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Successful Certification

Certification in identity management is generally used to confirm or revoke existing user accounts and HR information.  The focus being on existing accounts is used to distinguish between general access request approval workflows and post approval workflows.  During the access request phase a manager or IT owner will approve or reject whether someone should have additional access to a system.  This is not a new concept and was managed perfectly well, long before this process was automated using provisioning solutions.

Certification or attestation is more concerned with analysing users who have already been granted access to a current system.  This periodic post approval process is more to do with seeing if previous access request actions are still needed.  This also leads to other analytical steps such as identifying users who may have moved jobs, or left the organisation.  Another useful bi-product of analysing existing users is to locate what's known as 'orphan accounts'.  These 'orphans' are simply application accounts that can no longer be linked back to an actual HR record.  This is likely if the employee has been terminated but their access still exists.  Not only are these orphan accounts an un-managed security risk, they could also be wasting costly licenses if not being used.

A general approach to certification is to perform an initial identification of which business areas and applications need certifying.  Not all parts of the business may require the same level of analysis and only critical applications that face regulatory compliance may need attention.  Once the scope of analysis has been completed data from the users and systems involved needs collating, centralising and correlating.  Here we can identify orphan accounts, missing HR information and other data anomalies.

The actual certification process is generally performed by non-IT managers from the business.  As a result a clear training, messaging and internal marketing campaign is needed to make sure the correct stakeholders are involved and understand their role.  Escalation processes also need creating in order to develop process flows to make sure the certification cycle is complete accurately and on time.

The resulting rejection or certification of accounts also needs centralising and processing using a reporting and dashboard technique.  Good visibility of metrics such as number of certified users, time to complete, number of rejections, exceptions and so on needs to be available.

Once revoked user accounts have been identified a clear and understandable de-provisioning process needs to be created, managed and maintained.  This will require IT understanding of the systems in scope in order to develop a process to remove revoked users and entitlements.  This needs documenting, publishing and adhering with strong and realistic time scales for the actions to be performed.  Once performed, positive feedback is then needed in order to confirm the user accounts and their entitlements have been removed.

All in all, the process requires good messaging, inscope work packages, correct stakeholder buy in and regular performance management to enable the certifications to effective and create a tangible ROI.


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