Improving Poor User Provisioning Practices: Automating Manual Processes

User account provisioning is a standard manual process that can often be tedious and overwhelming for the IT department. Provisioning is unavoidable, and no matter your organization, sector, or service, everyone must provision users and provide them with the appropriate access rights.

User provisioning is the process of allocating privileges and permissions to users so that they can do their jobs. When an employee is brought into the organization, your IT department must provision (create) their specific access rights and provide them with the appropriate permissions to the systems and applications they need to do their job. When an employee departs, their accounts and access are revoked in what’s referred to as “offboarding.”

When done right, provisioning a user’s access can be quick and painless for the IT department. Done poorly, your organization becomes vulnerable to additional security threats, compliance concerns, and more.

User provisioning is essential for employee efficiency. As your organization grows, proper user account provisioning becomes even more crucial.

The worst of poor user provisioning: The ad hoc approach

Ad hoc provisioning is the most “slapdash” method. In this approach, user provisioning is manually completed as-needed. There’s usually a severe lack of communication between the HR and IT departments about the needs and permissions of a new employee. At best, IT might be sent a work ticket to provision a user without any prior notice.

When ad hoc provisioning leaves resources unassigned, managers inform IT that a newly hired employee doesn’t have access to the resources they need to do their job. IT handles the immediate problem, but there is no coordinated or otherwise automated process to track the user’s access or navigate the access they need when opportunities change.

For example, let’s say a newly hired employee is assigned a new role within your organization and needs additional access to new resources. This situation creates another, sudden request that the IT team will have to make time for. Without an automated solution in place, there is no efficient means to verify that the proper provisioning was carried out—nor to ensure consistent data entry.

This manual type of provisioning can lead to human error while making it very difficult to remain compliant with industry-specific laws and regulations.

Poor provisioning inhibits employee productivity

Most organizations say they want productive employees from day one, but manual provisioning doesn’t allow such. Alternatively, modern, automated provisioning means employees and their organizations can immediately respond to their new role’s needs. IT teams can immediately provide users with access to resources, solutions, and technology needed to get up and running as quickly as possible in an automated environment.

As organizations add to the complexity of their operations, user roles and responsibilities change.  Ensuring that users can remain productive means quickly granting them appropriate access to applications whenever they need them. Anything otherwise means you’re inhibiting your employees and diminishing the organization’s efficiency.

Lack of automated provisioning can make deploying cloud apps a challenge

Cumbersome infrastructure distributed across many Active Directory domains can create challenges during the cloud deployments when users are not consolidated within a single access registry.

Automating all Active Directory registries across a centralized cloud directory is a requirement for easing permission sets. In addition, doing so also allows for a single integration across all cloud solutions, such as Office 365, and lets you employ automatic user provisioning regardless of users’ locations.

Automated provisioning eliminates this burden, consolidating user access into a manageable registry that keeps rights accessible and updated throughout the organization despite changes in user’s roles, groups, or places within the organization.

The risk of ghost accounts

“Orphaned accounts” (also known as ghost accounts) are network accounts within an organization associated with former or inactive employees. These accounts possess access rights for users who are no longer part of the organization and usually incur license fees even though nobody actually uses the account.

The risk of unauthorized access to orphaned accounts by those no longer with the organization is a significant security risk, especially when poor provisioning practices are employed.

Automated provisioning allows IT teams to automatically synchronize with Active Directory and other solutions like the service desk, facilities, and even human resources. For example, when an employee is no longer with the organization, an automated provisioning solution removes their access to cloud accounts.

Loosely managed licenses

The lack of insight into licenses the organization currently pays for is another manual provisioning problem. Without proper oversight, your organization has no way to tracked unused licenses you pay for monthly.

For example, cloud applications typically charge per active user. Failing to remove a user’s license does not stop subscription fees. When employees leave the organization or their role changes, and their credentials are left in place, the organization still pays—typically a result of manual user provisioning.

With automated user offboarding, you maintain the maximum space in your cloud for new users and minimize license costs.

Why you should use automated user provisioning

With automated user provisioning, HR inputs the new employee information into the system. Once HR marks the employee record as active, the automated provisioning solution carries out its configured processes.

The provisioning system knows exactly which department the new employee works in, their job title, their manager, and all other relevant user attributes. The provisioning system can report on the user’s status, predict what will happen during the process, and perform trend analysis, among other features.

Automated user provisioning saves organizations time and money while proving far more secure, compliant, and error-free than manual processes. Additionally, automated provisioning simplifies onboarding and offboarding of employees, streamlines user management across applications, increases security, provides better oversight into users and their access, and improves operational efficiency for your organization.

Ignorance is not always bliss

Most organizations that manually manage users either hit a breaking point or are blissfully unaware of the risk. By leveraging automated provisioning and offboarding, you can reduce costs compared to manual processes and close security holes in your cloud IT environment.

User provisioning has historically been a tedious manual task. However, the automation of user account provisioning is on the rise, thanks to the benefits of provisioning technology. What your organization will want to avoid—for the sake of sanity and efficiency—is manually managing user accounts.