on an employee's status within the PeopleSoft employee management application. Through eDirectory and DirXML integration, automated access control can extend across multiple business applications such as SAP, Microsoft Exchange, Seibel and Lotus Notes, and other business systems such as electronic building access. With this integration, new employees gain immediate access to the applications and resources they need to be productive, instead of waiting days or weeks to obtain individual access to each system. When an employee leaves the company the procedure is reversed. Changing a user's employment status in PeopleSoft or removing them from another database will simultaneously remove that employee's access rights to applications throughout the enterprise, protecting corporate security.

For more on Novell's Employee Provisioning solution, see this article.


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