Identity Management in the Real World
What's identity management? Ask 20 vendors, get 20 answers. But CSOs aren't waiting for a universal definition; they're busy tackling whatever projects meet their business needs.
By Deborah Radcliff
November 01, 2004
BellSouth's call center employees often need to access several applications to answer a single customer service call. Each time they have to type in a new password
BellSouth's project might not fit the information technology industry's definition of true identity management
This is identity management in the real world, where CSOs live and work.
Companies ask two critical questions of their employees and business partners: Who are you? And what resources do you need to do your job? Simple questions, yes. But when you've got hundreds or thousands of employees, customers, databases, systems and physical plants, the answers become exponentially more complex. Identity management aims to simplify and automate those answers. In fact, the early hype claimed that identity management would solve those problems completely. Early adopters, though, found that trying for the whole enchilada typically resulted in severe indigestion, as they wrestled to implement systems, cobbling together directory tools, biometric systems, single sign-on applications, workflow software and a host of other technologies.
Today's CSOs have scaled back their expectations and are happier for it. Ask a dozen companies to describe their identity management projects (for this article, we did), and you'll get as many different answers
"A lot of people use the term identity management loosely," says John Lyons, Boeing's manager of identity systems and services. "I think it's academic. Identity management is a matter of what your particular business model is." Lyons certainly has hit on the heart of the matter. In some cases, narrow identity management solutions will scale up to greater ambitions. In others, the scope may remain small. CSOs at both extremes report with great pleasure that identity management pays off in very concrete ways when the scope and details are determined by the needs of the business.Cutting Password ClutterAt most sizable companies, passwords are like potato chips: Bet you don't have just one.