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As an IT Security manager, you are often responsible for managing user identities and access rights throughout their entire stay in your organization.

This is where identity lifecycle management (ILM) comes into play. It’s a crucial process that helps you oversee user identities from creation to deletion. This maintains security and compliance throughout.

In today’s guide, we’ll discuss ILM, its benefits, common challenges, and best practices to support your identity access management efforts. We’ll also share some tips for choosing the best identity lifecycle management solution for your company.

What Is Identity Lifecycle Management?

Identity lifecycle management is the process of managing user identities from the moment they are created until they are deleted.

Think of it as a way to control who has access to system resources within your organization. This helps guarantee that only authorized user accounts have access privileges to sensitive information.

Let’s say a new employee joins your company. ILM automatically creates a digital identity for the new hire, which improves the onboarding process. When this person changes roles or switches departments, ILM updates their access rights accordingly. 

Finally, when employees resign, ILM immediately deletes their digital identities to prevent security incidents.

identity lifecycle management mechanism pieces

What Are the Key Stages of Identity Lifecycle Management?

After understanding the definition of identify lifecycle management, let’s break down its key stages below. These stages are integral to ILM, ensuring that digital identities are managed effectively from start to finish.

1. Identity Creation

This is the first step in ILM.

When a new employee joins your organization, you need to create a unique digital identity for them.

This involves setting up their user account, assigning roles based on their job responsibilities, and providing access rights to multiple systems.

2. Identity Governance

Once you’ve created a digital identity, it’s important to govern it closely.

Effective identity governance means you need to review user roles and permissions. Make sure that access rights match each user’s role through identity verification methods, like multi-factor authentication. 

If they do not match, you must update access control accordingly to protect against insider threats and privilege creep.

You should also implement policies to manage user identities and enforce compliance.

3. Identity Maintenance

As your company grows, so do your user identities. It’s important to maintain up-to-date and accurate digital identities.

Update user accounts based on job changes, promotions, or transfers.

Then, check if access privileges remain aligned with a user’s current responsibilities.

4. Identity Synchronization

Identity synchronization ensures that identity data is consistent across all systems.

This involves updating identity changes across all connected systems and applications. It prevents discrepancies between different databases. 

At the same time, it improves the user experience because employees have properly assigned access.

5. Identity Deletion

The final stage of ILM is identity deletion.

It automatically removes access rights when an employee leaves the organization. It also deactivates their user account to prevent them from accessing company resources.

What Are the Benefits of Effective Identity Lifecycle Management?

Effective identity lifecycle management offers several benefits to your organization. Here’s a closer look at some key advantages:

Simplify Identity and Access Management

Effective ILM simplifies the process of managing access rights of various digital identities.

It makes it easier to create and delete user accounts as well as assign and update permissions. This gives users the necessary access to resources without submitting access requests.

For example, when onboarding new employees, identity lifecycle management solutions can quickly create accounts and grant permissions.

This simplification also extends to employee offboarding. It automatically removes IT access for terminated employees, which saves your IT team time and effort.

Minimize Security Risks

When you manage a digital identity properly, you reduce the risk of unauthorized access. This helps protect sensitive data from security vulnerabilities and prevent identity theft or fraud.

Thanks to ILM, organizations can enforce strong authentication methods and update access controls regularly.

For example, using multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security. This makes it difficult for external users to gain access to critical systems, even if they have compromised login credentials.

Improve Compliance

Organizations must comply with industry regulations to avoid costly fines and maintain smooth identity governance.

Luckily, effective ILM helps you meet these regulatory requirements. The identity and access management system does this by implementing access controls correctly. It also guarantees that practices are up to standard.

Additionally, ILM tools provide accurate audit trails. Armed with these reports, you can quickly see who accessed what information and when. It’s easier than ever to maintain compliance during audits.

Increase IT Efficiency

Another benefit of effective identity lifecycle management is increased IT efficiency.

There’s no need for IT administrators to create and delete user accounts manually. ILM solutions already do these tasks and more, such as automating user provisioning.

Thanks to this automation, IT teams can focus on more strategic initiatives that drive business value, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.

Boost User Experience

A well-managed digital identity system improves the user experience by providing access privileges to resources.

For example, the single sign-on (SSO) feature allows users to access multiple systems using the same set of credentials. There’s no need to remember different passwords and login details. This not only enhances user satisfaction but also increases productivity.

ILM also grants users quick and appropriate permissions. Armed with these access rights, employees can access the necessary resources to do their jobs well. Say goodbye to delays and frustrations. You can empower new hires from day one.

Reduce Operational Costs

Effective identity lifecycle management can also lower operational costs in three main ways.

First, ILM systems minimize the need for manual intervention. This means fewer costly mistakes due to human errors.

Second, efficient ILM solutions reduce IT tickets related to onboarding and offboarding. There’s no need to hire additional IT staff. You can achieve substantial cost savings through this.

Lastly, since it simplifies user management, organizations can operate more efficiently and allocate resources more effectively.

Common Challenges in Identity Lifecycle Management

While the benefits of effective ILM are clear, implementing it is not without its challenges. As IT managers, you must navigate the following hurdles to ensure smooth identity management:

  • Managing large volumes of user identities: Even with the right tool, handling a large number of digital identities can be overwhelming. IT teams must assign accurate roles for each user account.
  • Keeping up with role and permission changes: As your business grows, roles and permissions will inevitably change. Many IT administrators find it difficult to review and update access rights regularly.
  • Maintaining secure access management: When you forget to set the right roles or validate an access request, you can quickly compromise your organization’s security. Managing access can be challenging in large companies.
  • Integrating with existing systems: Connecting identity lifecycle management solutions with your existing systems can be complex. The IT department must maintain data consistency across various platforms.
  • Monitoring insider activities: Sometimes, malicious activities come from within the organization. However, these are often difficult to prove and monitor.

Best Practices for Identity Lifecycle Management

Understanding the challenges of identity lifecycle management is just the first step. You must implement the best practices to help you overcome these difficulties, such as:

Automate the Identity Lifecycle Management Process

Automation can simplify many aspects of ILM. This reduces manual effort and the errors associated with it.

There are three main ways to automate identity lifecycle management.

First, you can use automation tools for user provisioning and de-provisioning. These tools guarantee consistent and accurate identity data.

Second, you can set up automated workflows for role and permission changes. There’s no need to check and validate each one manually. Thanks to automation, you can grant quick and correct access rights.

Lastly, take advantage of automated notifications. With these instant alerts, you can immediately review and update user access needs.

Conduct Regular Audits and Reviews

Regular audits help many organizations maintain a secure ILM system.

Schedule these compliance audits every month or quarter to review user access and permissions.

Then, based on your findings, you can update roles and permissions to match a user’s current job responsibilities.

Don’t forget to use audit logs to track changes and find unauthorized request access attempts.

Implement Strong Authentication Methods

It’s also important to implement strong authentication methods to protect sensitive data and systems. Consider the following solutions:

  • Multi-factor authentication: MFA adds an extra layer of security before a user can access their account. It requires more than a username and password, which supports identity-proofing efforts.
  • Single sign-on: SSO can facilitate authentication by using one set of login credentials, or in other words, one identity. New users don’t have to remember multiple passwords, thus improving their satisfaction and security.
  • Biometric scans: This method uses unique physical characteristics to authenticate human identities. This could be a fingerprint, a retina scan, or facial recognition.

people working in an office

How to Choose the Right Identity Lifecycle Management Solution?

It’s not enough to know the best practices for managing identities. You must also choose the right ILM solution for your organization. Follow these key steps to make the best choice:

1. Identify Your Organization’s Needs

Start by understanding what your organization requires. Ask yourself the following:

  • How many user identities do we need to manage? Consider the size of your company, specifying the number of employees, contractors, and vendor partners.
  • What specific features are essential for our operations? List the features you think you may need, such as automated user provisioning.
  • What are our current pain points in identity and access management? Identify areas where you are facing challenges, like managing role changes or handling large volumes of identities.

2. Evaluate the Features

Now that you have a list of features, it’s important to evaluate each one to determine whether they are necessary or not.

For example, automated provisioning and de-provisioning are important for aggressively growing companies. Thanks to this feature, IT teams can automatically create and remove user accounts based on changes in HR systems.

Meanwhile, SSO capabilities are ideal for organizations that use several software platforms. They allow users to access different accounts using a single login information.

3. Consider Integration Capabilities

After evaluating all the features, you must check if the solution can connect with the existing software your company uses. Think of HR systems, cloud platforms, and directory services like Active Directory.

Validate if the ILM solution can seamlessly sync data from one system to another. 

For example, a Workday to AD integration means that changes made in the HR platform are reflected in Active Directory. Thanks to this integration, you can maintain data consistency, security, and compliance.

4. Review Vendor Reputation and Customer Support

Choose a software vendor with a strong track record. They are more likely to provide an effective solution.

Read reviews from other customers to understand the software’s strengths and weaknesses. User reviews are also a great way to gauge whether the vendor has reliable customer support. Having positive customer support is important, especially if your team faces issues with the software.

Besides reviews, you should also look for case studies that highlight successful implementations. Find companies in the same niche or industry to ensure the solution is the right choice.

Lastly, select a vendor that regularly updates their product. It must keep up with the changing needs and technological advancements in the IT industry.

5. Consider Cost and Return on Investment (ROI)

The final step in choosing the right ILM software is to consider cost and long-term benefits.

Look beyond the initial cost of the solution. Include the expenses required for licenses, implementation, training, and ongoing support.

Next, ask yourself: how will this solution save you time and resources? Find features that can automate tasks, reduce manual errors, and improve efficiency.

With these insights, you can easily calculate the potential ROI and benefits.

Ultimately, select the solution that fits your budget and saves you money over time.

Automate Identity Lifecycle Management with ezOnboard

Seamless Onboarding Process Automation With ezOnboard

ezOnboard efficiently and securely helps businesses with their user creation and deletion needs, which are integral to identity lifecycle management.

Our solution ensures that your new hires are ready to hit the ground running from day one. This means they get access to the right resources, like Active Directory, once they are entered into your HR system.

Meanwhile, departing employees are securely transitioned out with immediate effect to protect sensitive data.

Request a demo today or check out the ROI calculator to see how much money ezOnboard can save you.

FAQs About Identity Lifecycle Management

Why is effective identity lifecycle management important?

Effective identity lifecycle management ensures that only authorized users have access to sensitive systems. It’s important because it prevents security risks, maintains compliance, reduces administrative burden, and saves money.

What is privileged access management in the context of ILM?

Privileged access management involves controlling and monitoring access to critical systems by users with elevated permissions, such as IT managers. It can prevent misuse of privileges and guarantee that access is granted only to those who need it.

How can automation improve identity lifecycle management?

Automated ILM reduces manual intervention and the errors related to it. Automation can also improve data accuracy to prevent security incidents. Plus, it frees up IT resources for more strategic activities.

What tools are recommended for effective identity lifecycle management?

Recommended tools for ILM include ezOnboard, Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Okta, and SailPoint. Each one features centralized access control, integration capabilities, and strong authentication methods. 


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