The business case for identity and access management

Investing in IAM capabilities to protect top- and bottom-line growth

Aug 08, 2021
Cybersecurity consulting Digital evolution Cybersecurity

Identity and access management (IAM) is critical to your business, especially in an evolving business landscape.

Most of the time, in order to take action on something, you first need access to it. This is especially true when it comes to business computing. The first step to taking action, either intended or malicious, is getting access to computing systems and data. This fundamental principle is at the core of why effective identity and access management (IAM) is so critical to your business. If you can’t control and manage who has access to what, then you’re operating your business at risk—and the consequences, as unfortunately many companies have discovered, can be catastrophic. Now more than ever it is imperative for businesses to have robust, scalable and sustainable IAM capabilities to meet the evolving and dynamic threats of today’s business computing environment.                                                       

Why identity and access management is a strategic investment priority

Simply put, access management refers to control over the increasing number of paths that users and nonhuman entities take to access your critical data. Every day, malicious actors, often part of organized hacker teams, are working to gain access to your most valuable computing assets. This is why MITRE, a leading cross-industry security research organization, emphasizes access control in its popular ATT&CK framework.

A majority of businesses utilize cloud (software as a service or SaaS) technology such as Workday, Zoom, Box, Google Workspace and Office 365 to enable their business operations day to day. SaaS technology has many advantages, including providing native access controls, but it leaves companies to figure out how to coordinate and manage access across a sprawling technology footprint. It becomes a daunting challenge to get control over who has access to what from where.

This is where leading access management providers (also known as identity providers or IDPs) come in. These vendors provide technology in the form of services that help companies gain control over the myriad access points across their enterprise system landscape. Yet with access being so critical to how your employees, contractors and business partners perform their jobs, the technology alone is not enough. It is equally important to consider the business processes, roles and permissions, compliance requirements and risk mitigation your IAM solution will provide. Even for small businesses, the scope of IAM can be complex, and implementing a robust solution can take considerable time and effort.

Getting IAM in place when first implementing your technology plan is well worth the investment, as the alternative can leave your business operating with expanding risks and costs from an increasing number of access silos. Without effective IAM, the risk of unauthorized access to your business systems—resulting in real business losses in the form of monetary loss, reputational damage and exfiltration of intellectual property—is unreasonably high.

In fact, Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report found that access abuse is an increasing root cause for breaches since 2015. This trend, paired with the increase in high-profile breaches, is driving companies to prioritize IAM as a strategic investment to protect their business.

Given the importance of IAM to your business operations, this critical security capability requires the right funding to be done properly, but it does not have to break the bank. For example, a trusted advisor can work with you and your stakeholders to develop a robust, risk-prioritized road map tailored to your funding and business objectives. Your road map can include consideration of different IDP vendors, prioritization of application integrations and services, and evaluation of operational efficiencies such as automation to drive down costs.

Summarizing the strategic importance of IAM

Controlling who has access to what within your company’s computing environment is essential. Improper planning and prioritization of the investment required to implement an IAM solution that will not only meet your company’s access security requirements today, but scale to meet tomorrow’s demands, will leave you with unreasonable risk. In addition, deferring IAM investment can potentially leave you facing staggering costs when you later have to address a larger user population, complex stovepipe access, and controls dispersed across a large, hybrid cloud landscape. A better approach is to plan for the future of your IAM needs now and build a scalable, future-ready and sustainable solution today.

In addition, enterprise-ready cloud services and new requirements for employees who work remotely from wherever they are have expanded the attack surface that administrators are expected to secure. Many organizations today are using zero-trust principles in their IAM strategy to address these challenges—not just authenticating users, but also checking that they meet the security policy at the point of access each time they log in.

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