Zen Mind, Newb Mind

Being the new-ish addition to the IdPS team is, well, an interesting place to be.  Besides the requisite induction activities (ask me at Catalyst how you pick up the dry cleaning for a team who lives all across the country), I’ve been working with my peers on vastly different pieces of research.  And being curious by nature, I’m loving the chance to not only dig into different topics, but also observe how different people go about the actual process of analyzing a topic or a market.  One technique that Burton Group uses is Contextual Research (CR).  Essentially, the CR process is meant to challenge an analyst’s knowledge of a subject and their associated preconceived notions as to what problems enterprises face and how they are facing them.  It turns seasoned veterans, experts in the field, into beginners again.  This is what practitioners of Zen Buddhism call “beginner’s mind.”

Here’s how it works in a nutshell.  Kevin (seasoned vet) and Ian (newbie) identify a bunch of organizations to talk to.  So far nothing out of the ordinary as compared to our other approaches to research.  That being said, the conversations we have with these organizations is very different from typical research techniques.  Instead of coming to the conversation with a fixed hypothesis that we want to prove out, we come to the conversation with nothing.  No leading questions.  No surveys.  No preconceptions.

In these conversations, we, the analysts, are newbs. We let the people that we are talking to teach us what is important to them about a subject, how they have approached a problem, what wisdom they’d like to share with others.  The analysts furiously take notes, listen, and try not to talk.  Having listened to as many people as we can, we bring the whole team together to find affinities among the statements, identify trends and common techniques, and evaluate the state of a market through the eyes of a customer.

Right now, Kevin and I are in the midst of a role management CR.  Although, we are far too early in the process to comment on what we’ve found, some of the anecdotes we have learned along the way are really fascinating.  Discussions about the needs of the business, efficiencies gained, and methodologies for conducting role analysis – all of these conversations have been grounded firmly in the realities of today’s economy as well as current state of identity management in the enterprise.  You’ll see some of the results of this beginner’s mind approach to analysis at Catalyst this summer.  In fact, the Catalyst workshop on Advanced Role Management is going to be a master-class of a sort, shaped by what Kevin and I learn during this CR process.

Stay tuned for more on our roles CR.  Towards the end of April, I’ll be updating you on how the process has faired.

(Cross-posted from Burton Group’s Identity Blog)

Oracle buys Bridgestream?

If the 451 Group got it right (as reported in this Dark Reading article), then the bar has just been set for Enterprise Role Management buyout deals. $35 million. $35 million? I can’t tell if that number is high or low.

Let’s consider than Access360 and Waveset had estimated price tags of roughly $100 million. Are we to imply that role management market should be sized at roughly a third of the overall provisioning market?  That I doubt.

The question that I am pondering is – who in the company derives the most value from an ERM deployment? HR? IT operations? IT ops derives value from role mining as it deploys user provisioning. HR can definitely get something out of top-down role lifecycle functions. But in both cases, to unlock that derived value, the company needs another technology to act as a proxy for role technologies. It is hard to derive the value of role mining without a user provisioning system. It is hard to derive value from top-down role lifecycle management without… an HR system.

And maybe that’s it. If this is true, and Oracle bought Bridgestream, then Oracle’s strategy is a three staged one. First, augment Oracle Identity Manager with traditional role management and mining functions. Provide strong capabilities to tie business roles to IT roles. Provide role mining capabilities.  Second, use Bridgestream’s enterprise/business role capabilities to augment Oracle’s numerous HR systems. PeopleSoft HR + Bridgestream = a very interesting combination. Third, continue to make good on the promise of tying ERP to IdM. If Fusion HR could publish dynamic business definitions (containing roles and organization structures) that OIM could tap, then Oracle customers would be well on their way to becoming more governable organizations.

Let’s see if after Labor Day there is any truth to this rumor.