Automating Bad Process Doesn't Make It Effective

I was recently presenting to a customer who is about to embark on an RBAC and Role Management project.  They knew the technical features they wanted to implement but their main concern was focussed more on the underlying business process.

An RBAC project can cover multiple areas of a business, not just he IT Security and Administration teams.  Obviously there are technical aspects, features and metrics that need either automating or consolidating.  These can include:

#    Automatic creation of a role object (including the entitlements a role should have)
#    Automatic association of users to role objects
#    Automatic reportin of role objects, user entitlements, user exceptions
#    Automatic recertification of user entitlements and role entitlements
#    Automatic Audit analysis like Separation of Duty or compliance policies

This list is obviously non-exhaustive but gives an idea of the sorts of tasks that a piece of software can be used to automate and a manual process.

In addition there are several business related aspects that need considering also.  Introducing an RBAC security method into an organisation requires additional support and steps from a non-IT perspective.  These can include:

#    Training for line managers to request a role for access instead of an individual entitlement
#    Providing a non-technical naming standard for role objects so business leaders understand their meaning
#    Identifying who should 'own' the roles themselves, to provide goverance for role to user memberships
#    Which parts of the organisation should have priority for an initial wave of RBAC deployment
#    Who from the organisations board should sponsor and direct the project
#    If a user requests access to a role who should manage compliance exceptions and the process flow
#    what reports need creating, when they should be stored, for long and by whom?

Again, this list is only a sample, but should give a picture of the more process related issues involved in deploying an RBAC tool.  The tool itself will not fix the process if it's either broken or missing entirely.  The implement a solution of any kind, the underlying actors need to be involved, know their role and be able to follow a prescribed process in order to deal with the general management issues that arise from using roles in an access management platform.

By simply automating bad process, all we are doing is accelerating the issues the processes cause due to their lack of scope, detail and focus.

If you're walking in the wrong direction, starting to run only makes you further from your correct track.  It is better to slow down, stop, understand the underlying issues first, before starting to use a tool to automate and influence the critical access framework you're trying to develop.