[Many thanks to Gerry Gebel for giving me the nucleus for this post]
In the midst of the ongoing privacy and security conversation, I pointed out last week that identity is the missing leg of the security/privacy stool. Identity is both a means of expressing privacy requirements and a necessary set of security controls, as well as a key to delighting customers and driving business engagement. A colleague pointed out that while security and privacy might be different halves of the same coin, identity is the coin itself. I’m not sure I fully agree with that but it gets to sentiment I have.
The use and protection of identity data has strong footing in both the privacy and security worlds. And yet identity and identity management professionals are not a first class member of the conversation. Why is that? One reason, in my opinion, is because we didn’t expect the industry to stand alone for the duration.
The inevitable absorption into business process that never happened
Speaking as an identity professional, I don’t think we claimed our seat at the table because, in part, we didn’t expect to be around IT for so long. 10 to 15 years ago there was a thought that identity would be subsumed by larger, adjacent business process engines. Human resource management, for example, should have absorbed identity management, at least for employee identity. I still remember the Catalyst In San Francisco where the Burton Group identity team (I was just a newbie in the audience at the time) had Oracle and SAP talk about their plans (or lack there of) for synergy between HRMS and IAM. What was clear to Burton Group was that the systems that managed your job role and responsibilities ought to be managing that in both on- and offline worlds.
Employee identity really ought to be a function of HR and an extension of HRMS’s. In doing so, identity professionals would become the technical arm of HR. Some companies tried this. Some companies put their technical role management programs within HR. Although some companies tried this approach, for political/organizational/cultural reasons, those approaches did not last.
If HR was to be the home of employee identity, then what of customer identity? Looking to the business process engines that manage customer information, one could see CRM systems absorbing customer identity functions. In such a world, the teams overseeing sales, service, and marketing processes would be the voice of the customer and their business process engines would deliver the identity functionality the customer needed.
In both scenarios the job of “standalone” identity management technology and professionals would be greatly diminished. The path forward for professionals in such a world was to become technical HR, Sales, Service, Marketing, etc professionals, acting as business system analysts serving their constituency or delivering architectures and process integrations to allow identity information to flow and be useful. These worlds did not fully materialize. Continue reading “Why is the Identity leg of the stool missing?”