Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a critical tool in the battle to protect confidential data. IAM tools ensure that only authenticated users can access sensitive resources and that data usage is strictly limited. With a solid IAM strategy in place, data remains secure. However, employees can access the resources they need whenever they need to.

IAM strategy is key to aligning security with business goals, ensuring compliance, and boosting efficiency. It defines policies and technologies to manage digital identities and control access across the company.

The value of IAM is clear. But how should you create an effective IAM implementation plan? This article will provide valuable guidance about planning your strategy and what areas IAM strategies must include.

Key takeaways

  • Understanding your current infrastructure should start with analyzing HR systems and identifying processes and IT environments. It’ll help you identify strengths and weaknesses.
  • Setting clear IAM objectives: when you define your goals in relation to organizational needs, focus on compliance, security, and efficiency.
  • Engaging stakeholders: involving and aligning stakeholders across the organization ensures the IAM strategy meets real needs and gains wide support.
  • Developing a strategic IAM roadmap: a vision and plan that aligns with digital transformation goals should incorporate essential elements like Privileged Access Management.
  • Implementing identity federation and regular auditing: access management and compliance through identity federation and consistent auditing ensure adherence to standards like GDPR and HIPAA.

What to consider before implementing the IAM strategy

Much of the hard work when creating an identity and access management strategy takes place before implementation begins. Planning is crucial if you want to balance ease of use and secure user access. Here are some things to consider at the initial project stage:

1. Map your network architecture

The first step in implementing IAM is understanding the layout of existing network resources. Map on-premises router and server architecture and critical apps used locally. Create a map of remote work connections and any cloud-based services users access.

Discover and document existing IAM processes and assess how users currently access and share data. Use this information as the starting point for a roadmap from obsolete IAM to an effective, relevant deployment.

2. Understand the user community and privileges situation

Planners must also know who uses the resources protected by identity and access management tools. Build a directory of all active users and link individuals to their access levels and business needs. It’s good practice for IAM projects to list privileged users separately. These are users with wide-ranging network access. They are a primary target for external attackers.

3. Assess risks of data and applications

Carry out a full risk assessment of each application. Understand where confidential information resides in the network environment and who has access to this data. Apply sensible risk management to focus your IAM strategy on these high-value assets. The aim is to balance ease of use with security so that weaker IAM controls may apply around lower-value apps.

4. Clean up your data governance practices

Before implementing an access management strategy, it helps to clean up existing data storage practices. Standardize data formats to suit IAM technologies and organize data to make it visible to security managers. Assess security policies to ensure they include robust data security rules, including penalties for data misuse.

5. Choose the right IAM tools

Investigate IAM solutions and consider different technologies. Most modern companies benefit from cloud-based IAM solutions, but legacy-focused IAM is also available. Look for products that deliver core IAM functions, including:

  • Authentication
  • Authorization
  • Single sign-on
  • Auditing systems
  • Identity federation

Search for a provider that allows identity migration from existing access management tools. This will enable seamless transitions from legacy solutions to multi-cloud hybrid environments.

5 steps to create an IAM strategy

The planning stage builds organizational knowledge, a crucial step where IAM best practices play a significant role. The first step is assembling that knowledge and creating a workable IAM strategy. Strategies vary depending on business environments, but they will generally include core IAM aspects:

Step 1: evaluate processes, policies, and IT architecture

Begin with a clear understanding of your current state. This involves analyzing your HR Systems, identity lifecycle processes., Active Directory/Azure environments, and provisioning processes. You can assess internal competencies and identify strengths and weaknesses through this evaluation.

Step 2: establish your IAM objectives

Now that you know your processes and your strengths, it’s time to set your IAM goals. This step requires understanding your organization's business aims and how IAM can help achieve them. Focus your objectives on maintaining regulatory compliance, minimizing data breach risks, and enhancing user efficiency.

Step 3: Secure stakeholders’ engagement

This step is crucial for fostering awareness and integrating stakeholders into the IAM strategy.

It involves organization-wide discussions to engage stakeholders and shape solutions that cater to your business needs.

To maximize IAM's potential, adopt a comprehensive, strategic approach to technology advancement and investment, extending your focus beyond just project management.

Step 4: map the journey to the desired IAM state

Develop a vision and plan for your IAM framework, aligning the strategy with your business investments in digital transformation. This stage also incorporates Privileged Access Management (PAM) to manage sensitive data access. Keeping this in mind, consider these questions:

  • What does implementing the strategy encompass?
  • Who will be involved or affected by this strategy, and what are their requirements?
  • Is there a prioritized plan with clear objectives in place?
  • Where do the current technologies and business processes fall short?
  • Are there any limitations or hurdles in executing the IAM strategy?
  • What is your approach to rolling out the Identity Management strategy within your organization?

Step 5: identity federation and IAM auditing

The final step is about enhancing access and ensuring compliance. Implement identity federation for seamless integration with third-party applications and cloud platforms. Conduct regular audits of your IAM systems, focusing on access requests, user activities, and security alerts, and ensure that each component of the IAM solution meets compliance standards like GDPR or HIPAA.

What mistakes to avoid

The IAM aspects discussed above can be combined in multiple ways. However, implementation teams can face problems when translating identity and access management plans into functional reality. Here are some mistakes that commonly make applying IAM more complex than it needs to be:

  • Not understanding business goals. IAM must match the needs of each business. But it can add needless complexity and make employees’ lives much harder. Access management should support workers in their daily routines. Otherwise, employees may backslide to unsafe practices, and the project will fail.
  • Poor training. Identity and access management requires participation from every user. Project teams must build training into their roadmap. Ensure everyone is aware of access policies and how to use IAM technology. And plan to upskill security teams to reflect the needs of modernized IAM architecture.
  • Low stakeholder buy-in. Implementing IAM is disruptive. Executives and departmental managers may not understand the benefits while perceiving disruption as a problem. It’s crucial to build strong working relationships with all relevant stakeholders. This helps to ensure buy-in at all stages of the project.

Implementing IAM is complex but manageable. Integrating IAM best practices into this process is crucial. A well-produced, relevant strategy helps you plan the stages of an IAM deployment. Invest time in planning; your Identity and Access Management system will balance security and convenience while ensuring regulatory compliance.